I am developing an app, which allows a user (Leader) to develop plans for many other users (followers). The Leader will be able to update a follower's plan (and the follower receives a notification) and the followers will be able to send updates to the leader (and the leader will receive a notification).

The app will have a companion web client.

The leader will sign up via the app or web client, create a plan for a follower, then click/tap 'send to follower'.

It's at this point I'm struggling to come up with a nice, natural way to get the followers to sign up via the app.

Note: followers can request a plan from the leader, and will be expecting it - but I cannot rely on the leaders to explain the onboarding process of getting the app etc to the followers.

My idea currently is:

  1. Leader taps 'share with follower' and enters the follower's e-mail address.
  2. Follower receives an e-mail with a link that will open the app page on the store on their device. The email will include a concise message explaining they have a plan created for them, they need to download the app to view it.
  3. Follower downloads and opens the app, with a screen asking for their e-mail with a 'next' button - when next is tapped, we check the email against the emails entered by the leaders and match them (in the background) then we ask the user to create a password (thus creating their account).
  4. Followers then can see their plan and use the app.

A Problem with this approach is that, the follower may have multiple emails - so the email the leader sends may reach the follower, but the follower may opt to use another e-mail when they get the app, and at this point the whole experience will break.

The other option I have been thinking about, is:

  1. Leader taps 'share with follower' and enters the follower's e-mail address.
  2. Within the e-mail is a link to view their plan (on the web client), the link will include a unique token, when they open the link, we pre-fill their e-mail and ask for a password (in order for them to complete their account), at this point if they chose to use another e-mail, the unique token in the e-mail will be used to match the account.
  3. The follower will then be able to view their plan on the web client, but we flash up a modal for them to download our apps, which they can then sign in with the credentials they just used to sign up.

Is there any established patterns around this? or is one of my solutions a good solution? I feel solution 1 has lots of potential drop off points, and solution 2 is a bit long winded.

1 Answer 1


I would argue that solution 1 is more long winded than solution 2, because downloading and opening the app isn't as trivial as it sounds.

I've profiled each solution below.

tl;dr - Solution 2 is better.

Solution 1: The App version

If the user clicks the link without first properly reading the instructions in your email, they're unlikely to know why they've been taken to an app store.

When they do download the app, they have to wait for it to finish downloading. In the meantime they might occupy themselves with another task, and forget they started downloading the app, or forget what they're meant to do next.

Once they open the app, they still need to sign up.

The process for this would be:

  1. User receives email.
  2. User reads instructions in email.
  3. User clicks link.
  4. App store opens in browser.
  5. User presses Download button (assuming it's that simple, and there's no login required here).
  6. User exits browser and waits for app to download.
  7. User opens app (hopefully!).
  8. User is asked to enter their email address.
  9. User presses the Next button.
    • If the user does not enter the correct email, they'll be prompted that this is not the email the Leader suggested.
    • User might have to go back to email to see what address they used.
  10. User is then asked to enter a password.
  11. User presses Next button.
  12. Now they can access their plan.

If you were to go this route, you could mitigate some of the confusion by:

  • Showing the user show how many steps there are in the process beforehand, and tell them what step they're on at every point.
  • The link they click in the email should go to a dedicated download page which follows on from the email, including the step number.

Solution 2: the Web Client version

As you mentioned, if you generate a unique ID in the email which is encoded into the link, you no longer have issues when matching emails. You can also circumvent downloading the app entirely.

The process for this would be:

  1. User receives email.
  2. User reads instructions in email,
    • Requires fewer instructions than the other method.
  3. User clicks link.
  4. Browser opens to a page which tells them to enter an email address and password to view the plan.
  5. User enters email and password.
  6. User presses Create account button.
  7. User is directed to the plan.
  8. [Optional step for user] Banner is displayed suggesting that there is an app available. It's their choice whether they use it.


Solution 2 has fewer steps, but more importantly there's fewer context changes and fewer opportunities for the user to become distracted/confused.

It's the method used by Google Docs and Dropbox, and works seamlessly. I always get sent documents to one of my many work email addresses, but I've always used my Gmail address for document sharing applications because it's easier to have everything in one place :)

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