We created three made-up online dating profiles and spent five days trying out each service and monitoring the responses our fake profiles received. We created a woman seeking a man, a man seeking a woman and a woman seeking a woman to make sure our data was well-rounded. All three profiles were similarly generic: They were white with bachelor’s degrees with low to midrange full-time jobs. To create these accounts we had to make fake email accounts and, for some sites, fake Facebook accounts and phone numbers as well.
Match.com boasts a userbase of 17 million active monthly users, all either looking for love right now or just creepily stalking their exes. Either way, that's a lot of people out there you could potentially connect with. Match is a premium service—you can sign up for free, browse users, send "winks" and get matches for your own profile (once you've filled out the lengthy profile questionnaire), but if you want to actually contact anyone and converse with them, you'll need a premium subscription to the service to do so. On the one hand, it sucks that Match requires you pay up just to communicate with other users, but on the bright side, you could argue that making people pay just to reach out weeds out the people who, well, you really wouldn't want to talk to anyway. iOS and Android mobile apps let you take your search for love on the go.
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?
Instead of the user searching for potential matches using their own criteria, eHarmony presents their suggestions on the lengthy and comprehensive personality quiz members take when signing up. eHarmony caters to people of a variety of age, demographics, and backgrounds, and also has options for local dating. One thing's for sure: people on eHarmony aren't looking for a hook-up. Success stories for eHarmony are shared on the site.
On the upside, the profiles are brief, which allows you to make decisions quickly. The downside is that short profiles make it harder to figure out what people are looking for. Knowing very little about a person can also make initial messaging more challenging. You'll need to wade through a sea of profiles, which makes it easy to pass over people you might have given a chance under different circumstances.
Make sure that your online profile offers a true reflection of who you are, and is representative of the genuine ‘you’. Provide sufficient details about yourself to let other members know who you are, but do not share more than what you are comfortable with. It is not necessary to try and pretend that you are more fun or interesting than everyone else, as a positive attitude is enough to reflect an honest image and promote your online profile. It is important to be who ‘you’ are.
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.
‘It’s always tempting to ‘accidentally’ check out a date’s social media accounts before meeting up. In fact, our research shows that over a third (38%) of us admit to a pre-date Google. Try to avoid it, if possible. In-depth social media stalking will make you form judgments before you’ve even sat down together so prioritise getting to know the real person, rather than their online persona.’
One thing to note if you don't fall into the cis-hetero dating pool: While most of the apps reviewed here are inclusive, there are those that are friendlier to the LGBTQ community than others. For example, OkCupid goes beyond forcing users to choose between being a male or female, including options like Hijra, genderfluid, and two-spirit. If you're a man seeking a man or a woman seeking a woman, you'll want to steer clear of eharmony: It doesn't even give you the option of a same-sex match.