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An empirical study on release notes patterns of popular apps in the Google Play Store

Abstract

Release notes of a new mobile release provide valuable information for app users about the updated functionality of an app. Moreover, app developers can use the release notes to inform users about the resolution of a previously reported issue in user reviews. Prior work shows that release notes are an essential artifact for app developers to announce the emergency fixes and the newly adopted features. However, little is known about the common practices adapted by app developers in preparing their release notes. In this paper, we are interested in capturing the common practices as release notes patterns. First, we conduct an online survey with 102 respondents to investigate their views on mobile release notes. Our results show that most developers find release notes to be useful for notifying their user-base. Then, we study release notes patterns by analyzing 69,851 releases and 67.7 million user reviews of 2,232 top free-to-download apps in the Google Play Store over three years (from April 2016 until April 2019). We observe that app developers tend to write either long release notes (over 50 words) or short release notes (less than 7 words). We use the characteristics of release notes, such as the number of words, to identify six patterns of release notes in mobile apps. We manually investigate the release notes from each of the six patterns, and find 17 release drivers for the release notes. We also find that apps with longer release notes tend to have higher average user ratings. Furthermore, we observe that a shift from rarely updated patterns to frequently updated patterns tend to have higher average user ratings. Our work shows potential directions for developers to improve the release note mechanisms in app stores.

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Notes

  1. https://stackoverflow.com/questions/638423/how-should-release-notes-be-written

  2. https://stackoverflow.com/questions/56774669/is-there-any-way-to-order-group-work-item-type-in-azure-devops-release-noteshttps://stackoverflow.com/questions/56774669/is-there-any-way-to-order-group-work-item-type-in-azure-devops-release-notes

  3. https://medium.com/@scottydocs/do-people-actually-read-release-notes-449d099d73ee

  4. https://medium.com/@scottydocs/do-people-actually-read-release-notes-449d099d73ee

  5. https://uxdesign.cc/design-better-release-notes-3e8c8c785231

  6. https://spectrum.ieee.org/tech-talk/telecom/internet/the-art-of-writing-app-release-notes

  7. https://f-droid.org/en/

  8. https://www.reddit.com/r/androiddev

  9. https://www.reddit.com/r/appdev/

  10. Apps in pattern 2 and pattern 5 do not have major releases during our studied period, so the centroid for major releases updatability in patterns 2 and 5 are NA

  11. Models 1-6 are the models for the patterns 1-6 as follows: (1) short non-updating steady, (2) short updating steady, (3) short rising-updatability with major releases, (4) long non-updating steady, (5) long updating steady, and (6) long rising-updatability with major releases.

  12. The bold text highlights the app attributes with the highest impact on the response variable.

  13. https://clutch.co/

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Correspondence to Safwat Hassan.

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Communicated by: Mark Harman

Appendix

Appendix

Table 13 List of refined bug-related, improvement-related, and emergency-related keywords for identifying release notes that resolve bugs, introduce new features, and provide emergency updates to the app
Table 14 List of defined questions in the conducted survey

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Yang, A.Z.H., Hassan, S., Zou, Y. et al. An empirical study on release notes patterns of popular apps in the Google Play Store. Empir Software Eng 27, 55 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10664-021-10086-2

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10664-021-10086-2

Keywords

  • Android mobile apps
  • Release notes
  • Google Play Store
  • Longitudinal study