Are you about to embark on a new project? It’s very important to know where you’re going – and where you’re coming from.
Creating a changelog could help you understand what happened in the past as well as point out what you have to do in the future. Learn more about it below.
What’s a changelog?
A changelog is an organized way to file every change happening to a project. It’s something commonly used in web development and software development, but other types of projects may benefit from one too.
Developers write down additions, changes, and removals on their changelog. It’s important to do it in the right order as well as properly follow a pattern when you do – otherwise, you may defeat the purpose of creating a changelog.
Who needs a changelog?
Everyone needs a changelog. Whether you’re doing web development, software development, or anything similar, having a changelog is a must. Even Google, the biggest website online, uses changelogs for its products.
And you may refuse to create one because you are only doing a small project. But that’d be the wrong way to think about it! Your project may grow in size over time – and you will wish you’d have a changelog then.
Why do you need a changelog?
No confusion when something changes
Developers know how confusing it is to follow every little change when working on big projects. Small projects you can keep an eye on alone – but you need a guide when you’re past thousands of lines of code.
That’s when changelogs could save your day. You open it, briefly glance at what changed, and then more-or-less know what happened.
It’s very important to keep everyone on the same page, especially when it comes to changes throughout different versions.
Let customers know what’s going on
Imagine how confusing it is for customers to face big changes happening on a whim. Developers, who work on the project, sometimes have a hard time figuring out what’s going on. For customers, it’s ten times more difficult!
So, with each new version, you write down a new entry on your changelog. That way, everyone knows what happened from the previous version to the most recent one. It’s an easy way to have no surprises.
Allow people to appreciate the little stuff
Your changelog is not to help users understand changes alone. It’s also to point out how much hard work took place from one version to the next. Doing so is very important when you’re tinkering with the little things, making changes in the nooks and crannies of your software.
That may seem self-centered – but when paying customers are on the line, you want to let them know they are spending their money well.
It’s free marketing
You can use your changelog as your very own marketing strategy. Of course, it’s not something that will land you tons of new clients or users – but it will help.
How is that? Well, it’s simple: people like developers who take their projects seriously. Constant updates make people love your products even more.
As you now know, you have to let users realize what changed because they may not see it themselves.
Marketing is a way to get people interested or motivated to buy your products. But users are not the only ones who need a little motivational boost every once in a while. You do too!
So, when you’re having a hard time figuring out what to do next or how to make something happen, open your changelog – and see all the progress you have made so far!
How to create a good changelog
Remember to do it in reverse chronological order
Every time you release a new version, put the new things right at the top of your changelog for everyone to see. It would be counterproductive to have to scroll all the way to the bottom of the text to see what changed.
It makes sense to do it this way. People who have been using your software know what changes happened before – so there’s no need to force them to read them again by putting them on top.
One version, one entry
Creating a changelog has one goal: letting others know how your software changes over time. And that will be very hard to do if whoever is reading your log can’t figure out what changes happened in each version.
How can you make it easier for everyone? Simply add what version you’re talking about on top. Do it like so: [0.0.1], then [0.0.2], maybe later [0.1.0], and so on.
Put dates there
Writing down what version you’re talking about is very important – and so is writing down the date. That will help users and customers get a feel of how everything is progressing.
Now you may be wondering whether to write down the date when you started working or when you finished working – and both options are wrong. You have to write down the date when you publish the changelog. Otherwise, the timeline will be hard to follow.
Group similar things together
Whether you’re in the early stages of development or have already released several stable versions of your software, you need to group similar changes together in your log.
For example, let’s say you fixed typos, changed the background color, and rewrote certain sections of something. The first and third items have to do with writing – so they go together. You can put design changes before or after but not in the middle.
At the same time, start with what you added first, what you changed second, and what you removed third.
Be specific about changes
It’s important to describe what has changed in your software when writing a new entry. Otherwise, what’s the point? Writing down “Added new German translation” is ten times better than “new language available.”
Be brief and succinct as well. There’s no need to write five lines when you can clearly state what you did in one. People reading your changelog care only about the what – not the why or how.