In the late 1600s, the first personal ads were printed in a newspaper and released into the world. Fast forward a few centuries, and today we use online dating to do the very same thing. Unlike newspapers, apps provide us with more dating options. They allow us to be more selective about our dates, to match with people who live farther away, and to instantly connect via video chat or instant messaging.
However, not every dating app is created equal. If you want to develop a successful dating app, you need to include features that will enhance the user experience. There are a few common features that the most popular dating apps have in common. Regardless of the type of app or demographic of the user base, these must-have features can improve the user experience and help daters find their perfect match.
1. Dating Preference Filters
One of the perks of using a dating app versus dating in "real life" is the ability to set filters that help the user narrow down options for who they would prefer to date. One common filter that every dating app has is a geolocation-based filter. This filter allows the user to select a maximum distance they would prefer for a potential match's location. For some, the ability to meet people who live 30 or even 50+ miles away helps increase the odds of meeting new people and finding a good match.
Another benefit of the geolocation feature is that if your company wants to organize in-person dating events, you can promote it to users based on their location. Or, if you ever decide to monetize your app through ads, it can provide more relevant data to advertisers.
However, where people live is not the only deciding factor when choosing to engage with someone through a dating app. Other preference filters include:
- Physical appearance, such as height, ethnic background, or age.
- Level of education or type of degree they received.
- Dating goals like "looking for a long-term relationship," "something casual," "not sure," or "to get married."
- Personal values or views on aspects like having kids, religious beliefs, exercise, and eating habits.
- Personal interests such as hobbies, political movements, favorite food, music, movies, TV shows, or books.
As your dating app users build out their profiles, encourage them to be selective and authentic with their filters to help improve your matching algorithm. You can also limit the number of "free" filters available and upsell your users on a membership that grants access to advanced filters, like on Bumble Premium.
2. Social Media Integrations
To enhance the user experience, it's a good idea to integrate your dating app with social networks like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Of course, one reason to do this is that linking a social media account like Instagram to an online dating profile allows users to learn more about what potential matches look like, what their interests are, and how they present themselves to the public.
However, from a dating app development standpoint, the advantage of social media integration is that you give users the option to log in to your app using their social media accounts. Not only does it make it easier for them to log in, but it also makes your app seem more authentic and reliable since you can use it to verify user identities.
Another advantage of this integration is that you can automatically pull relevant data about users into their profiles. For example, using Facebook data through Graph API, you can show users who their mutual friends are to help build trust and credibility in each other. You can also integrate with Spotify so users can learn more about each other's musical tastes and bond over a shared love of music. In fact, in 2021 Tinder launched a "Music Mode" feature in which users would hear a snippet of a song chosen by their potential match while scrolling through their profile.
3. Profile "Performance Checker"
Besides interests and hobbies that people might have in common, another way to algorithmically connect potential matches together is through a "performance checker." This feature measures performance numbers like how many likes or matches a user gets. It then enables your algorithm to connect compatible matches based on those performance ratings.
You can also use that data to evaluate why some profiles are performing well and others are not. According to a survey from Bumble, dating preferences are evolving in 2023. Daters are looking for: emotional maturity over physical looks, less traditional gender roles, and a willingness to travel and date people who live outside their city. Keep these changes in mind when designing a performance checker. For example, a robust performance checker might be able to indicate if the reason one person is performing well is because they were vulnerable and authentic in their bio.
You can then use this information to nudge users in the right direction. For example, if a user is getting very few likes or right swipes, you can send push notifications with suggestions for how to improve their profile. Maybe they need a stronger bio that tells the viewer more about them. Or maybe they're missing information that people like to see, such as what they do for work or their relationship goals.
Another way to improve the user's performance and, therefore, experience would be through a premium membership. For example, on Bumble, users that don't begin a conversation within 24 hours of a match "expire" and are then unmatched. At that time, they can no longer converse with their match. However, users on Bumble Premium can extend their matches and increase the chances that they'll have time to connect with one another. All these adjustments can improve the user's experience on your app and increase the likelihood that they will stick with it and recommend it to others. Moreover, premium tiers are a revenue generator for your product.
4. Gamification of Your App
One of the ways that dating apps became so popular is through gamification. Tinder was the first to gamify online dating and increase user engagement by introducing swiping to the online dating world. Most dating apps today have adopted some form of gamification that involves swiping, liking, or disliking potential matches. But there are other ways to gamify the app, like swipe surges (notifying your users when there is high activity to encourage them to "play"), boosts (increase chances of a match by making the user's profile a "top profile" for 30 minutes), super likes, roses (lets another user know that they stand out, and increases match chances), or more premium features.
However, keep in mind that as Gen Z enters the dating market, their values about dating and dating apps may have shifted from previous generations. Although you want your app to become popular and useful to your audience, their relationship with it should be a positive one rather than simply a pseudo-gambling game where they can't wait till the next one, hoping they'll get a match.
In response, the market has seen the launch of unique dating apps that limit use and combat "dating fatigue." For example, Thursday is a new dating app that is only "open" on Thursdays. Another example is Hinge, which limits the number of likes (or right swipes) you can give within a 24-hour period. However, on Hinge and other existing dating platforms, you can purchase additional likes or sign up for a membership that gives you special perks. For example, on Bumble and OkCupid's paid version, users get to see who has already liked them, helping them get matches faster.
5. Profile Verification and In-App Safety Measures
When building your dating app, it's crucial to include relevant safety and security measures. Almost half of Americans view dating apps as unsafe, so make sure your users are aware of the steps you take to ensure their safety. One common way is to safeguard against fake profiles through "profile verification." You can verify a new user's identity through a picture verification feature. The app requests that users take a selfie and then use image detection APIs to verify the authenticity of the person as well as offer extra insights for your app development.
In order to make your dating app a safe space, you'll also need to address potential cases of harassment. All users should be able to quickly and easily block and report another user for sending inappropriate messages or media. Dedicating time to analyzing these reports on blocked users can help you decide whether to permanently remove a user or send them a warning.
You may also decide to add automatic profanity filtering and moderation for the chat feature of your dating app to flag, remove, or blur out profane content. It also protects users from seeing or reading something disturbing or dangerous that might lead them to stop using your app altogether.
Safety and harassment issues may not crop up until two people decide to meet in person for a first date. Although you can't control what happens during those dates, you can offer one more safety feature: a location-based panic button. In 2020, Tinder released a panic button feature powered by Noonlight, which enables users to immediately share their location if they feel unsafe. Noonlight then follows up with a text to confirm an emergency and will even summon the authorities to the user's location if needed.
6. In-App Chat, Voice Calls, and Video Chat
Of course, every dating app has some form of in-app messaging that allows users to get to know their matches. These days having feature-rich in-app messaging functionality is imperative so that users can communicate the way they do on other platforms. For example, users may want to send voice notes, images, videos, custom emoji reactions, and GIFs to convey their personality and gain a better sense of the other person.
Providing in-app video chat and voice calls is a great feature to include as you build your app. Video dating became popular during the pandemic, and it is now gaining more traction as new dating app startups enter the market. At first, this style of online dating was done out of an imperative to maintain social distance. However, today, users continue to use video calls as a way to screen their potential dates.
You can improve the user video and messaging experience by providing icebreakers, prompts, and in-app games that can help users who might need help initiating a conversation. By providing them with these tools, you can give them a little push to get past the awkward hurdles of a first-time online date.
Get Expert Feedback from Professionals
Adding the above integral dating app features is just one key step to developing a stellar dating platform. Another is gathering feedback and insight from researchers, behavioral analysts, and matchmakers to give you an expert look into the psychology and sociology of dating. This can help you design an app that transforms the daunting and sometimes discouraging nature of dating into a fun and optimistic adventure.
You want every user to open up your app excited at the prospect of meeting someone they click with. No matter what they're looking for or how long the relationships last, you can measure success through user engagement and feedback. Ironically, in many cases, you may even celebrate account deletions, as it could mean users successfully found their match and no longer need your dating app. When people ask how they met their partner, they'll name your app as the proud winner!