Biggest Online Dating Website Fail

Posted By Debbie on November 13, 2011

I’ve been on and off online dating sites for years now, and I’m back on. It’s amazing that as far as they’ve come, there is still one area where they have it really wrong. This would affect just about every user each site has, and I’m surprised they haven’t done more about it.

The issue: do you have children and do you want children. Seems like something you really want to get RIGHT. You don’t want to match someone who doesn’t want children with someone who does. You don’t want to match someone who already has children to someone who doesn’t want to date someone with children. OKCupid uses things like “likes children.” Does that mean you want them? Or you don’t mind if someone else has them? Or you kinda don’t like them, but might date someone with them?

I noticed the problem in 2009 when eHarmony kept sending me guys who had children. It was easy to figure out who those guys are because in the “what I’m most thankful for,” parents typically write things like, “My kids.” And let’s be clear: I don’t have children, I don’t want children, and the older I get, the more I feel like I don’t want to date someone who has children. So my profiles are all marked things like, “Doesn’t want children,” or for eHarmony, “Has kids at home: no. Wants kids: no.”

But there is the problem right there, and they still haven’t fixed it. eHarmony matches me with men who “don’t have kids at home.” This means the kids are adults no longer living at home. Or someone else has custody. Or the state took the children away from this man. I have no idea. So the “What I’m thankful for” part is the only clue I get to whether a man marked, “has kids at home: no,” has ZERO kids, or has kids he’s really thankful for, and they just live somewhere else.

When I complained to eHarmony in 2009, they told me that their system treats child preference as low priority. No idea what UX or product person decided that whether or not someone has or wants kids is not an important matching point on a dating website. But that was their answer: they are matching me with these men because other than that, the system says we are a GREAT match, so maybe matching in other ways is more important.

It’s not more important.

It makes no sense to match a man who has kids with a woman who doesn’t want kids. Religion, kids, and politics are often things that people really need to be on the same page about to have a successful relationship. I can’t imagine starting a relationship with a man with a ticking biological clock knowing that I have no biological clock. Not the same page. I have dated men who have children, and I’m a good spare Mom, but it’s my strong preference to date a guy without kids. If you have kids, you’d better be my otherwise-100%-perfect-unbelievable-soul-mate-life-partner match!

I’m on eHarmony again as I write this, and I complained again about how nearly every match they send me has kids. The email I got back basically told me that if not having kids is important to me, I should mention that in my profile. It’s already in my profile. That doesn’t keep the system from matching me with guys who are so grateful for their 2 daughters.

Let’s Boil This Down To The Product Level

If I worked on a dating site as a UX or product person, one of my main thoughts would be, “How I do I keep two terribly-matched people from being matched?” You wouldn’t want to match a Born-Again Christian with an atheist. What questions do we need to ask people, and how do we need to ask them so that two badly-matched people are not presented to each other as potential life partners? If I got to affect the product, here is how I would do this:

  1. How many children do you have? [number] (My number would be zero.)
  2. (If the above is >0) Where do the children live? [choose one below:]
    1. They mostly/always live with me.
    2. They mostly/always live with another caretaker.
    3. They are adults, and live on their own.
  3. Do you want to have or adopt children in the future? [yes/no] (I’d say no.)
  4. How do you feel about a partner who already has children? [select all that apply:]
    1. My partner must not have any children. (This covers me.)
    2. It’s OK if my partner has children, but it’s best if they don’t live with him full time.
    3. It’s OK if my partner has children, and it’s OK if they lived with him full time.

Super! We now have all our data. All they then need to do is match me with guys who otherwise match me, AND answered zero to question 1 and NO to question 3. The dating website would know that’s my preference because I answered NO to question 3 and only checked off A for question 4. The other questions and choices cover everybody else, and we don’t have to go into weird grey areas like, “Likes kids.” If you want or have them, we’re going to HOPE you like them.

There are dating websites out there for every religion, ethnicity, and in some cases fetish. If I decide I am a Portuguese-American lesbian Jewish little person, there is probably a dating website for me. Yet, I have not yet found any decently-operating dating website aimed at those of us in the “child-free” movement. No, I don’t consider or decent websites. Could someone please whip that up? Thanks!