How to recruit participants for your user research through invitation links.

Recruiting participants for unmoderated user experience research can often involve accessing thousands of potential participants and therefore is very different to recruiting for moderated research. This article will share 10 tips for being successful when recruiting via one of the key methods for unmoderated remote research – invitation links.

The Benefits of Invitation Links

An invitation link is a link that once clicked invites participants into taking your online study. This has several benefits, including the ability to reach out directly to your customers and/or users if you have their email information. Besides being inserted into the body of an email, you can also insert email invitation links in your banners, add them as a link on your website or in any other invitation method you might use.

Advanced software solutions will allow you to decide if you want to use individual links per participant/email or a general invitation link for everyone (with the option to allow only one response per computer or multiple.) This keeps participants from sharing the study link with others – such as a customer sharing the link with their friend who isn’t a customer of yours.

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This is a powerful asset for companies to leverage when conducting recruitment for user research, and in our years of experience with the methodology, we’ve come up with a few tips to help ensure the success of your recruitment efforts.

1. Consider how much you know about your customers

If you already have profile information about customers in your contact list (e.g. their age or gender), you can use multiple invitation links rather than one. Some usability testing tools allow you to view feedback for each ‘profile’ separately or as a whole. If you do not have any information about your customers, you can ask some initial questions up front to gather any relevant details you need.

Avoid screening out customers based on their responses, however, as you were the one who contacted them to request feedback. Your remote testing tool might allow you to manually remove participant data once you have collected it if certain participants do not match your target audience.

2. Plan to send out more invites than the sample size you’re after

Always send your invitation email to more participants than you actually need as not everyone will react and respond to your invitation to take part. Response rates can be as low as 5%, so plan accordingly.

3. Always, ALWAYS soft launch

Soft launch your study by sending it to a smaller number of participants to begin with (e.g. 10 complete responses) so that you can review the data collected and make sure everything is working as expected.

It is better to find out about any potential problems with your study before you send an email invitation to the masses, as once you do it can have a huge impact on your final sample size.

4. Be concise

The format and wording of the email invitation itself can have a huge impact on response rate. Keep your email concise, including only the necessary information such as:

  • Purpose of the research
  • Study length
  • Incentive (if applicable)
  • Mention the software being used to host the study. This can be important to gain trust in the process once they click through
  • Information on any download or installation they might need to do in order to take part in the research

5. Provide incentives

Incentive your customers to help you and give you their feedback. If you do not have the budget to reward every participant that completes your study individually, a prize draw to win a $50 Amazon gift card or an iPad, for example, can still greatly improve the response rate.

6. Gain your customers’ trust

The look and feel of your email invitation should match that of your brand and the study you build (if possible).

Make sure that the testing solution you are working with allows you to completely customize the look and feel of your study to include your logos and brand colors so that the process of opening the email, clicking on a study invitation link and then taking part and providing feedback is seamless for participants.

7. Have a clear Call To Action

Ensure the call to action to start the study is clear for participants. If you want a higher response rate it is important to focus on recruitment as the sole purpose of your email and avoid including any other potentially distracting links such as to offers/deals or links to your website.

8. Avoid altering the invitation link

Ensure the invitation link taken from the software you are using to host the study is not altered in any way (for example to track click through rates without testing that it works). If you alter the link and it does not work once you have sent out the email invitations it can have a huge impact on your final sample size.

9. Personalize

If you want to go the extra mile, you can use unique invitation links per person. This will allow you to personalize your email invitations to your customers by including their name which can potentially increase the overall response rate. It will also allow you to monitor who has or has not completed the study and send out reminder emails for those who have not.

10. Consider other channels

Remember, invitation links can be used on social media channels as well – not just sent to customers via email. You can post invitation links on Twitter or Facebook to access a wide audience of customers and get their feedback. There are other ways to recruit for remote unmoderated research. Some of the 10 tips above can be applied to these methods as well:

  • Panel vendors
  • Intercepting real users on your website
  • Feedback tabs
  • QR codes. These can be printed, emailed or accessed in a variety of ways


There you have it, our top ten tips for recruiting research participants via invitation links. If we had to choose the 3 most important points when recruiting through invitation links they would be:

  1. Give clear instructions
  2. Gain your customers’ trust
  3. Always test before you send