How can you tell if a dating app is worth it?

My opinions on dating apps and sites should be clear by this point, but if they’re not, let me just be crystal clear. I think that online dating, in general, is worth it. The value that people take from it on a person to person basis will vary, but overall, I think it’s a worth it to date online. Now, what I don’t believe, is that every single dating app, site, or service is worth using. I think that some sites are not worth it at all, but these are rare. Most apps, sites, or even services related to online dating have worth, though not for everyone.

Usually when people ask about the worth of online dating, it’s because a specific site or app is making them truly question whether it’s worth it to use it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten asked if a certain app, site, speed dating, coaching, matchmaking, or some other service is worth it. I can’t speak for all of them, because I haven’t tried all of them, and I like to speak from hands on experience. What I can give you is a framework for figuring out if a certain site, app, or service, is worth it for you.

Rather than using an existing app as an example, let’s use a hypothetical one called Eros that I totally just made up and now exists in your mind.

Eros is a free dating app that can be accessed via smart phone. You sign up using your Facebook account. It’s matching system uses distance, your desired age range, and a mutual interest in each other i.e. you both swiped each other right. You set a search based on distance and age, you swipe left or right, and if you and someone you’re interested in swipe right, you can message each other. The premium features allow you to see who has already matched with you and change your location to anywhere in the world, so you can swipe in say, L.A., when you live in NYC. It costs about 10 dollars a month for the premium version, however, the free version has all the same functionality of the premium version (i.e. unlimited swipes), with the major premium advantage being that you can see who has already swiped you, who you haven’t swiped yet. The user base is fairly diverse and robust in whatever part of the world you live in, and the users themselves seem to be mostly real users, and generally looking for the same things you might be looking for. It’s not strictly a dating app, nor is it a hookup app, its users wants seem to be pretty diverse. Most of the hypothetical users on the app can find a first date from the app at least within 6 months, if they spent an average of 30 minutes daily swiping matches.

Now, is this dating app worth it for the average online dating user? Probably. Here’s why:

  • Cost: Put simply, is the cost of whatever you’re considering it “worth” it, from a monetary perspective. Our hypothetical app is free, so that alone gives it a certain amount of worth. At the very least, it’s cost doesn’t subtract from its worth.
  • Pay to Win: For the uninitiated, Pay to win is a game model found in free-to-play video games where you can play the game for free, but to progress you need to invest real money for to quickly progress. In many games, it’s almost impossible to progress without paying. Some dating apps are using this model already,  think of dating apps that let you join, but require that you pay or subscribe to be able to send messages. If a site is pay-to-message, it’s pay-to-win. Which should be considered a red flag. In the hypothetical scenario above, you don’t have to pay-to-win, as the premium features are a fun enhancement, not a necessary part of the app itself to get dates. If you can’t message or match or even view a profile before paying, the worth of your site in my mind, is in doubt.
  • Accessibility: Facebook had a total of 2 billion active users as of June 2017, that’s almost a quarter of the world’s population. The fact that our hypothetical app requires Facebook to sign up means that it’s pretty accessible. There’s no official number, but there are estimates that around 2 billion people in the world have smartphones currently, and 6.1 billion will have smartphones by 2020. Ever wondered why so many dating sites only need access to your FB account to create an account?
  • User Experience: If your experience is an overall positive, it’s worth it to use that site, app or service. If your experience is fairly neutral, still worth it, considering other factors. Negative experience overall, it has a negative worth. So, in this hypothetical case, I’d say that the User Experience makes it worth it. Most people could, with a bit of effort, find someone who wants the same things as them in our fictional app, and that counts for something.
  • User Base: The above holds true for the user base as well, but tweak it a bit. Your experience on a site can be amazing, but if the user base is too small to make meeting someone possible, I question it’s worth. Nothing wrong with smaller companies taking on larger competitors, competition can breed innovation, but a user base needs to be large or quickly growing user base is necessary for a dating app to be considered “worth” it in my mind. Same goes for any matchmaker or matchmaking service you might use. There has to be a certain amount of potential matches to create opportunities to meet someone. Our hypothetical app has a large user base, so there’s some worth there
  • Investment required: Investment here can mean money, but it mostly means how much time and effort it takes to meet people. Investment can mean different things depending on the site or service you’re considering. Time spent swiping, time and effort to create a profile, send first messages, respond to messages, filter out people you’re not interested in, in-person interviews with matchmakers, et cetera, et cetera.  Our hypothetical app has a quick sign up, and a minimal investment in time and effort to meet someone, so I think there is value there. 30 minutes daily over six months is about 90 hours total invested time for a first date at most in our scenario. Sounds like a lot, but for context, the average commute time for most Americans hovers between 16 minutes to 30 minutes depending on your state so, at worst, you’re investing the time it would take you to commute for 6 months on swiping left and right, and you might even be able to use your commute to swipe left and right. 90 hours over 6 months might sound like a lot, but it’s really not.

Overall, is our hypothetical app Eros worth it for most people? I think so. It’s worth is relative, but as someone who has used a large amount of dating apps, over a very long period, you should believe me when I say that if this app did exist, I’d recommend it.

Still, it’s up to you to decide whether a dating app or service is worth it. When considering whether anything related to dating is worth it, consider the Cost, whether you need to Pay To Win, Accessibility, your own User Experience, the User Base, meaning who you might potentially match with, and the Investment Required. I’ve always used this as a guiding framework for whether I think a dating app or service is worth it to me, and I think it works well. You should give it a try.

It’s okay if you think a certain dating app isn’t worth it for you based on how bad the user base tends to be, or how misaligned with your dating goals the users you encounter tend to be. It’s okay if you think a certain service just isn’t worth it from a financial perspective. Same goes for any other gripe you might have with an app, site, or service, regardless of its popularity. I think online dating is worth it, but not every site is worth using for every single person. I’m a big believer in dating how you want to date. Part of dating the way you want to is realizing where value does or does not lie for you. If you decided something isn’t worth it, it’s not worth it for you.

Good Luck Out There.

Also published on Medium.