Want to get real user feedback? Let them in.


We all know that user testing and feedback is essential in building intuitive, customer-centric products, and in fulfilling the wants and needs that those users might not realise they had until they come across a solution (hopefully yours). But getting direct input has traditionally been far from straightforward, and often prohibitively expensive for small enterprises.

Whichever way you do it, the Holy Grail is to build a communication channel with your users where they can give you feedback in the most frictionless way possible. Ideally, they should feel like you’re a friend they can chat to over a cup of coffee. So, why not take that idea literally? Instead of escorting someone to their usability testing workstation or putting them with strangers in a focus group, why not invite them into the office and just let them mingle?

Letting your customers see what you do is hardly a new trend. As journalist Lambeth Hochwald wrote, you only need to look at the way bakers have for years created a space for showing off frosting prowess (to which I would add the more recent trend towards open kitchens in restaurants) in order to see how this transparency is appealing to consumers – whatever the product.

People want to feel that they can build a relationship with a product, and this is particularly true when it comes to technology, where that relationship with an app or platform involves long-term interaction, the surrender of personal data, and often – as is the case with Facebook, LinkedIn and our own research collaboration platform Mendeley – the projection of your own personal and professional profile through that product.

The trick is to approach each user as you would an investor, because they are, after all, going to invest time, energy, and a surprising amount of emotion into using your product, and these are precious, monetizable commodities these days. This is why it’s crucial to pitch them the whole package, since getting to know who’s behind the product is getting you a step closer to them trusting the idea.

That’s the concept behind the Research Hub we created in Mendeley’s London office. In and of itself it’s nothing fancy; a collection of 6 desks in a nice airy space, decorated with some pot plants and posters of famous scientists. There is free Wi-Fi and our guests are welcome to help themselves to drinks and snacks in the kitchen or join a game of foosball, chess or Jenga at lunchtime. People use an online system similar to those used to reserve tables at restaurants to book in a time slot at one of the desks, each named after a famous scientist like Einstein, Newton or Marie Curie.

The researchers who pop in can be from out of town or even abroad, and some are local to London and just tired of wrestling with undergraduate students for library desk space. In return for using the facilities we might ask them to give us some feedback and actually test some new features here and there for half an hour at a time, but feedback can also happen around the proverbial water cooler (in our case the coffee machine). This gives them a chance to have direct input in a very natural way, and constantly reminds the team of the real people that use the product every day.

Some companies still have a culture where they hold on tightly to their secrets and are afraid of outsiders taking a peek behind the curtains, but in the world of tech where open APIs and lightning-fast iterations rule, what you can get back from real-time feedback – combined with the goodwill that openness engenders – far outweighs those risks. If you expect your users to love and share your product, then you have to be prepared to show your love and share everything with them too.

Would you like to visit the Mendeley Research Hub? We’d love to see you there, just click here to book!

Mendeley Desktop 0.9.9 Released

Mendeley Desktop 0.9.9 is now available for Windows, Mac and Linux.  For existing users, you can get it by starting (or restarting) Mendeley Desktop and accepting the update prompt.

Highlights of this release:

  • The new citation editor introduced for Word on Windows in the previous release is now also available for users of  OpenOffice.org and Microsoft Word for Mac.  There is no longer a need to go back to Mendeley to select a publication to cite.  Instead you can just click Insert Citation (or press Ctrl + Cmd (⌘) + I on Mac) and type in keywords from the title, authors or publication of the work you wish to cite.
  • Open Office


  • You can now export the sticky notes on a PDF as an annotation report in PDF format, with or without the content of the article itself.  When viewing a PDF in Mendeley, go to File -> Export PDF with Annotations.
  • Sharing PDFs with colleagues is now easier, whether they use Mendeley or not.  Select a document and click the ‘E-mail Documents’ button on the toolbar to send an article via email to one or more people.

In addition, there have been improvements to app startup time, citation formatting, RIS import, EndNote XML import/export and Linux desktop integration, plus bug fixes and stability improvements.

For more details, see the complete list of changes.

If you have a feature, change or bug fix that you particularly want to see soon, please visit our feedback forum and add your votes.

Ubuntu users: Mendeley Desktop 0.9.9 was released for Ubuntu/Debian last week.  Mendeley Desktop has been released today to fix crashes specific to the Ubuntu version that some users encountered when the file organizer was enabled.

Open Office Friday

A couple of days ago we had our second “Open Office Friday” where we invited our users to join us in our office for drinks, pizza and foosball. More importantly, however, we had the chance to talk face-to-face with our power users about how they use Mendeley and what features they would like to see added or improved.

As this Open Office Friday provided us with valuable feedback that will guide our future development decisions, and because it was a whole lot of fun, we said “Hey, why don’t we do this Open Office thing more often?”

And therefore we’re thrilled to announce that from now on we are going to have Open Office Friday more often! The next one is going to be at the end of June / beginning of July, more info following soon.

Here’s what some of our guests were saying:

The Mendeley-ers have a rare vibe that mixes the sharp thinking of a leading tech start-up with “young researcher out to change the world” enthusiasm. There was no shortage of BEvERages, pizza and friendly faces keen to talk about the trials and tribulations of research. It was also great as place to bounce around ideas with lots of cross-discipline discussion that is hard to find elsewhere.

I would heartily recommend the experience to anyone who needs to kick open their PhD bubble a bit or who wants to meet the folks who making world-leading steps into cracking Vannevar Bush’s half-century-old challenge [of making more accessible our bewildering store of knowledge].

— Nathan Eng, Engineering Design PhD student, University of Cambridge

I enjoyed the open evening.  It was good to learn a bit more about the company and its progress, to talk with people who are developing the next wave of Mendeley features, and to meet other users of the software.

— Frank Norman, Head of Library Services, MRC National Institute for Medical Research

It was great to meet the Mendeley team at the last Open Office Friday. If I am going to use a piece of software every day, it seems obvious to want to discuss my requirements with the people behind it; yet this relationship with users is very rare for a software company. Meeting the developers gave me great confidence in the Mendeley software, and I look forward to the exciting developments they have planned for the future.

— Peter Zeidman, Neuroscience MSc Student, University College London

I found their team to be young, vibrant, receptive and very friendly. They freely discussed all kinds of future updates and listened to all the participants’ concerns and feature requests. It is rare to find a company that keeps such an open relationship with its users. I was really pleased where Mendeley is going. Before this I had a few reservations but now I can whole-heartedly recommend Mendeley over any other bibliography/PDF paper storage/reference manager tool. Way to go Team Mendeley!

— Tauseef Khan, PhD Student, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine

Reminder – Springtime Open Office this Friday!

This is just a quick reminder that our office will be open this Friday – the 23rd of April – from 6pm onwards. In case you haven’t seen our previous blog post, we’d like to invite users to come in, chat to us, share their feedback and suggest ways to make Mendeley better. We’ll also lay on some food and drinks to say thanks.

Mendeley office location

If you’re interested in coming along, send an email to: community@mendeley.com

Look forward to seeing you then!

Mendeley invites you to springtime ‘Open Office Friday’

Last September we hosted a very successful open office feedback session: http://www.mendeley.com/blog/academic-features/mendeley-invites-you-to-open-office-friday/

And we are happy to once again invite interested Mendeley users to join us for an ‘open office feedback session’ on Friday 23rd April at 6pm GMT in our London office. Come and drop by to have an informal chat with the Mendeley team and tell us – face-to-face – which features you’d like to see improved or added

We are on the Ground Floor, White Bear Yard, 144a Clerkenwell Road, London EC1R 5DF: Mendeley office location

The nearest tube/rail station is Farringdon and the 55 and 243 buses stop at Hatton Garden.

If you’re interested, please reply to us at: community@mendeley.com.

As a thank you, we’ll be happy to provide some drinks and pizza!

We look forward to meeting you then!

Reminder – Mendeley ‘Open Office’ this Friday!

This is just a quick reminder of our ‘Open Office’ event this coming Friday 18 Sept from 5pm onwards – in case you haven’t seen our previous blog post from last week: we’d like to invite London users to come in to our office and chat to us directly in order to share their general feedback and their suggestions as to what they’d like to see improved in Mendeley. Drinks and snacks will be provided.

If you’re interested in coming along, please email anne@mendeley.com.

We’re looking forward to seeing you!

Mendeley invites you to ‘Open Office Friday’

Since we are getting closer to releasing version 1.0, we were discussing how to get even more detailed feedback from our users than we currently get through our support system.

Being able to chat with you guys face-to-face would obviously be best so we said: lets try it and do an ‘Open Office Feedback Session’. Meaning that everyone who is interested can drop in to our offices in Clerkenwell and talk to different members of the team and tell us face-to-face what you like to see improved or added to Mendeley. You can also bring your notebooks and show us directly what’s not working for you or which feature you would like to do differently.

Mendeley office

Your feedback is very valuable to us so as a thank you we would serve drinks and snacks at our office which we could even have on our roof terrace if the weather will allow it, probably not – lets face it :).

If you’re interested, please drop us an email at community@mendeley.com. We’re looking forward to meeting you!