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Questions for Scott Ahlberg

Why do you think users state that PDFs are easy to use? PDFs are difficult to read on screen, are often not accessible and sometimes need to be printed. Is that a good digital experience? 

We didn’t ask any direct questions about PDFs in the survey, so trying to go a level deeper on the comments which mentioned PDFs would involve making inferences.  I think the comments indicate that users are familiar with PDFs and value their portability, flexibility, and stability.  Multiple users mentioned requesting PDFs from colleagues as an option, which implies that whether they can download a PDF of the article or receive it from a colleague they expect it to be the same thing.  We also know from our customers that many like to save PDFs to a reference manager and often don’t even intend to read it at the time of acquisition. 

Is trust about the brand or the familiarity of the process?  

We saw indications that it’s both.  Multiple users made comments along the lines of “I know what I’m going to get” as a positive reference to both Pubmed and ResearchGate.   Only a couple users mentioned publisher names, which we think may indicate that info-literacy levels varied across the user base, and that likely entails differences in trust criteria. 

 I wonder if answers would be similar from users in different parts of the world. 

We wonder too.  We intentionally chose to recruit testers from Universities in the UK, US, Australia and Canada to avoid language-related challenges.  We saw that some testers came from Germany (likely in remote graduate programs).  We didn’t notice any obvious correlation between user behavior and region.  But it would take a much larger sample size to draw relevant distinctions across regions and/or cultures.