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Online Dating - The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

Online dating. It's something that used to have a strong stereotype linked to it, and it's definitely not something that people used to admit to. Often times, people that had met through online dating, would make up a fantasy way that they met in order to avoid the strange looks when they revealed that they had in fact, met through the internet.

"Online dating is more common, and less stigmatised, than ever before. 11% of adults now use online dating sites–up from just 3% in 2008. 4 out of 10 adults who are “single and looking for a partner” are looking online. But why the fast rise of this new dating trend? With mobile technology, online dating has become a social–and surprisingly public–activity." ~ Read the full article here.

Nowadays, it's much more common to meet new potential partners online and the stereotype has largely been shaken off. With the internet at your fingertips, you can now converse and arrange meetings with people from all around the world. You are no longer constrained to your locality. You can search for people that enjoy the same hobbies as you, fit your "preferences", have similar personality types and or life experiences.
Cartoon Drawn by Project Manager, Lauren.
"Any relationship that forms is more likely to be based on a shared value system, the same interests, the same legwork as opposed to a relationship based on chemistry alone, which, as we all know, is the quality that tends to fade first in a relationship.” ~ Read the full article here. 

With the last few years seeing a steady climb in active users on dating websites, some of the online dating industry have put this down to the recession. With unemployment and underemployed people having more time on their hands to surf the web. Online dating is also a relatively inexpensive way to meet new people, than the normal activities such as going out, wining and dining and so on. 

Another reason for the rise in the use of online dating is of course the younger generation who have grown up with the internet at their disposal from the very beginning. Now that they are entering their late teens and early 20's, they are finding online dating as a hassle free, and social activity opposed to the secretive and discreet one that it used to be. With apps for POF (Plenty of Fish), and Tinder for example, these dating sites are accessible via mobile as well as desktop, meaning that you can stay connected at all times. 

Of course, online dating has it's pros and cons. With the popular use of Instagram (adding filters and manipulating your images) and other software, the online dating world can be deceptive and misleading. However, if it is used well (and cautiously) it can have some pretty remarkable results. See to the left, Project Manager Lauren's brilliant cartoon.

"One in five relationships in the UK starts online, according to recent surveys, and almost half of all British singles have searched for love on the internet. Just today, nine million Britons will log on looking for love." ~ Read the full article here.

Project Manager Lauren did some research into online dating, not being a user of it herself, and happened across a video by Amy Webb hosting a lecture on the topic. 

Lauren says: "At first I thought about it as a form of Social Media, people reaching out to others, but with the goal of finding a partner. However, after seeing Amy’s findings, it seemed more like people were becoming websites, an online presence of their physical selves.

Taking certain quotes from the talk,  I’m reminded of my lessons in Search Engine Optimisation and online marketing: 'Content matters a lot.' 'How to maximize your online profile' 'It’s about being more approachable and helping people understand the best way to reach out to you' and 'optimized profile for this ecosystem.'

So are our love lives taking to the web the same way our businesses have? Is us being discovered and chosen by a preferred mate the same as appearing highly in a Search Engine and being chosen above other competitors?

Basically, in Amy’s talk, she took the activity of creating an online profile and online dating and optimized it according to the type of man she wanted (Client base), much like we do with websites.

She talked about how to present yourself online. Obviously, there is the photo, the visual side. It must be eye catching and portray you in a way that is ‘attractive.’ The same way that websites need to think about their design and images.

Secondly there is the content. Amy states the vocabulary used should be ‘positive’ and ‘well written.’ Well written being not too long, not too short and easy to understand and engage with.

Online Dating Websites - The Design
When it comes to the web design, here at Toolkit Headquarters, we were interested in seeing how the designs of the sites differed and why. We selected a handful of popular dating sites to analyse, which you will find below.

The website is really modern and uses a full page background image. The image here is a still from their TV advert... on first sight it's comedic, which depending on your reason for signing up, could either sit well with you or wouldn't.

The landing page here is for you to register or sign in. It also offers online dating tips, information about their singles events and more. It says it is free to use and it also has a mobile app. The thing that stood out the most was the fact that you can connect using your Facebook account. This just goes to show that it is seen much more as a social concept, and people are less likely to hide away from the fact that they have an account or use online dating.

Plenty of Fish (aka POF)
The website is very basic. And packed with a lot of information on the first page.

There is no logo branding, and the sign up form is quite messy to look at. However, the website is free, and quite rightly, as long as it works that's what matters right? Personally, as web designers we feel the design is part of the user experience. A bad design could put someone off, no matter how good the functionality is.

Upon signing up, they say that you will take a "Chemistry Test" beforehand, before being able to connect with other people.

"After taking our Chemistry Test we match you with personalities that lead to long lasting stable relationships. We match you with online daters that will meet your emotional needs."

E Harmony
E Harmony claim that "Our bold, scientific approach to matching means more quality dates with deeply compatible singles that truly understand you." 

The design is good, it is simple yet modern and uses graphics that are visually appealing. The full width panel website is right on trend, and the scrolling panels mean that the content is nicely ordered and easy to read. The sign up form is nice compared to other dating sites.

Like most of the sites, it states that you will need to fill out a questionnaire upon sign up in order to get your free personality profile.  It also mentions that you can specify the package you would like, hinting that there will be paid for services if you would want them.

There are a lot of dating sites to choose from. One of the dilemmas most people will have is to know where to start! With each site offering something different, and having different ways in which to give you the best experience with them, it would seem that trialling them would be the best way forward.