Whether you’ve found the love of your life already or you’re searching this Valentine’s Day, there’s a good chance you have enlisted the help of a dating app. With its iconic swipe right/swipe left mechanics and pared-down approach to matchmaking, Tinder has risen to become one of the most successful dating apps, ever. So what makes the app so successful over much of the competition? The UX, of course.
We asked two of Tinder’s product designers to talk us through the app’s user-centered approach to design, and to share what they’ve learned designing a companion app for a very emotional human experience. Brooke Hollabaugh is a senior product designer working on Tinder’s desktop experience, and Kyle Barber is a product designer working on the mobile app.
What are the biggest UX/UI considerations when designing a dating app?
Brooke: Dating apps are unique in that nearly every interaction is irreversible. We’ve all heard of ‘deep-faving,’ when you accidentally ‘like’ an ex’s Instagram photo from 6 months ago. While that’s an embarrassing UX mistake, it’s still reversible (‘Maybe they won’t see the notification if I undo it fast enough!’). With a dating app, however, if you make the mistake of accidentally liking someone or worse–passing on someone you actually liked–you could miss out on the love of your life (we do actually offer the ability to Rewind with our premium service). There have actually been cases of people accidentally swiping left and going on quests to find their missed match.
Kyle: For me, I think a huge part of designing a dating app starts with emphasizing your value propositions: the people and the opportunity to connect with them. In most cases users don’t care about a fancy experience or an over designed UI, they simply want to meet new people.
How have you optimized Tinder’s UX?
Brooke: In the same vein of making a highly usable UX, Tinder’s ethos is to be simple, fun, and useful. We broke a paradigm of our predecessors, which required filling out lengthy questionnaires and writing autobiographies in order to find a match. Tinder’s simple product emphasizes our easily understandable UX. Along with a colorful and playful UI, we’ve created the first dating experience that removes a lot of work on the user’s part, and thus it’s easier for them to find a match and experience the real value of the platform. I led design for Tinder’s desktop experience, Tinder Online, and it was critical that the spirit of the app translate seamlessly into a newly designed format.
Kyle: It’s improved over time, too. Tinder has evolved its UI to place more focus on visuals, eliminating unnecessary pieces of UI. In our current iteration, the photo being swiped on takes up nearly 80 percent of the screen.
We have to talk about the iconic swipe left/swipe right feature. Why has it resonated with people so greatly?
Brooke: The swipe itself mimics real life. Glancing at that cute guy in a bar, you sort of swipe right or left with your eyes and make a decision if you like them. If they make eye contact back, you connect. Translating that into an app, Tinder gives you that same variable reward feeling you get when you receive a match. The left swipe removes the fear of rejection you face in that same scenario at a bar, as well as the guilt you feel by rejecting someone. They never have to know you swiped left.
Kyle: I think allowing users to ‘pick something up’ and place it gives a feeling of control that isn’t possible with just a tap. And that feeling of control is important on Tinder. You can only chat with people who are also interested in you (we refer to this as the ‘double opt-in’), so you’re in total control of who can message you. When you swipe someone to the right, toward the next part of the app that includes your messages, you’re really swiping them over to that space and signaling that you’d like to communicate with them.
There’s a lot of expectation and emotion in the act of meeting someone and dating. How does that affect your approach to design?
Brooke: The design of Tinder intentionally makes the expectations and emotions of dating feel a little easier. The bright color palette and playful animations help create more emotions for our users. We also cut out a lot of arduous steps to bring people together faster while providing them with a larger dating pool that has endless possibilities. Our guiding question within our product team relates exactly to this: ‘Is this feature easy, fun, and engaging?’
Kyle: I think it could actually be argued that regardless of the type of industry, there are a lot of expectations and emotions that we as designers are asked to translate into a digital format. At Tinder, we focus a lot on simplicity and getting directly to the point. The ‘double opt-in’ is a massive confidence booster, allowing users to remove a level of uncertainty when starting a conversation with someone. These new takes on daily behaviors are what make digital products so special.
What have you learned about UX design by working on a successful dating app?
Brooke: As a product designer, there is nothing more important than understanding human behavior. Understanding users is what helps us make important decisions, meet business goals, and create new products. This is even more important in a dating app, as we are driven by fundamental biological factors. Designing for Tinder, I have a much deeper understanding of human psychology, mating patterns, and social norms (both current and evolving).
Kyle: I’ve learned how to prioritize value. In the past, I’ve had a habit of trying to pack as many features into an interface as possible, resulting in really heavy products. At Tinder, we identify what is truly of value to users and optimize around that.
What does the future of dating apps hold?
Brooke: I truly believe that the future of dating includes more real-time experiences, both virtually and in person. At Tinder, we are always thinking of evolving ways for people to connect in the real world. Knowing that millennials today are seeking more real-life experiences, especially in a community setting, reinforces this initiative.
Kyle: I see a big opportunity to use new forms of media to represent yourself online. I think we are just scratching the surface of what is possible with online dating, and the future is going to include a variety of innovative new approaches to meeting people.