How dating apps have changed the way we find love (and how your users interact with tech)

We’ve had nearly a decade of swiping, liking and coming up with the ultimate icebreakers. 

Navigating the complex world of dating has never been so accessible and the app world of love is as lucrative as ever, with reports that global dating app revenue for 2022 is set to hit $3.72 billion - which could buy a fair few romantic dinners!

So, apart from the promise of finding love, what is it about dating apps that make the user experience so easy, intuitive and (let's face it) kind of addictive?

We've asked David Vesty, our User Interface Lead to explain the tips and tricks that dating apps use, and how you can use them to innovate your own app or digital product. True love is not included, unfortunately.

It’s all in a swipe

David explains the importance of behavioural psychology in the design process, seen with the likes of platforms such as Tinder. He considers the physical act of swiping, “It's a natural way to explore. The notion that you can just ‘swipe’ away a person may seem a bit cruel, but the physical act of swiping “yes” or “no” gives users a sense of control, eliminating the feeling of guilt of turning people away.”

“There's an actual enjoyment of that simple piece of functionality, going seamlessly from one person to the next, essentially cycling through potential suitors. It probably doesn’t even matter if you match because swiping and discovering new profiles is simply fun for the user.” 

It’s not only dating apps that implement this effective technique, our client MoveStreets has ambitions to disrupt the property technology industry with its ‘swipe right to like’ app experience designed specifically for house hunting.

Love is a (losing?) game 

Gamification is a popular method of retention with many apps. It’s a strategy that fosters competition, creates a sense of control for the user and awakens curiosity. Dating apps are no exception. For example, the dating app Bumble makes it mandatory that women initiate conversation after matching, giving them only a 24-hour window to do so as an incentive. 

David explains the effectiveness of this strategy: 

“It keeps you coming back to the app, and diving back into it. Time restraints engage with the audience and add an invisible sense of urgency, making the user return for more. Push notifications assist with this too. Think of it like you would a retail application, keeping the ‘shopper’ interested with the best deals on offer. Dating apps use the same tactic, returning to the product, even after you’ve matched with the love of your life. Tinder would make itself redundant if it was 100% effective, after all.”

As explained in Nir Eyal’s Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products, Frequency is a key part of building habits. Habit-forming products generate high revenues and are hard to compete with. 

Hate the player, love the game

David also considered the psychological effect of Gamification, designing it with the intention to be game-like, also extracts the anxiety and nervousness of a real-life situation. A great example of gamifying the messaging process can be seen with the blind-dating app; JigTalk (now rebranded as Jigsaw) brought to life by Apadmi Ventures. 

“This functionality in dating apps has the possibility to remove that barrier of anxiety. Not everyone's confident enough to approach someone face to face. By encouraging people to get together and connect, it's removing that barrier in which they're scared of the initial approach​​.”

Fast-growing French dating app Fruitz is a wonderful example of effective user understanding; it assigns a fruit to each particular kind of relationship desire ranging from long-term commitments to those in search of one-night action. This idea was born out of understanding users' intentions for using the app, playing a key role in design. 

Defining a great product strategy will result in a great product. The most successful dating apps have had an immense amount of research throughout, with a strong user understanding.

Making it as safe as possible

Privacy and security have taken a front seat in the dating world recently, highlighted with the recent Netflix series, The Tinder Swindler. Which tells the story of how individuals were conned an estimated £7.4million after meeting the conman on the renowned dating app. 

“Apps, especially those that are for dating, need safety and security aspects locked down. From a user perspective, you'd want to make sure that your information is under control. You have to really trust the app in which you are sharing personal information with. The Tinder Swindler, although a drastic example highlights the importance of security within dating apps.” 

So, what can we learn from dating apps?

“The big one for me would be to build a digital product that has an element of fun to it. Dating isn't meant to be boring, it's meant to be exciting and unfamiliar.” 

“Ultimately it comes down to research, discovering who the audience is, their needs, and what they think is missing from the current landscape. If you can uncover something unique that users will engage with, nail this, coupled with users having confidence that your app keeps their data safe and I think you could be onto a winner. With billions of users, in every country and every audience, dating apps establish new patterns and continue to set new expectations for all apps across the world. They continually innovate and they test EVERYTHING. Bumble alone has a team of 300 engineers - incredible. It’s safe to assume that they’ll stay ahead, so keeping a close eye on their new features is a brilliant way to bring new, proven, ideas into other products no matter how different the sector may seem.”

We make trailblazing apps, because our approach to UI/UX design is reinforced by a strong focus on the user. Want to talk about it further? Get in touch here.

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