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The Problems with Dating Apps

Like many of you, members of the OnlineDatingHQ team have found themselves using dating apps during the past few years. What a nightmare! It’s bad enough that we all end up resorting to using dating apps at all (but how else should you meet someone nowadays?)… but things get so much worse when you realise that most dating apps are either just money-making scams OR utterly hopeless at providing you with any good matches.

So we decided that we will build a dating app… or even better, a WordPress plugin that will enable our users to create dating apps. We need this app to have all of the features that are missing from the rest. And we will build the app, at least our version, with free access to all of the major required features that you need to meet and start communicating with your matches. To start the ball rolling we need a requirements analysis… that is, we need to decide what features do we need to have in the app. A great place to start is to review our experiences with other apps – to make note of what we do and don’t like – and to list down features that an app should have to make it really stand out and succeed. We don’t mean to succeed as an app, we mean to succeed in providing users with great matches… success in their dating- love-life.

If you want to contribute to the discussion, get active in our Facebook Group – Dating App Problems!

Our Experiences – Good and Bad

As you read these notes about our experiences with dating apps, please bear in mind that we have been using the apps in Germany and Switzerland. While we may make comments about the amount of users perceived to be active in the apps, remember that there may be many more users in your area.

BAD – Pay to Message

Many, many, many apps look like they are free or that the free version will allow you to match and meet but then you hit a paywall when you want to read or reply to a message. For us, this is an absolute no-go. There are plenty of apps where you can message freely with your matches (when you get a match). For us, as soon as an app has a paywall to read or write a message, it is uninstalled. So the first feature that we will add to our ‘features list’ will be: Free messaging to matches.

One of the major problems that comes with these paywalled messaging apps is that they are full of fake profiles that write you as soon as you join. Beautiful woman or charming men that you ‘want’ to believe are real and you want to message. They are fake profiles that are created and automatically message via bot systems to prey on your loneliness and suck you into spending money to message. Don’t do it. As soon as you see a dating app where you can’t message your matches for free, remove it, close your account. Get out!

Only a few of such apps (ones that offer a premium subscription where messaging is possible as opposed to messages that cost per message) are worth considering sinking your hard earned cash into. But think carefully, the fees for these premium memberships are often much higher than on apps offering good value for money plans.

Apps that we have seen using PPM (pay per message) or messaging behind premium plans include: Yoome, Zoosk, Skipped, Belovd, Lovoo, Herzlich, iCatched, Justlo, Parship, UkraineDate, RussianCupid, SingleMitKind,… the list could go on forever.

BAD – No Read Receipts in Chat/Messaging System

Some of the dating apps offer read receipts either as part of the premium subscription (like LoveScout) or in blocks of pay-per-recipient (Tinder) read receipts. Unfortunately, other apps that excel with some of their features don’t offer read receipts at all – come on Bumble, you really need to add this.

But we believe read receipts are a vital part of communication. We would be lost without the little blue ticks in WhatsApp and Telegram… and this is also one of the major reasons even legitimate dating app users often suggest to leave the app and chat elsewhere – something that dating apps hate and warn you against accepting because ‘beware the scammers’!
Granted, many users asking you to WhatsApp are scammers… but there are plenty of legitimate users who find the dating app chat systems inadequate.

So, another feature that we believe is a must… read receipts – sitting on top of a free and robust message system. Yes, included in the basic free package.

BAD – Fake Profiles

All dating apps have problems with fake profiles. Some have more problems than others. Apps that have verification possibilities can help you avoid fake profiles. Tinder, Bumble, etc allow members to confirm e-mail addresses, photos, some even have you upload an ID. Often, you can set the app to only show you verified profiles or people with verified photos. When you don’t have this setting on, be prepared to get inundated with fakes. Especially female users. But yes, men get lots of fake likes too.

These fake profiles are mostly just spammers and scammers trying to phish for your e-mail address, phone number, or other personal details that they can sell. It can be a good idea to have a Prepaid Mobile number that you can give to anyone asking… and it’s easy to set up a spam-catching Gmail address where you can give your e-mail to anyone asking. But to be fair, you don’t need these. If the first few messages are not working like a normal conversation, you probably have a fake. If not a fake, someone who sucks at communicating… either way, unmatch. Save yourself the hassle.

Feature going on the list of our dating app – profile verification systems.

BAD – Distant Profiles

If I set my dating app to my location in Germany or Switzerland and state that I am happy to meet people within a 100km radius then I ONLY want to see profiles coming on my screen of people that are within that area (with some tolerance). We have noticed that apps that previously offered a pretty good match experience with many users in our area have lost a lot of ground during the last three years.

An example is OK Cupid. This app used to provide a lot of matches in Germany and Switzerland… and the matches were often quite good due to the cool (yet exhausting) questions and answers feature of OK Cupid where you can really get insight into the members.
But three years on, OK Cupid no longer delivers any profiles around our region. Instead, over 50% of all users are Asian accounts from the Philippines, Thailand, China, etc. There are also quite a few South American profiles coming through. We have nothing against dating across borders… and have ourselves used RussianCupid and UkraineDate to arrange international dates in the past… but when you set an area, this should be adhered to.

A lot of this problem is caused by users lying about where they are – they don’t seem to realise that this just pisses off 99% of their future matches. To combat the problem, a good app needs to somehow include some location verification methods. We add this to our feature list.

Good – Block Profiles

Most of the apps give you the possibility to block or report a profile. This is great and an important feature. Once you have blocked a profile, you should never be contacted by that user again AND you should ideally also never be shown to that user again.


BAD – Blocked, Deleted or Banned Profiles have Placeholders

One app that we have used and found some good features in is LoveScout (Meetic, Match, Affinity). Unfortunately, they also have one very annoying feature… this is, that when a profile has been deleted by the user or even by the site/app, they leave a placeholder on your Likes and Visits screen and even in your messages system. This takes up space and is completely pointless because once the profile is deleted you are clearly not going to have any further contact.

A solid dating app should remove all traces of deleted profiles from the users’ view. However, they should maintain an internal record for maintenance and future checking if the profile is recreated.

Good – See Who Viewed/Liked You

Many apps give you the possibility to see who viewed you and/or who liked you BUT they mostly use this as an upsell feature. They do this by adding those users to a  list and sending a notification… but when you view the list, the profile pictures and details are blurred out.

It’s a wonderful feature that can really help you to determine where to focus your energy but we would like to see that for free on the apps. Viewing likes will be free on ours.

BAD – Can’t Remove a Like?

What happens when you like someone… and you are able to see your likes… but when you look further at the profile and realise that you want to go back on that like, you can’t.

Yeah, we think you should be able to cancel a like. So we add that to our list.

BAD – Market Fragmentation

Many large organisations create dating apps for niche markets. This is, of course, a good thing if you consider that you want to find people with specific lifestyles, races, ages, etc. But it also results in multiple sites/apps that are almost identical to each other – just with a different group of singles – but that have a smaller number of users.
Chances are, you belong to several of these user groups (let’s say, single parent, black, and over 50)… you have to pay for three sites/apps to get to all of the users. It benefits the people running the app immensely, it costs you a lot of money and you have to manage three profiles.

A better solution – at least when you are actually focussed on the users – is to have one large app that has a very robust filtering system. Yes, added to our feature list.

BAD – Men, Especially Sincere Men are the Most Out of Pocket

Dating apps play on the needs (or desperation perhaps) of the users. The users who find themselves most ignored in the system are the users who get pushed or enticed into paying for premium memberships in an effort to be seen. Many dating apps bait these men with fake profiles of perfect woman – pretending to be interested but requiring a paid membership to message.
Other apps are often so inundated with unserious men who are looking for a quick bit of satisfaction that the sincere men will never get to the top of the card-stack… unless they pay for the privilege.
Furthermore, woman using these apps get so flooded with sex messages, dick pics and more that they decide the app is worthless and leave… or that every may on the app (including the sincere one who wrote them) is just another loser so they don’t respond.

A potential way to overcome this would be to provide a feedback, tagging type system where the users can give some sort of feedback to the system about what the other user seems to be looking for, etc. So not a reporting system to remove users, per se, but rather a way to say: this one looks for sex, this one is genuine, this one is polite, this one talks dirty… and so on.

Something to think about.

BAD – Search Shows People Who’s Criteria You DO NOT Meet

It’s great when a site offers the ability to search. But even if they don’t… why do so many sites show you potential partners in search results or in the card-stack who are looking for someone that you are not?

For example – if you are searching for someone between 18 and 30… but you are 35 – don’t show the profiles of people who are only looking to date someone up to a maximum age of 29! It’s simple – the site or app is wasting time and giving false hope if it shows the profiles of daters who will not be interested in you. LoveScout, Match and other Meetic products are guilty of this. Actually, nearly every dating app is. 

To overcome this, we believe a great dating app will include what we call bidirectional filters. Until now, we have never found an app doing this. 

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