They say finding love is one of the hardest things to do as a human being. We’ve been fed this narrative our entire lives, with movies, books, and songs all focusing on how impossible it is to find “the one.” Even in Disney films, finding love is much too difficult. Take Aladdin, for example. Genie, a magical wish granter, tells Aladdin that he can do anything he asks, except for help Jasmine fall in love with him. Fictional or not, falling in love is not exactly easy. However, these days it’s much easier than we ever imagined thanks to dating apps and websites. A few swipes left or right, a quick match with an initial spark, and you could be happy houring with your future partner the next day. But these matches aren’t really coincidental at all. Dating apps and websites utilize a host of psychological and user experience tactics to keep you swiping.
What actually goes into curating online matchmaking and keeping user interest goes far beyond profile pictures and a comprehensive list of a person’s hobbies. Rather, it is a blend of art and science, made possible by user researchers, designers and sociologists who have found a way to fight back against the narrative that finding a person to love is a lifelong quest. The research that helped develop successful dating apps such as Tinder, Grindr, and Hinge is a testament to the work UX professionals have taken on to adapt dating to the modern world. They do so by not only using idealistic design and convenience, but also leveraging data and metrics alongside user behaviors and preferences. Romantic, right?
BEHIND THE SCENES – WHY ARE DATING APPS SO ADDICTING?
Underneath the flirty exterior of dating sites, UX and psychological principles are working harmoniously to show you compatible profiles, keep you engaged in the platform, and ultimately meet your needs. Some prominent principles of UX research/design that are often used in dating apps are personalization, questionnaires/surveys, behavioral matching and compatibility scores, gamification, and Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality (VR/AR) features, with the ultimate goal being to understand user behaviors and create an overall enjoyable experience. Psychological principles like social proofing, the concept that people are more likely to do something if they see others doing it, are then brought in to enhance the experience and ensure you stay engaged and using the app. Let’s dive deeper into some ideas from UX and psychology that work together to play matchmaker.
THE INTERSECTION OF UX DESIGN AND DATING APPS
If you’ve ever set up a profile on a dating app you probably recall answering questions or prompts so other users can get to know you better. However, the answers to these questions also help the app itself find and display ideal matches based on the information you’ve provided. On some dating sites, matches are also suggested based on behavioral matching. These apps will track user behavior such as how often they use the app, who they swipe on, and who they actually message. The app then uses this information to suggest compatible matches.
Other sites rely on features like compatibility scores to determine ideal matches. These scores are based on factors such as users’ preferences, interests, and behavior, and can help users quickly identify potential matches who are a good fit. All of these approaches rely on UX research and design to help users find what they’re looking for.
One creative way that dating apps are incorporating a more interactive user experience is through VR/AR dating. Some dating apps have virtual and augmented reality features that allow users to interact with potential matches in a more engaging way. For example, a dating app may have a virtual reality feature that allows users to go on virtual dates with potential matches, or an augmented reality feature that allows users to see potential matches in their real-world environment. This helps users get to know each other in a safe setting, and also opens up the possibility of connecting with someone that doesn’t necessarily live in your area.
UX research also plays a large role in the evolution of dating apps and what they offer to customers. Through UX research, dating apps have made a number of design decisions that have improved their user experience over time. Tinder, for example, redesigned its app to make swiping more intuitive and added the ability to include more information on profiles, which helped users find more compatible matches. Hinge also made changes to its app, such as removing the swiping feature and making messaging more prominent, which led to a significant increase in the number of conversations between users. Additionally, Grindr conducted UX research to better understand the needs of its users, and made changes accordingly, such as adding more inclusive language and creating a safer space for users to express their identities.
THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN PSYCHOLOGY AND UX
Two of the most significant aspects of dating apps are actually principles that come from both UX and psychology: gamification and personalization. Gamification applies aspects of a game to other areas of activity to keep users engaged. In dating apps this is typically seen in swiping left or right on profiles and eventually receiving a match. This aspect is often used in UX research to encourage testers to complete the task at hand, and in UX design to help keep users engaged and using the interface. In a psychological sense, this gamified model of swiping on a dating app and receiving a match lights up the same parts of our brains that gambling or winning a game does. This response makes users more inclined to keep swiping in order to keep “winning.”
Personalization of digital interfaces for each user or specific groups of users has been on a steady increase in the world of UX, due to the resulting brand loyalty from this practice. Consumers want to feel like they’re special to brands, not just another number in their database. Psychologically, when brands provide a personalized experience it makes consumers feel more in control, which has a positive effect on your psyche, and in turn creates a positive association with that specific brand. According to a study done by Accenture, “58% of customers prefer to buy from a retailer that recommends options based on their past purchases.” This shows that consumers are more inclined to shop with brands that can make suggestions based on their individual needs. In the context of dating apps, this is seen on Hinge with the “most compatible” feature that suggests you should match with a person based on the app’s algorithm and determination from your profile information and previous swipes/likes/matches that you two would get along. These types of personalized features provide users with a unique experience and leaves them with a positive attitude and feeling of connection towards the brand.
UX LEADS TO … LOVE?
Dating apps have revolutionized the way in which we find and make romantic connections, but most users don’t realize the impact that behind the scenes aspects, like UX research and design, truly have on their romantic journeys. UX research and design is littered throughout dating apps. From larger features like complete personalization to smaller ones such as button size or color, there are user research tools and metrics that have verified the application of these elements. As finding love online continues to increase in popularity, dating apps will rely on UX research and design, as well as psychological principles to incorporate new strategies to engage users and help them find exactly what they’re looking for.