Why Dating Apps Don't Work

Have you tried dating apps?

Have you got a romantic partner from a dating app?

Dating app has now occupied and transform our lives and our way of life, just like how social media do.

Whether you realize it or not, our life has changed so much thanks to technology and that includes our culture, beliefs, norms, social status, and many more.

Last time people perceive others' social status by looking at their car, their house, how much money they have, what is their job. People with a nice house in a nice area perceived as someone with high social status. And today...It's still the same!

However, with the rise of technology, we have social media and therefore our social status can also be affected by our social media profile. For example, if you have 40,000 followers on Instagram, people would probably respect you.

They are all social aspects of our life, after all.

And now..on to our topic of the day.

Last time people post themselves in newspaper ads to find a romantic partner. Some even got introduced by matchmakers (fun fact, my parents met via matchmaker!), some through friends, and maybe even the bar!

Meeting people digitally (or dating digitally) was first introduced in 1994 by (the website no longer exists, though). This happens around the time the internet was being introduced for public use, thanks to ISPs.

Then, it followed by and up until we have the smartphones and therefore, we have..Tinder! Tinder and Hinge were launched in 2012 and it is very popular from last time until now. However, Hinge is not available in many countries (including mine) so I can't say much about that app and it's certainly not popular here in my country.

Regardless, dating apps have now shaped the way we find love.

I have even talked to several girls, what used to be a normal way of approaching girls, which is to go and talk to them is now considered weird and creepy by many. Only a very small number of girls do not mind that. It is now considered normal or appropriate, by many.

Swiping left and right is just the mainstream way to find partners. Nobody uses the telephone to connect with a gentleman anymore. Nobody posts their profile in newspaper ads anymore. We now swipe.

Sounds easier, right?

We don't have to send letters to addresses, we don't have to dial numbers anymore.

However, this caused a big suspicion in my head, which is a monopoly.

You see, when something new introduced and accepted by many as the new norm, or the new way of doing something, people basically let their life being handled by the hands of technology companies. And why is this suspicious to me is because tech companies do things that are a bit more complex and things are being controlled by, you guessed and algorithms.

Yes, codes are made by humans, but who execute the actions within the app? codes and algorithms.

I have seen several companies that started to monopolize the market in several countries apply new rules that make things more difficult and the user has to spend more money. What used to be startups telling you "we are your pal" is now turned into "we own you" because since they have the massive user, they can control the user.

At this stage, it is most probably the dating app companies not working to serve users but more to "make users spend money, get us to make more money, and who cares about the user experience as long it is not too bad".

And since dating now has been shaped this way (of course there are a minority of people who don't believe in that way of dating), like it or not, you as a user have to deal with it because other people do it that way also. Swiping is just a way more natural way of meeting people, at least in so many countries.

Have you found yourself swipe endlessly and just never got anyone? Maybe you went for a couple of dates but that's as far as you go.

Do you constantly change your photos or profiles so you can get more matches?

Have you found yourself swiping through and think "the people here are all unattractive!".

I am not designing dating apps, I also did not code or formulate the algorithm at all but according to my research, here's why your dating app sucks.

According to BBC Radio and Cosmopolitan, what makes dating app amazing, is the algorithm. Dating app companies hold tight to their algorithm like it is their secret sauce that no one else can know. So we can't really know for sure how their calculation works in detail but there are some basic ones that I know so far.

App designers most of the time serve their company. Ironically, yes, app designers please companies more than users. Some of the user's needs and wants may match with companies' but still when there is a clash between users' and companies' needs, we designers would probably prioritize companies' needs. Sorry to say, but this is the truth.

We might fight and argue, but in the end, somebody has to do that job. Eventually, it is either me or someone else who will design according to the companies' needs. The company will get what they want, in the end.

Take Tinder and an example. They sell ad placement and premium memberships. And what makes their ad placement selling is the number of users who use their app, installs their app, and active on their app.

But logically, as a user, we don't want to use dating app anymore when we found love, right?

So your dating apps are not designed to make you find love and then uninstall the app. It is designed to make you stay, whether you find love or not.

I heard few ways dating app do to make you stay, according to a podcast by BBC hosted by Lucygoesdating, a guest speaker Sacha McElligott, President of Replay app who have a background in computer science, data analytics, and works in dating app industry he explained how it works in the backend for Tinder.

Before 2019, it works by having the app to rate your attractiveness, and the more you get swiped right on, the higher your rank will be. When you get swiped left, you will be shifted to the other direction.

When someone more attractive swipes right on you, you get a higher rank but their rank will go down because they swipe right on someone less attractive than them.

Of course, all this attractiveness is based on the app and its algorithm's judgment.

After 2019, they added some adjustments to this algorithm. For example, when you swipe right too many times on too many people, you will be penalized because you are not being selective. So you should have a specific taste enough for the app to learn.

Now that's Tinder, what about the other apps like Bumble?

I have heard some people say Bumble is like Tinder but "bee-themed" 😂

But then again, as a UX designer, I never look at the interface heavily especially with apps from big companies like this. Their interface is good but they are certainly not their identity, if you know what I mean.

According to the same source, Bumble's algorithm works by scoring your image, not the people you swipe on. So if you put blurry pictures, pictures that make it hard to see your face, you'll get penalized.

When your rank gets lower, you get to only see the people you find unattractive. So you might find a time where you keep swiping left and just never swipe right because nobody you find attractive. At this point, it is better to just delete your profile and re-register because you are stuck in a low rank because it's very hard for the system to place you back up.

The big problem with this kind of system is that there are certain standards of beauty and attractiveness you must adhere to and certainly these apps would work well with people that are average or above-average height, or have a good physique. It probably won't do you well if you are an average person with a brilliant mind.

Sounds like a Black Mirror episode! 🤔

I am sorry to tell you this, but as a UX designer, the dating app is just not making a good impact on most users. I find it disappointing for an app to tell you how attractive you are and what's your "value". As if we humans have our looks only and no personality or intelligence at all.

By the way, have you found yourself meeting your date and turns out they don't look like their picture at all 👀 ?

This may or may not be impacted by the app itself, but the app certainly is not helping when this happens.

You see, the app has to rank people based on their photos. The app employees are not going to come to you and see you for real to rank your attractiveness. So it is unfair that people can put up heavily edited photo or photo of them from 10 years ago, gets ranked well by an app, and then gets to match with many attractive-looking people.

So, no wonder, you- a gorgeous-looking human-might end up meeting someone that does not look anything like their photo, and there is literally nothing you can do about it other than stop seeing them.

I can go on and on about other lies the users say in their profile and how dating apps would probably do nothing about it.

Dating app designers, again, serve and prioritize the company that hires them.

So what matters to the company is people sign up, people use the app and then sell more ad placement. It does not make sense to remove profiles or ban people for their fake photos because technically speaking, the fake photo does not cause "harm". By "harm", I mean harm to the company.

Compare this fake photo user to users who scam other people, causing violence, etc. People would be afraid to sign up if they know there are many scammers in the app. Fake photo frustrates few users that have met them personally but it doesn't disrupt potential users to sign up.

So yes, dating app companies can remove scammers or criminals, but definitely not users with fake photos.

The impact of app designers serving companies and prioritizing them is actually bigger than what we would expect.

Users who are born with unattractive looking physique have to rely on the now-abnormal way of finding love and miss out on this new amazing technology even though they have amazing personality and intelligence.

People who lie are now living the life.

Money wins.

People have lower self-esteem and value themselves differently.

This also promotes a more shallow way of looking at people.

If this is the impact of a dating app, imagine social media, which is a giant compared to a small teeny tiny dating app. Imagine their impact and their effect on society. Imagine the number of users affected. We all know social media and dating apps have a giant number of users. So we know for a clear fact that whatever they implemented does not affect 10 people only but millions of people. And when millions of people believe in one thing, this will twist certain beliefs and change traditions and cultures.

Maybe dating app actually has good intention. But it is just executed badly.

I definitely am not blaming the app designers since I think deep down they want to prioritize users but it's just that they are employed by a company.

And companies have to make money.


(16 Feb 2021)

There is also a very thorough report on Match Group's business model and how it affects the world of online dating. In this article, it is explained how dating apps, in general, do not target people to actually find real lasting love in there. It is also explained how dating apps never really promote how it is better than traditional dating and it also explained the statistics on how traditional dating will still give you a better quality relationship compared to dating apps. I think it's worth checking out!

Not all dating apps are like this, but it is up to you as a user to choose which one serves the best for you and the community.

In my opinion, a dating app should probably not be a thing people hype, glorify, and prefer all the time. When we make dating app a prioritized option, it is easy for companies to abuse the power and do what they think is right to benefit themselves.

Probably dating would be still as good as it was without technology?

What do you think?


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