Considering the case of app updates, why do app developers generalize changes in their update notes?

How does each writing style (general or specific) for update changelogs affect UX?

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  • 3
    As a user, I’m irritated when I don’t get at least some idea of what has changed. The best example here is Gmail, where the changes are specific, if only surface level. The worst example is not here but says “We revise every two weeks to give you the best experience. Keep updating!” It tells me nothing about the specific changes or even the scale of the change. It could be a minor bug fix, or a whole new design. That’s lazy and insulting in my opinion.
    – Dwev
    Commented Jan 20, 2018 at 6:23
  • 1
    As to you actual question, there is often not enough space in the update description to include all the changes in detail. “iPhone X support” might have meant hundreds of minor changes, and listing them all just makes for a cluttered update list, and doesn’t give any extra value to most users. The end result is what matters to the user, and this is that their iPhone X is now supported. There may be a more detailed change log on a developer blog or something for those that are interested.
    – Dwev
    Commented Jan 20, 2018 at 6:26

3 Answers 3


App updates are an important platform for communicating product changes and improvement. They are a practical place for communicating information, and therefore are the domain of UX writing. App update notes are not the domain of marketing and copywriting. This is not the place to sell to your customer how great the app is; it's the place to tell them what you did to the app and how that impacts them.

There's a couple of different reasons for generic app update notes:

  1. Security - As noted by J. Dimeo, the company may overgeneralize because they want to avoid looking vulnerable or incompetent. I think that omitting basic details is silly. No company is completely protected or perfect with security, and I think customers value transparency. I don't always do updates right away, but I'll prioritize it if there's a security patch.
  2. Laziness - It takes time and effort to understand what updates were made, why they were made, and how to write that in a clear and concise way.
  3. Wrong Person delegated - sometimes the wrong person is put in charge of this. As I said above, this is the domain of UX writing, so someone familiar with those aims and practices should be writing this. Maybe that's a UX writer, maybe it's a marketing writer or developer or designer who understands this approach.
  4. Stakeholders don't know best practices - Say the right person is delegated and they write a great set up app update notes, but the stakeholder (PO, PM, Director, etc.) says "It's too long; it needs to be more generic." because they think it's supposed to be more generic since they're used to seeing that, or Marketing is put in charge so they say "It doesn't highlight the benefits enough. Add such and such [sales language]." This has happened to me a number of times. I wrote a great set of notes, and the stakeholder, who didn't know best practices, changed it.

There's great resources out there. This one is a decent one.

Re: styles (funny, serious, friendly, etc.), it's really the brand voice that determines how the App Updates are written. App updates shouldn't be a comedy routine--the user needs to know what's going on and what's changed--but if the voice of the company is light hearted and fun (like Slack), then their App Updates are going sound lighthearted and fun (while effectively communicating the updates).


I think it's often because of marketing and security. It's important to not reveal that some vulnerabilities to the general public, both so that people don't try to further exploit them or look for similar ones, and so that the perception is maintained that the product is solid and only has minor issues.

You'll find that the notes are more specific when discussing a new feature that will get users excited.

I think the funny/playful ones are not funny- if I wanted a laugh, I wouldn't be reading the update notes of an app.

  • 1
    Agree - a company will never openly admit the details around a security patch/update/fix as it shows there was previously a vulnerability and unscrupulous types can use the details of this patch in their attacks.
    – sclarke
    Commented Feb 1, 2018 at 16:00

I suspect apps like Facebook, which rarely if ever provide specific release notes, generalize due to the high number of different versions they may be testing at any given time. (https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/8x8wp4/why-navigation-bar-looks-different-facebook)

For everyone else, most app updates just don't include information relevant to "the average user." Unless a bug was causing catastrophic issues, most users don't need to know which bugs were squashed in which update.

New features or big changes might be called out in the release notes but there are arguably more effective channels to communicate updates like that, such as in the app itself.

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