How can I see a history of website changes?
The world of web and online websites is a fast-paced environment where you can easily get left behind if you’re not keeping up with the pace. Your website is likely updated, refreshed, or redesigned at least once every financial year if you are ahead of your game.
There may come a time where your information is lost either due to improper storage or your site is taken down. This is where the benefits of a changelog come into play. Having an online historical record of all the changes you have made to your website or being able to see the old versions of websites captured at specific moments in time is beneficial for more than just a virtual walk down the website memory lane.
Why would I want to see an old version of my website?
Internet archives fulfil a similar function to libraries, enabling us to look back into the past and see how things have changed over time.
Perhaps you change your theme file and realise that the older version is producing better conversion rates. In instances like these, you may find that you want to roll back to an older version of your theme. In other words, the theme version will roll back to a time and date before your changes were made. Being able to access and view the old version of your website will help you to achieve this.
What is a changelog?
A changelog is a chronologically ordered list of the changes you have made to your site or project.
A changelog is recorded for users to spot the evolution of the product easily. It is often organised by the version with the date followed by a list of added, improved and removed features. Following a defined changelog format can help track the changes made systematically and help contributors easily identify notable changes.
“A changelog is a log or record of all notable changes made to a project. The project is often a website or software project, and the changelog usually includes records of changes such as bug fixes, new features, etc.” – Wikipedia
Where do you put a Changelog?
Changelogs can have different styles and locations, but they’re a must on every project. They can be presented as blog posts, as a *.md file in a GitHub repository or in the changelog section of the software (or its website).
As long as you have a clearly defined space for changelogs to exist, you’ll be able to access the history of the site.
How to write an effective Changelog?
Changelogs Need to Be Clear
Consider who is going to be reading your changelog. Changelogs are for humans, not machines. So it’s crucial to ensure that your changelog is clear, concise, consistent and easily legible.
Use Reverse Chronology
Your audience is most likely going to be interested in the most recent updates that you have made to your site. So it is for this reason that you should ensure that the latest versions are first on the list as it is very rare that your audience will be overly interested in something you updated many years ago.
This will help your audience know that there is a development team constantly supporting and improving the product and software.
Changelog entry for each version
That may seem relatively straightforward and self-explanatory but unfortunately bears repeating. Ideally, you want to show the release date for each change. This makes it easier to view the changelog and get an immediate feel for the development speed of the project. It also gives clarity on if the website is still being regularly maintained.
Group by type
Each version entry should contain a list of changes grouped by the type of change. These different types could be, for example:
This makes it much easier to scan the changelog for the type of entries you’re currently interested in. Again, it makes sense to mark breaking changes with a bit of emphasis clearly.
Consistency is key
If you have a full team working on the changelog, have clear guidelines in place on how you want your changelog to look. A good policy to follow, if you don’t want to come up with your own, is the one outlined on keepachangelog.com.
How Blend can help
Keeping track of the changes on your Shopify store is just one of the many tasks that you’ll need to take care of. Here at Blend, we help a wide variety of Shopify merchants take control of their Shopify store. To find out more about how Blend can help you, click here.