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Online dating has been around for decades, but thanks to technological advances, the sector is always changing. Nearly half of the under-30 crowd reports having used a dating app or site, and about one-third of U.S. adults overall have engaged with a dating technology, according to Pew Research. The market in the United States alone is in the tens of millions.
In these same surveys, only 57% reported an overall positive experience with the dating platform they used. There is clearly room for improvement. Each year brings shifts in the market with new apps entering the competition for users. The variety of apps available in many ways reflects the variety of its users and their goals.
The dating app space continues to grow, and that’s no surprise to Hily co-founder Jake Vygnan, who has experience working with several different kinds of apps before developing Hily.
“As long as dating itself is not ideal, there will always be room for innovation,” said Vygnan.
Dating Apps – Transforming the Market
According to Vygnan, dating apps have drastically changed the whole dating market. In 2013, most people still met through common friends. However, nowadays most of the heterosexual couples meet online.
He explained that dating apps are so hot right now because they cater to almost every need there is. The market is saturated with apps for people with different interests, views, and preferences.
Also, dating apps perfectly align with the modern way of life. The dot-com era of dating is fading away. Dating apps gamified an industry: they make dating easy, fast, and exciting.
“Even in times of COVID-19, when we have more free time and don't have to rush anywhere, I doubt someone would want to go back to filling out long dating forms,” Vygnan said.
Technology’s Role in Finding the Ideal Mate
At a foundational level, Vygnan believes that technology and dating are a great match. He acknowledged that while dating apps may not be a soulmate factory, they can be of great assistance in finding someone with whom you have a lot in common. That's one of the essential components of relationships.
“You can't move forward as a couple if your fundamental values are different, so a good dating app will help you figure that out,”
Vygnan explained. Dating apps do this by matching a user with people according to their interests, values, and romantic preferences.
The right algorithm can take user-entered information and turn it into strong potential matches served up to them. Certainly, no one wants to have to sift through thousands of profiles manually. The algorithm takes some of the burden off the user and uses technology to make an optimal connection.
At Hily, they took it a step further and introduced the compatibility check feature that matches people by their similarities and their complementary differences. “Being similar is excellent, but you don't want to date a carbon copy of yourself,” said Vygnan. This is one example of how the right algorithm can lead to a great match.
Also, technology can mend little things to make the whole dating experience easier, more enjoyable, and more effective. In real life, you're the only one who can address and cope with your frustrations or dating pains. However, in online dating, people can lean on apps to solve some of their problems. For instance, for someone who is afraid of making the first move or is not that good at keeping conversations going, dating apps have introduced features like icebreakers or prompts to help with that.
User Goals With Online Dating
About six months ago, Hily conducted its own research on what users are looking for from using a dating app. Singles were able to choose a couple of options.
They found that most of the dating app users are hoping to find serious relationships (37%). Around 34% reported they use dating apps for fun. However, 29% out of this category said they hope to find a meaningful relationship eventually.
Around one-third of users want to talk to someone, 28% of people reported they use dating apps to find friends, and 25% said they're looking for casual relationships.
Hily – An Example of Dating App Innovation
Developing the new dating app Hily came from a desire to make the whole matching process more efficient.
“We didn't want our dating app to be just about appearances and geolocation,” Vygnan said.
The app developers came up with different points to match people by so the matching truly became better.
Over time, the Hily team continued to introduce more features that people can use to find the best match. The app now matches people by multiple points, taking into consideration interests and romantic preferences.
They also conduct polls to learn more about users' dating pains and solve them. Through this user-centered process, Hily became a platform that stands for quality communication. “In doing research, we discovered that communication is one of the most important things when it comes to online dating,” Vygnan said.
“We focus on making communication better and help people make the first steps with the innovative features that no one else has, including icebreakers, a compatibility quiz (which is full of conversation points), and feature requests.”
Addressing Frustrations With Online Dating
As many users have experienced, online dating is not without its downsides. A top priority for dating technology is ensuring the authenticity of the users.
“I believe it's a significant pain point in the modern online dating industry to which apps and other online services have to pay more attention,” Vygnan said.
Hily uses technology to address this pain point. The app has a so-called "risk-score," which depends on many aspects, like passing verification, complaints of other users, suspicious activity, etc. The system records all the details, and if someone has a high risk score, there's a strong chance they'll be banned after the manual check from the moderation team or a request for immediate verification. This is one example of how technology can be used to make people safer while dating online.
Security issues are an area Vygnan will continue to keep his eye on to see new methods the industry will develop to address them.
Future Technological Innovation in Online Dating
New features in dating apps are usually introduced as a response to some kind of a need. For Hily, lots of feature ideas came from the "feature requests" section on the app. People are able to request improvements, and the development team gets together to come up with new ways to address the issues.
According to Vygnan, “the world is changing all the time, and people worry about different things going on in their lives. If you want users to trust your app, you have to keep your ears open.”
Looking Ahead in Online Dating
So where is this fast-paced industry headed? Vygnan described how COVID-19 is currently affecting the dating market and says he is looking forward to seeing how the post-pandemic online dating will turn out.
“The situation is unpredictable. I think the users' needs will change, and they will long for more human contact. Therefore, new features will arrive.”
He expects the pandemic to contribute to dating apps transforming into more of social platforms. With all these video features and messaging tools, dating apps become a place where people do not just meet but actually date. It may change when social distancing is over; however, it will definitely make an impact.
Image Credit: Hily