Posts Tagged "online dating"

I know, I’m on a roll with 3 blog posts about OKCupid this week. I’m negatively shocked by what they’ve been doing both as a UX professional and as one of their success stories.

While researching more news about the Dec 2017 real names policy, I also found that in July 2017, OKCupid decided that they would no longer show you a list of who visited your profile. OKCupid explained the decision saying that if someone sees your profile but doesn’t “like” or “message” you, they are not worth your time.

Perhaps that’s true for someone with a match percentage under 90% or 85%. I might not have enough in common with that person on which to build a serious relationship. But if the match percentage is high, why not let me know they visited so I can check them out?

Without reading further news from OKCupid, I’m prepared to officially declare that Product doesn’t know the customer and there is either no UX team, there is an untalented UX team, or they don’t know how to stand up to the Product team.

This one I take a bit personally. Let me tell you a little story.

In early 2017, I started a new OKCupid profile and was back in the dating world. I was feeling a bit passive about dating. My strategy was to just look at the list of who viewed my profile (now defunct), check for high matches, and look at those profiles.

That might seem like a doomed plan. If those guys were interested, they would get in touch, right? Not if you really think about online dating habits.

You have shy people. You have people still deciding what to do. You have people who don’t like to make the first move. You have people who (like me) are being a bit passive about dating. Lots of reasons why someone might view a profile, feel a bit interested, but neither “like” nor “message.” You have people who aren’t ready to show me they’re interested, as likes and messages would do.

With empathy, I can imagine those users and scenarios.

What did you find, Debbie?

One day, I found a guy who was a 93% match. That looks promising! Ooooo wait, look at his username. He added some numbers to the title of a Kate Bush song (now defunct since OKC asks you to use the “real” name people know you by). I’m a HUGE Kate Bush fan. Hey, this could be a guy who likes some of the same music I like. And after previous dating adventures, I’ve decided that SOME music overlap is important.

His profile didn’t reveal that much about him. I figured he was still working on it. His pictures were able to capture a lot of joy, some silliness, and some introspection.

I’m being passive. Who knows what will happen. I’d be happy even just to make new friends. He didn’t write to me so I’ll write to him… just to say hello and mention his Kate Bush-related profile name. I think I messaged him with one sentence.

Oooo, what happened next?

We started writing, we then moved to video calls, we then met in person, we fell in love. We’ve been dating most of 2017 and we are both deeply happy. He’s nearly everything I’ve ever dreamed of and could never find. I’ve never been in a relationship that has gone this much time without a problem of any size. We are both high empathy problem solvers and caretakers.

We’re an OKCupid success story.

So why didn’t he “like” or message me when he saw my profile? Because of the distance. He figured I lived too far away; with his work and life, he can’t get away easily. We’d never see each other. (He didn’t count on me having the flexibility in my 2017 life to travel to him a number of times and stay for long periods. When you can work remotely, who cares where you are? Just answer the phone, answer emails, get it all done.)

How many people will miss out on what I found?

Two things OKCupid did away with this year, fun usernames and the list of who viewed your profile, are the ONLY ways I found this guy. I once went to OKCupid and fine tuned my search so that he would HAVE to come up. His location, his age, his height, I tried to mirror all of his profile answers. He didn’t come up in search. He wasn’t shown to me in the carousel slide show of suggested people.

It seemed like there was going to be no other way that we might have found each other.

OKCupid only showed him to me because I was on vacation near where he lived. Even though I wasn’t looking for dates in his location and his search radius didn’t include San Francisco (where I lived at the time), OKCupid was showing me to men where I was vacationing (and showing those men to me). If they haven’t announced it already, maybe NEXT they will stop showing you matches based on temporary locations… and only show you matches based on the radius from where you live.

At the rate they’re going, perhaps I’ll be their last truly amazing success story.

Out of touch with the customer

From OKCupid’s announcements on these changes, they seem completely out of touch.

They don’t understand the safety and privacy ramifications of using your real name. They slightly backed down from “no usernames, real names only” to “use what people call you,” while forcing people to fill out real name form fields. And people are filling out all KINDS of random stuff. Non-problem not solved.

They are sure that anybody who viewed your profile but didn’t immediately act is “not worth your time.” They just don’t seem to understand their customers’ real and possible behaviours.

With all I’ve been reading, I’m not alone in thinking a once great company is truly doing itself in. I hope they can get themselves out of this spiral. I made good friends there. I found a man who fills me with happiness, joy, and gratitude around 500 times a day. I don’t want people to miss out on what I found. I hope OKCupid will change their Product and UX teams… and refocus on the reality of their customers.

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The response to yesterday’s OKCupid announcement that they will get rid of usernames and move to real names has been met with nearly 100% negativity from former and current users (including me).

The company edited their original blog post announcement to make slight changes to try to calm the villagers with torches. Some people started noticing they couldn’t even get to the screen to delete their account unless they gave a “real” name. Some users noticed OKCupid took ANYTHING for a real name. Which begs the question, “If I can put UX as my first name and Chick as my last name, what have they really accomplished?”

The people commenting on the blog post had more reasons why this decision is bad than I blogged about yesterday. They had many excellent, important points such as what if your lifestyle is a bit alternative and you don’t want friends, family, co-workers, bosses finding you on OKCupid with your real name and everything you’re into. What about LGBTQ people, especially who may be in the closet. Why force them to use real names?

Sadly, many people told stories of being stalked and harassed (online AND in person) from what people got from their profiles now (without real names). They were justifiably afraid for their safety if their real first or last name were added to what they are already putting out there. And a few people linked to articles about times when other social sites tried force people to use real names and how that backfired or got undone.

OKCupid doesn’t seem to know who is responsible for this.

As soon as I saw the announcement yesterday, I emailed OKCupid to complain about their poor choice. Disaster for safety, bad for creativity. I received an email back saying they will share my feedback with their developers.

Wait. You made a policy change. It probably came from Product, possibly UX. I’m suggesting it’s a bad policy. And you will tell developers?

This is either the saddest form email this month OR even the support teams don’t understand who makes policy or feature changes.

And as a UX professional, I HOPE you are not sending customer feedback directly to developers or engineering teams. Sure, someone can summarise key things we’re hearing this week or month for engineering. But don’t send it to them like it’s a bug. And don’t send them every comment everybody makes.

I saw one comment that this was a good thing.

One person thought real names were good because then married men trying to date would be outed. Well… would they? If John Smith says he’s single (or married and poly), how do you know that’s not true? How do you know that the married part is true but the poly part would be news to his wife?

You can Google me all you want but you will NOT find anything public about the man in my life. Not his name, not his picture. You wouldn’t know if I’m married or not. If I live with him or not. So a real name is not an assurance of honesty or a definite trail to solid info.

How could this have been avoided?

This is where cross-functional teams have to have discussions. And IMO, this is where UX has to fight a battle. Don’t back down on this one.

If Product comes to you and says hey, some of our usernames are really stupid. Some are offensive. Let’s ban usernames! In that case, UX should push back against Product and say OK, we have a problem we have to solve but that’s not the only solution and it may not be the right one. UX should then brainstorm different solutions AND their possible reactions and outcomes.

UX should have the “right” and power to ask, “Are stupid usernames really a problem? Tell us more about how annoying, sexual, or “bad” usernames are a problem for our customers.” Product might say some people are offended by some of these names. Sure but OKCupid is definitely not in the business of applying morals to users… the site asks if you would like certain types of sex in graphic detail!

Perhaps data shows that people with the “worst” usernames commit the most harassment. OK but there are things in place for bad users no matter what their username is. Tell me more about how the USERNAME itself is a problem that has to be solved.

UX should push Product for whether or not this is a real problem. We don’t want to make changes or apply “solutions” to non problems. If UX thinks this is a problem, then we get to work on solutions.

Mini customer journey maps could help here.

Where are the problems? Where are opportunities to serve target audiences? Here are some scenarios I made up that could be turned into journey maps adding the emotions at different moments.

  • Sharon is signing up for our dating site. We ask her for her real name. Sharon remembers the time a guy she met on Match found out where she worked and showed up there a few times before he gave up. Sharon doesn’t want to use her real name. She gives a fake one (username “problem” not “solved”) or customer lost (she decides not to sign up).
  • This is Dave’s first time on a dating website. He’s pretty shy and it’s important that he lets everybody know how much he loves Studio Ghibli. He really hopes to find a partner who shares his passion. OKCupid tells him he can’t name himself Totoro1970 and he has to be Dave. Dave feels like he has less of a chance to find a special someone. How will he stand out in search results with all the other Daves? Dave questions if he should continue on this site or use the others ones his friends are talking about.
  • Anne is already a member but got an email saying she has to use her real name. Anne doesn’t care. She uses Facebook Login for everything. Her real name is everywhere. Sure, why not be honest and exposed here too. Anne doesn’t care or think about it much. She just goes along with it.
  • Pat has been going through some changes the last few years. Pat’s finally feeling more open about the things Pat’s into. Pat wants a “they” pronoun and is getting more comfortable with their preferences and needs. OKCupid seems like a good place to find other people who might be into the same things. Pat would NOT want an ex or employer to find out about their other life, their private life. Pat sees the form asking for a real name and stops, shocked. Can Pat join this site when their real name would be right there for anybody to see? Is this searchable on Google? When people see Pat’s name, will they then find them on Facebook or LinkedIn? If their boss is also on OKCupid, could the boss find this profile and see all the questions Pat might answer about how they like sex? Pat closes their browser and needs to think about this some more. Customer lost.

UX should be able to demonstrate that this might not really be a problem.

Many of the people commenting on the announcement said they LOVE seeing bad or disgusting usernames because that tells them to avoid that person without even looking at the profile. I’d agree! Usernames are creative but also fantastic warning signs. I will immediately block someone who picked a name like “DaddySpankU69” (I made that up but plenty like that are out there) because he has told me everything about him I need to know.

If this really is a problem, UX will have solutions. But the solution might not be “no usernames ever again.” Perhaps it’s like custom license plates. Some words and strings are banned. OKCupid has enough data to know all of the “offensive” strings and their variations. Maybe nobody can use 69. Nobody can say “Daddy.” I have no idea what the rules are but you can keep usernames and just give them rules if there appears to be a problem with certain types of usernames.

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OKCupid just announced that they’re not going to allow made up names anymore.

Note: As people are freaking out and deleting accounts en masse, they are editing this blog post to slightly change the policy. This blog post was written when OKC said they were going to force real names only.

This is a huge mistake.

When I last did online dating, I was happy to hide behind the OKCupid username “UXChick” (I don’t mind telling you this now!) and a VOIP phone number rather than my real cell phone number. I used the zip code of the town NEXT to the one I lived in.

Why. Because online dating can be a great magnet for unsafe situations. So unsafe that I spent 5 years working on my Silicon Valley startup that was designed to make online dating (and other activities) safer for everybody but especially women.

You know I’m Debbie Levitt. This is my business. You hire me, you read this site, you know my name. But should everybody who stops by my OKCupid profile account know my real name? Should someone who knows me from my business world now see my profile and answers on a dating site? I didn’t answer the sexual questions but some of those questions were rather… revealing.

My profile is my story… and now you have my real name. And my photo? Holy cats!

Every person on OKCupid would be the easiest person to stalk, if someone chose to do that. Before, you had a picture of me (though I chose one where I was wearing so much winter gear that you can barely see my face… and I chose that on purpose… and that was my only pic). You might know some things I’m into. Maybe even my fave places to go or hang out. I might have been honest about what zip code I lived in.

Now you have my real name. Start Googling me and you will find LinkedIn… where I work. You might find Facebook. You might find a variety of other things. Public records of where I live. And these aren’t even hard to find! If I still had a dog, you might see me out walking my dog near where I live because you now have my address.

I had put in effort. I had put in a fake zip code, a VOIP phone number, and a pic that didn’t show you much about me. But once you have my name and you start Googling, you could be standing outside my house in about 30 minutes. Some site called MyLife appears to have an old photo of me, an old job title, my previous address, etc… This is just TOO EASY.

Not all people on online dating are wonderful upstanding peeps.

Let me tell you about the time I went out with a guy from OKCupid and he told me his business idea. It was ILLEGAL. And he then announced that I would be his business consultant. He will call me for business advice, which I would give him for free because we’re now friends. I kept telling him, no, your business idea is illegal, I would charge you for consulting, and I won’t help you with this business because it’s illegal. NO, he told me, he was SURE that I would help him and for free, and SURE that we were now friends.

A guy who doesn’t hear, “no,” is a potentially dangerous guy. I pulled out my inner New Yorker and said, “LOOK. We are not friends and we’re not going to be friends. This evening is over. I’ll pay for the appetizers. I’m going to the bathroom and when I come back, you won’t be here.” “That’s it?” he said. “THAT’S IT.” And I went to the bathroom. And he was gone.

Or how about the time a guy saw my (fake) zip code and decided OH you must live in the apartments near the BART station. Gulp. Glad I gave him the wrong zip code. Don’t need some guy standing outside those apartments trying to match up the face.

Here’s a worse one.

One time, an OKCupid guy and I were planning a date. I was like hey, let’s just meet at Starbucks. He was like no, let’s go for a walk somewhere. He describes where and when.

Long story short, my final reply was, “You want to go on a walk with me at night in the dark on an unnamed dirt path in a remote part of town? Definitely not.”

How lucky was I that he only knew me as BusyCEO (my old old old OKCupid name) and otherwise had NO real information about me? Because this guy doesn’t sound well. Or safe.

And this guy might know my real name? Is OKCupid going to protect me? I bet not.

And it’s not just women’s safety or privacy.

The guy I met on OKCupid and then dated when I was “BusyCEO” didn’t even want to give me his first name until we met. He signed everything, “G” and was afraid that due to his uncommon first name, he would be too easy to Google.

It’s not just women who think about safety and privacy. Everybody SHOULD think about safety.

This decision is a safety disaster… and might have kept me from meeting the man I’m with now.

I’ve emailed OKCupid about this. Yes, I’m worried about safety. But guess what. I found the man of my dreams on OKCupid this year partially because of the username he picked. It included the word, “Cloudbusting,” which was a Kate Bush song… and I’m a GIANT Kate Bush fan. That name alone got my attention. My first message to him was, “If your name is a Kate Bush reference, hello. If it’s not a Kate Bush reference, hello.” That was my whole message and the rest is past, present, and future.

Someone is going to miss out on their Cloudbusting guy. And that’s a shame! My life has been so hugely changed in so many ways because of this wonderful, loving, high empathy, adventurous, kind, fun man.

But I’m concerned about safety. I am lucky that I have not been attacked. Maybe it’s luck. But I also work hard at whatever I can control. I use the wrong zip code, a VOIP phone number, I didn’t mention where I worked in my dating profile (just general industry). I used a photo I hadn’t posted anywhere else so it wouldn’t show up in Google reverse image search. I didn’t list any places I liked to hang out or specific fave restaurants. I only gave people my first name… and I struggled with whether or not I give them my real first name for the first date.

I’m working hard for my safety and in some ways, my privacy. OKCupid will destroy all of that effort when it makes everybody show their real names. OKCupid says they want to get rid of stupid, offensive, or highly sexual names. Then create name rules. You can’t have “horny” in your name. Or “69.” Or whatever they find so troubling. OKCupid is famous for their amazing data. You know what names you hate and every variation they come in. Block those and let the rest of us be UXChick and Cloudbusting (plus non-69 numbers).

I believe OKCupid will undo this rule. Facebook had to back off their real name policy when there was a backlash. Now they say your name has to be something people in real life know you by. Which isn’t necessary for Facebook (though that’s another blog post). OKCupid should consider safety, privacy, and anonymity, especially given what today’s dating world is truly like for so many of us.

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Men On Dating Sites: Try Reading

Posted By on Feb 25, 2013

I’ve recently been poking around an online dating site. No, I’m not single. I’m wildly happy with Mr Right, and we’re moving into a rental house together soon.

I had a job interview at a dating site about a month ago, and they wanted me to get to know the site. So I am. Yes, I told my boyfriend. Yes, I made it REALLY clear in my profile that I’m taken, I’m happy, and I’m only there to check the site out for a job interview with the company.

That hasn’t stopped men from sending me messages through the site. Clearly these are non-readers. And I’m going to go out on a limb and say they would be crappy boyfriends. If you are not going to read ONE single sentence I put on my dating profile (and EVERY sentence says I’m not looking to date and I’m just there to get to know the site for a job interview), then what kind of boyfriend will you be? Attentive? Caring? Supportive?

And worse than that…

Worse than that is that nearly every message these guys have sent me have ONE cheesy line. It’s not like, “Hi, I’m Steve. I saw your profile and liked that we both like New Wave music.” It’s just one cheese line like, “I think I found the angel I want to be touched by,” or “I lost my phone number. Can I get yours?”

Does that actually work anywhere? Does it work in a bar? Does it work in online dating? Have you ever been impressed and swept off your feet by a guy who opened up with one of these?

It’s hard to not rip these guys a new one. I was able to control myself enough to only write two of the 30 I got back and say are you f’ing kidding me? Does anybody fall for that crap, and why write me if you haven’t read a word of my profile!

So happy to not be on dating sites anymore. So happy I found the guy who’s perfect for me. Ugh to everybody else still wading through these dudes!

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I’ve noticed on a few sites that a scale they give you doesn’t really mean what it turns out to mean.

Take eBay. They found that their feedback system of positive, neutral, and negative wasn’t really doing the job. They created 4 criteria, and let people rate 1 through 5 stars. So if you ask me to rate how someone’s shipping speed was from 1-5, it’s a sort of Likert scale. eBay shows the average score for each criterion, and you can be in trouble for having anything under a 4.6 average out of 5 for any criterion. That means you’re in trouble for getting under a 92 on a test. WOW.

Most people will give a 4 out of 5 even if they were very happy. 4 out of 5 feels like the seller was great. Most people would reserve 5 for such amazing service it’s nearly off the chart.

But what most people don’t know is that eBay penalises you for getting anything lower than a perfect score of 5. You’re in super trouble if you get 1s or 2s. But think about what I said about about how any average under 4.6 starts to get mean trouble for eBay sellers. That means that giving someone a 4, which feels like a perfectly good score, actually lowers that seller’s average, bringing them closer to a 4.0 average… and closer to being on eBay’s poop list.

Then is a 5-star scale the right thing?

I’m not sure a 5-star scale is the right way to approach this if you have decided that 1 and 2 are equally bad, 3 and 4 are almost equally mediocre, and 5 is the only good score. It’s almost positive, neutral, and negative all over again just with more granularity and more for sellers to stress over.

I also saw this on eHarmony.

I also saw what I felt was rating scale abuse on eHarmony when I was trying it in 2011. They asked you what you wanted in a partner for a particular quality. For example, is it important that the person have a certain level of education? You pick what level of education, and then there was a slider from 1 to 7.

It turns out that rating something 1 through 6 lead eHarmony to mostly ignore whatever that preference was. When I said having a college degree was of importance 6 out of 7, I got guys who never went to college. When I slid it to 7, I only got people who graduated from college.

To the user, this appears to be binary, not a scale.

I either get guys who match my preference, or they get filtered out completely. On/off. Binary.

Behind the scenes, perhaps a scale is being used. Maybe they weight people with a college degree more than people without because of your preference. But couldn’t this still be achieved with a three-point scale? Let’s say I tell the dating site I want a guy with a college degree. It could then ask me to pick how important it is to me to have a partner with this quality:

  • Not important at all.
  • Somewhat important.
  • It’s a 100% must-have.

This could still be enough info to let the dating site weight people. And it’s enough to let me put my foot down on mandatory qualities where I need to. If he has to have no kids, be of a certain religion, or be a certain ethnicity, this scale of 3 should be enough for a good user experience AND behind the scenes data crunching experience. I mean, how differently will you rank someone who never got a college degree when I say having a college degree is 3 on a scale of 7 vs 4 on a scale of 7?

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AppSumo Is Creepy

Posted By on Apr 2, 2012

I have a photo album on Facebook called “Online Dating WTFs.” I screen shot CRAZY photos and/or bios of people to share the comedy with my friends. I keep wanting to upload this to that album, but I have to remember this wasn’t from OK Cupid. This was from when I unsubscribed from the AppSumo email mailing list.

It’s an Online Dating WTF except I’m not trying to date this guy. Click for full size.

Yep, in bed, no shirt… just like so many online dating pics I’ve seen. Creepy choice, AppSumo!

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Worst Online Dating Username Ever

Posted By on Dec 15, 2011

Categories: Human Behavior

Tags: online dating

I guess I feel badly for this guy because I’m trying to hide his identity… but only somewhat. I logged into OKCupid to find this staring at me on the home page like he’s some sort of featured guy. What caught my eye fairly quickly was his username.

This reminds me of when I try to tell my clients that their logo or slogan is trying to be too many things at the same time. This guy’s online dating username is trying to convey WAY too many ideas that should NEVER be this close together.

Sure, he might be a great Dad! Sure, he might be born in 1969. Sure, he might like the double entendre of 69 since I see it just about every day in online dating usernames. However, let’s please NOT put “69” after “Dad.” They just shouldn’t go together, especially when you read it as “one great Dad 69.” No no no no no. FAIL.

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This sounds like another of my dating advice posts, but it’s definitely not. It’s about the usability of a dating website that claims to be one of the best on the planet.

I’m paying for eHarmony right now. Call it an experiment as I don’t really expect to find much there. Making a new friend would be great. The price was low enough that I figured I’d give it a try, though I’m more likely to find my soul make on an airplane. 🙂 I was matched with someone on eHarmony in late 2009, and we’ve become good friends. I figured maybe I can find another good friend.

I am in month 2 of a 3-month paid commitment. eHarmony is sending me nearly zero matches. The ones they do send, I “archive” immediately because although the men on eHarmony write the shortest profiles on all of internet dating, I can still tell these guys aren’t matches to me. I attempted to write to one guy, but he tended to take about a week to write me back every time I sent something in eHarmony’s scripted communication process. I figured anybody taking that much time to reply is either not interested in eHarmony, me, or both, so I archived him. It’s not like I was that excited about him.

So I emailed to ask if I can cancel because clearly, they can’t find me anybody the last roughly 6 weeks, and if they can’t find anybody, why am I paying. Their response was basically too bad, you committed to 3 months at $X/month, and you’ll see that through. But we looked at your profile and settings, and here are some things we suggest you change:

* Widen the radius for potential matches. I have it set to 60 miles. That means in Bay Area traffic, I’d be willing to drive 1-2 hours to meet somebody. They suggested I go wider with that. They didn’t say how wide. One might think that I could find a FEW eHarmony matches in the entire Bay Area. Just matches! Not soul mates. Just people I’d like to meet who would want to meet me.

I had tried that a few weeks ago. Put in something like 3000 miles. It sent me New Yorkers, Alaskans, and all sorts of people from across the country. And zero of them were a potential match. All archived immediately. Not sure radius is the problem here. I set it back to 60 miles.

* Be more flexible in what you want. eHarmony has a few screens that ask me for qualities I’m looking for, and how important those qualities are (you get a sliding bar to show how important). When I didn’t have the bar slid all the way to 100%, I got all KINDS of things. If I marked it 6 out of 7 in importance that someone be educated, I got uneducated people… because hey, I’m flexible! I got tired of getting people who didn’t match what I wanted (eHarmony calls them Flex Matches to clue you into them being not quite what you wanted), so I set all the sliders to full blast. I can’t think of a good reason to move those sliders, and spend all my time archiving wrong people.

* Be more patient. They suggested that I wait TWO WEEKS each time I go to communicate with somebody because work, family, and vacations can delay people (that’s how they put it). I think about the times I HAVE connected with people on dating websites, and none of them took two weeks to get back to me. They all got back to me within 24 hours each time one of us wrote to the other. It’s a brave new world. I think with all of our phones, tablets, and easy internet access, especially here in the Bay Area, it doesn’t make sense to wait 2 weeks each time a guy has something to say.

Here Is What I Wish They’d Say

I wish they’d say, “You know what? You’re right. Our average client gets piles of matches each day. I can see that you have tried changing your standards. You tried being less flexible, and you tried being more flexible. I also see a history of you writing into customer service, and being unhappy with your experience here. It looks like we are not the right dating site for you. Sure, we match X people each day, and take responsibility for Y marriages each year, but we won’t be the right website for everybody. You won’t get a refund, but we won’t charge you for next month. We’d like to give it to you free to give you a chance to become a happy eHarmony customer in the holiday season. Maybe you’ll find a date for Valentine’s Day!”

It’s not about the money. I think I’m paying them like $15 per month. This is not about $15. It’s about my experience on this website, and my experience with support, which I tend to find just bizarre. The canned responses are really out there. When eHarmony staff allow themselves to break out of the canned responses, they seem like nice people who understand why I’m so frustrated. They should also know the canned responses make me frustrated.

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Categories: UX/UI

Tags: dating, eHarmony, online dating

Oh, eHarmony. I wish you were hiring for a UX person. I find your site so frustrating. Today, let’s take a look at my home dashboard sort-of page. This is what I see after I log in. Well, it’s mainly what I see. There’s top and bottom stuff, and a pile of crap in a left column. But this is the main area. Click to enlarge:

So they’re put in some sort of activity stream. That’s common. But what’s interesting about this is that every guy they are showing me is a match I “closed.” That means that either at first glance or at some point during the “communication,” I decided I wasn’t interested in this guy, and clicked a button to “close this match.” Anything I was showing up as for that guy then gets archived. So that’s it. No dice, baby. Not gonna happen.

Then why show me updates from these guys? I’m sure I don’t want them. I’ve done the equivalent of blocking them. I don’t want to communicate with them. I’ve made my lack of interest clear. If I were communicating with these guys, and therefore showing interest, I can imagine them showing up in my stream. However, I’m not interested. They shouldn’t be in my stream.

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Biggest Online Dating Website Fail

Posted By on Nov 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!

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