We are building an "connect with your friends" part of our app and I am curious about a good way of doing this. My first thought is do like everyone else, so I looked at Facebook, twitter, LinkedIn, Basecamp etc. and saw how they worked. They have something like:

"put the email of the person you want to send and we'll do the rest."


"hey, just give us the credentials of your favorite email account and we'll send it out for you!"


"Just extract your contacts and upload them here...just follow one of these 12 different instructions depending and what email app you use. Once imported, we'll do the rest.

How hard is it to send an email? Why do these companies insist of sending this for you?

I have seen others that (can't seem to find them at the moment) just give you and invite url associated to your account and leave it up to you to facilitate the communication. Something like:

"Wanna invite others to connect with you? Send them this link - http://yep.com/invites/arifn123"

With the invite url:

  • You can use your own email system. It already has their contact list so you get the intelli-sense (saves typing). Also you don't have to worry about spam filters as much. Also the message seems to be much more personable because it is coming from the actual users email address.
  • You can be much more flexible in how you communicate the invitation. Post it to facebook, twitter, linkedin, etc. Include it in blog post. Put it on a shirt or a sticker. The flexibility is limitless.

So while the big social guys seem to want to take care of the communication for you, I am thinking the flexibility and simpleness of just giving each user an invite link is a better experience.

Why is this pattern not used anymore? What are the downsides of an invite url that I am not seeing?

1 Answer 1


I think the flexibility would provide a good experience for the user, but from a company perspective it would be a lot harder to track invites.

If the company sends the email for you, they have the email address/contact details captured so that they can potentially send reminder messages about your invite in the future and they should also be able to track how many conversions they get in relation to how many invites are sent (this will help with planning as well as evaluating the effectiveness of the invite email/message/page).

Another aspect could be that giving someone a link means that you have to leave their site in order to send the invite, which is most likely something they don't want you to do. The ideal solution for the company is that you are able to send the invite right there from their page without having to leave, and if this is made easy enough most users won't have a problem doing this. It isn't about how hard the action is to email someone, because you're right it isn't a hard thing to do but it is really about how much control the company is willing to let go of (both in regards to the process and the experience during the process).

  • I see keeping emails for later use as a double edge sword. One side of it is as a user I don't need to remind people to accept the connection. As the recipient, I may not know who this email is from even though it says it from someone I know. Also, being reminders are hit/miss. sometimes they are great, other times they are mildly annoying.
    – Ben Jones
    Jul 5, 2012 at 0:02
  • 1
    I never said keeping emails was a good idea, I just said that this could be a motivating factor :-)
    – rsparis
    Jul 5, 2012 at 0:06
  • So should I send the email for the user at the mercy of the UX in order to better plan (sales funnel?) and keep people on my site...interesting. Controlling the situation seems to make me think (as the company) I know how to communicate the connection transaction better than they already communicate...also interesting.
    – Ben Jones
    Jul 5, 2012 at 0:09
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    I'd argue that if it's done well it's not necessarily "at the mercy of the UX" as you said it's not hard to send an email but lets use email as an example. why make copy the link, open up their email program, type in the person's email, type in a subject, and then type in body content for the email. If it is done well the user should be just as content to put in the email address there and have it done for them quickly and simply, of course, the best UX could be to offer both options.
    – rsparis
    Jul 5, 2012 at 0:34

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