Version numbers in software indicate changes that have been made to a software application over time and the order of its release. It gives developers and users an idea of where they are at in the terms of feature development or progress/iterations made throughout their lifetime.
They are typically a series of numbers that start with a 0 or a 1 and over time will add a decimal point with variations within the whole number chosen either by the product owner, the devs themselves or the build numbers as compiled when deployed.
So why are version numbers important?
Identification: It provides a unique identifier for a specific release when trying to troubleshoot issues or communicate wither with users or team members about problems in software.
Tracking changes: Version numbers allow you to track changes to your software over time. Each new version has a unique number and allows you to add numbers to your documentation when speaking about relevant features or issues.
Release management: There’s a build number that can be added within the version number that helps developers find and resolve issues within the software.
The numbers itself can indicate a build number or a simplified version that gives the product team and users a number referencing features and upgrades – think models of a car. So rather than update with every build which few companies do anyway, they can group changes into major releases.
Where does it usually appear?
The number itself can appear
How do know if you need a version number in software development?
Generally speaking, remote desktop applications require version numbers due to the version being downloaded at any one time. Browser based software where you typically log into a website don’t usually require software versions as they are updated for all users when deployed. It’s simply a matter of refreshing the page before the latest version is visible.
So if users ever have an issue with software, the product team are able to take a look at the latest version in production to see the issue. If this is the common use case for your specific users and rationale behind displaying a version number. Then consider using a simplified version of the version number. Removing the build and revision number for example.
- Software that is browser based or cloud based won’t need a version number as users are all on the same version.
- Desktop applications should as user typically have different versions and therefore different issues and features.
Where do version numbers in software appear?
Typically when designing for version numbers, it’s critical that we consider a position where it’s unlikely to be moved as you change versions. This way, you can direct the user to one particular spot regardless of which version they’re in.
Here are a few options:
In the ‘About’ section of the product.
As an info bar within the product. See example below of Microsoft teams.
again in the about us section of Slack.
In the footer or bottom of the screen.
Any thoughts on this topic? Post below.