As gamification and behavioral design enthousiasts, we love to analyze every mobile app on our smartphone in terms of “user experience design” and “user engagement”.
Dating apps, such as Tinder or Badoo, are widely represented on many smartphones nowadays with high levels of engagement. We immersed ourselves into the dating world and noticed some interesting opportunities for improvement in this industry.
In this article we share with you 3 useful insights we’ve discovered during our research in how dating apps, and other mobile apps, can increase their user experience with game design and behavioral principles.
⭐ 1) Error-free principle
During our research in motivation design, gamification, and behavioral techniques, we sorted out 26 principes that will help you as a product manager or software/mobile developer to deliver a great onboarding experience to your users so they won’t run away from the very start.
One of the most important principles and most forgotten, is what we call the “Error-free principle”: Prevent your new users to make any mistake, because every mistake a new user makes, increases the chance of leaving the app significantly having a negative impact on your retention rates.
We tested multiple dating apps, and also many other software applications in general, and we always encountered many annoying obstacles in the very beginning of our journey as a new user: “asking for too much information, design that is not intuitive with market standards (Cfr. intuitive design), asking for payment details after a few seconds while it is promoted as a free app…”.
In one of the dating apps we tested, their downward scrolling or swiping function to see the other pictures of someone, was prone for errors. The thumb movement while swiping right and swiping down, was quite similar. So the chance was very high that you accidentally swiped right (= Like) while you rather wanted to swipe down and see the other pictures. Something that not only occurred with us, but also happened when we had other people test the app and observed their behavior. This also indicates the importance of design thinking, where it is highly recommended to test your product, observe their behavior and ask feedback.
The “Error-free” principle suggest that simply one silly mistake in the beginning of your experience journey can have a major impact on the user’s motivation to continue using the app. Something that we observed many times performing tests with new users. In case of the dating app we described in the previous paragraph, some people did not even dare to swipe down anymore because of this mistake and deleted the app only 1 hour after they downloaded the app.
Conclusion: Make the onboarding experience “Error-free” to prevent users from leaving your app immediately.
⭐ 2) Overusing “dark patterns” is detrimental for the user experience
“Dark patterns” are techniques and principles that gives us the feeling that we are not in full control of our own actions, but rather feel controlled by the system. Dark patterns are very powerful and mainly used in hard sales, though, they often create a negative experience for the user. (Example: questions that lead to “Yes” and serve as a small commitment in order to close a deal…)
Many dating applications use dark patterns too often or in the wrong way. One major mistake for instance is the usage of a “time-bar”. For example, one app we tested displayed a time-bar above the picture of a potential dating partner and gives you only a few seconds to swipe. This bar unnecessarily produces stress hormones like cortisol and neurotransmitters like norepinephrine. In some occasions the activation of these chemicals can help you trigger desired behavior, however, in this specific situation it brings you more harm than good. Especially when you put your new users in a stress situation, they will very likely make mistakes (Again “Error-Free principle”).
Besides, when you got disturbed or distracted and therefore you don’t have enough time to swipe, you can lose a potential dating partner (this happened to one of us during a visit to the toilet 🙄). Again, a shitty experience! 💩
If you really want to keep this dark pattern to stimulate people to swipe faster and stay more focused on the app, then add a free rewind that let you go back easily to the missed potential match.
⭐ 3) Don’t make it extremely hard to delete your account
Unbelievable to see how much that occurs with mobile applications. If your customers leave, it usually means that the experience you offer is not exactly what they expected. So don’t make it worse by frustrating them even more, because the end experience is one that is best remembered, and negative ones even more according to Daniel Kahneman (The peak-end rule).
If your goal is to create a negative attitude towards your brand, keep doing what you are doing, but if not, make it as easy as possible to leave and somewhere people expect it to find (intuitive design).
Next to these 3 tips, there exist many opportunities for the current dating apps, and other mobile applications, to increase the user experience. Think for instance when you’ve got a match: starting the conversation, get a response, keep the conversation going and interesting, and finally arranging an epic first date… Many people really struggle with these steps, and almost no dating app really helps them to get good at it.