Even after testing seven dating apps for PCMag, Karl Klockars remains happily married to his wonderfully understanding and awesome wife, Nora, and lives in Chicago. He is the author of Beer Lovers Chicago, runs the guysdrinkingbeer.com site, writes for outlets including AskMen, Chicago Magazine, and Thrillist, and recently entered the world of voic... See Full Bio
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The dating industry online, is a very serious and competitive business, so to distinguish themselves from others, several sites have created features which are specially designed to help their members. Some of these sites provide counselling for relationships, while others focus on live events offline for their dating members, and others offer the opportunity for their members to buy gifts for others! While these features are excellent, it is good to remember that an active, large database of members, is the most promising feature.
That being said, research is showing a lot of people use online dating as a form of entertainment and never actually intend to go on a date. The same Pew Research study found one-third of people who have used online dating services have never actually gone on a date. In short, don't be too disappointed if you find yourself striking out. It might be that there aren't a lot of people in your area looking for a meaningful connection.
Another strong option if you're just on the hunt for no-strings-attached action is XMatch. As you'll clearly see if you visit the site, XMatch is all about giving you a taste of the "XXX action." With more than 75 million members, the hookup-centric site will serve up a ton of possible sex partners in your area, whether it's someone who shares your specific kinky desires, or other people also looking for no-strings attached sexy hookups.
Plenty of Fish (or POF) tries to combine the ease-of-use of a simpler matching service with some of the brains of a more robust, comprehensive dating site. It matches based on mutual likes, but the more information you add to your profile, the more intelligently it'll try to match you. It has a speed matching feature, called MeetMe, which will present you with singles in your area that match your interests quickly, so you can cut through the fluff and contact someone about a date. Alternatively, you can browse matches by interest or by people who live nearby. At the same time though, it retains some of the simplicity of other services—if two people like each other's profiles, you'll get a notification to connect right away. How much effort you put into finding a good match—whether you go by mutual likes and location only or you fill out your profile with tons of information—is entirely up to you. Oh, POF is also free, and offers mobile apps, just like the other services.
How does it work? Let’s face it, meeting up with a complete stranger for a first date can be awkward and hideously cringeworthy. But it’s less so when the date itself is a total riot. This is where Doingsomething.co.uk comes in. The site is all about the actual dating experience and let’s you pick a match based on the date idea they’ve suggested. And the more fun and unique the date the better. So, rather than nervously meeting someone for a luke warm coffee in a crowded chain, you could be trying out your culinary skills at a sushi-making masterclass or bonding over super-strong cocktails at a hipster speakeasy. It’s basically about finding someone who wants to do the same things as you at the end of the day, isn’t it?
We spent five days trying out 10 different online dating services to figure out which one is the most effective and affordable. That meant monitoring three fake profiles for 24 hours, collecting match data and using the features of every website and app. We looked at which websites give free access to other users’ profile photos and messaging, and whether you have to pay to access extra features. For on-the-go dating, we also used apps and evaluated them based on how user-friendly they are.     
Though the data surrounding the success of online dating is still new and ever-changing, some studies indicate meeting online paves the way for a happier relationship. Because swiping through profiles, striking up often long-winded conversations and connecting on mutual interests provides a different starting line, you naturally become pickier. Of course, this constant connection gives you the opportunity to explore what matters to you the most as you can always pick up your phone, find a date, and try it out again. Unlike when you'd try your luck at a dingy bar, nowadays, you can go through potential matches at your leisure, focusing your energy on those you deem promising without any pressure.
Clover is a little bit like Tinder and a little bit like OKCupid. You can login with your Facebook and then add more information about your appearance and reason for using the app. For example, you can choose from several “intentions” including “looking for dating” or “looking for people to chat with.” Clover uses your location to find you dates in the area, so like most location-based dating apps, it won’t work well if you live in a rural area with a small population. Once you’ve logged in you’re prompted to start a free 7-day trial or sign up for either 3 months or 1 year of service. With a paid membership you can see read receipts on your messages, share photos and videos and get access to advanced filters for your potential matches like income and ethnicity. You can also opt out and just use the free membership if you’d prefer.

The app does an incredibly good job at collecting feedback from singles, using it  to help increase your rate of success. Members are given a report card-style dashboard that shows them why users liked or passed on their profile, down to the specific reason, such as low-quality profile pictures, as well as offering ways to improve their likelihood of getting “liked.” For any online dater, this dashboard alone is a good (and free) tool to gauge how their profile is performing compared to others.


There's even a specialized app for creative people looking to meet other artists and creators. Raya is free to download but then becomes membership-based. First, you fill out an application, which is then reviewed by a committee of people and an algorithm. You may be put on a waitlist for a short time while your application is reviewed. Once you're accepted, you need to sign up for a one-, three- or six-month auto-renewing membership plan. As a member, you also have to agree to a code of conduct in an effort to keep interactions respectful and cordial. As the website puts it, it believes using technology to meet someone should feel safe and exciting. Because of its exclusivity, the app has become well-known for its famous users. We weren't able to get a membership, but several blogs and reviews circulating online claim the app has been used by the likes of Cara Delevingne, Ruby Rose and Demi Lovato.
Features for introverts: The SmartPick can really be your best friend, serving as the best icebreaker.  If both you and someone you're interested in both vote "yes" on each other's profiles, the SmartPick feature will let you know the good news by email and shoot you a message in your Zoosk inbox. Another good option is the Super Send feature, which could help eliminate the scary feeling from being the one to make the first move. Choose a message to break the ice, then allow Zoosk to blast it out for you using Super Send. If someone indicates they're interested by writing back, then you get to view each other's profiles.
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