If you’re a straight man who’s been on Tinder long enough, you’ve probably noticed that it’s hard to get matches, unless you’re swiping right on practically every girl you see. Perhaps you’re wondering if it’s because your profile is lacking. Chances are, it isn’t– statistically speaking, when it comes to dating apps, men do have the shorter end of the stick.

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Why is it more difficult for men to get matches on dating apps? Photo: Freepik

But why is that? Some have boiled it down to the way women interact in these apps. They are simply much more selective when it comes to swiping right (on Tinder), and are less likely to initiate conversations with their matches (on OkCupid), making men less likely to receive positive feedback.

That doesn’t paint us the entire picture, however–the matching process is not influenced only by gender differences in app usage, but also by the rules of probability and the dating apps’ algorithms.

The Probability

A quick look at the numbers tells you that the probability of men matching with a woman they swiped right on, versus that of the inverse, is much lower. It’s a straightforward case of demand versus supply.

The truth is, men are more active on dating apps than women are. But dating apps require both parties to express interest in each other before they are allowed to contact each other. Simply put, men may be expressing their interest repeatedly to women who may not even be active long enough to look at their profiles.

In addition, the number of women on dating apps remains lower than the number of men. The percentage of women on Tinder, for instance, stands at 38%. If men make up more than half of the user base by a substantial margin, we can expect that men will have less women to connect with. This asymmetry is worsened by the above-mentioned findings that women spend less time on dating apps and tend to be more selective about who they’re swiping right on.

The Design

For some dating apps, the secret lies in the code, which skews the rules with the needs of female users in mind.

Take Coffee Meets Bagel for an example. A large part of CMB‘s matching process is determined by the algorithm, and whether it will succeed in introducing users to the right people. Since 2016, the app has veered its focus towards women, who are now at an advantage with the #LadiesChoice feature.

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A summary of how the app’s matching algorithm works on the official Coffee Meets Bagel site. Photo: Coffee Meets Bagel

Noticing that female users were bombarded by matches and messages they were growing overwhelmed by, the developers made a radical design change to refine the app experience for women. In CMB, men will receive 21 potentials based on an algorithm (which takes into account preferences, mutual friends, distance, and so on), who they can choose to ‘Like’ or ‘Pass’ on. The women, on the other hand, receive up to 6 matches based on the men who have already sent a ‘Like’ their way. This means that women can be sure that the men they ‘Like’ are already interested in them.

As for Bumble, women have to make the first move. The matching process is just like Tinder, in that two individuals can only start chatting once both of them have mutually swiped right. The twist is that only the woman, if the two people are of different genders, can initiate the conversation. So up until the point when she is comfortable and ready to start connecting, her phone stays buzz-free. And consequently, so does his.

The Developers’ Goals

Dating apps inherently favour women because research tells us that women (or at least straight women):

  1. tend to have more choice,
  2. can be certain that the men they ‘like’  are also interested in them, and
  3. are the gatekeepers of getting a conversation going.

Seeing as two of three of the above are the results of deliberate developmental decisions, the question becomes: Why?

Wouldn’t app development in such a direction, which makes successful use of the app more difficult, deter the majority of their user base, i.e. the straight man, from using their app? Well, yes and no. Because these apps don’t measure success by quantity, but quality.

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More dating apps want to help people find serious partners. Photo: Freepik

Better app design benefits both men and women

The creators of CMB explained #LadiesChoice as a response to the frustration voiced by their female users regarding online dating services. Women were slowly becoming disillusioned with the direction such apps were headed in. Each day was a myriad of profiles to swipe through to the point of apathy. And while many of them were seeking serious relationships, the matches they were receiving rarely shared the same desire.

The solution then was to help women find more meaningful matches without these anxieties. Less profiles to pore over? Less stress. Less time spent finding serious guys? Less stress. Less chance of getting repeatedly ghosted? Well, you get the picture.

As for Bumble‘s requirement for women to start conversations, the creators reason that their aim is to shift traditional or as they call it, old-fashioned  power dynamics that inhibit women from making the first move and jumping at the opportunity to connect with somebody they like.

While seemingly disadvantageous to the male, these design elements can help both parties, man or woman. By creating a more female-friendly environment, more women will be encouraged to use such platforms to make new friends and find partners. This concept can eventually offer men a greater selection of women as well.

Photo: Freepik

Not just a better app, but a good one

Tinder might have spearheaded the revitalisation of online dating services through their mobile app, but different startups have since started designing their dating apps to solve Tinder’s problems. In fact, some of the more enterprising startups are seriously taking into consideration the wants and needs of the audiences Tinder is unable to satisfy.

Instead of striving to improve only on app-centric issues, developers may be more interested in targeting problems rooted in societal norms. For instance, Bumble‘s mission to turn power dynamics on their head through their design shows us what its developers understand as important for romantic relationships to prosper today.

Up-and-coming dating app, Glimmer, on the other hand, aims to be more inclusive towards people with disabilities, who often feel pressured to exclude crucial information about their lifestyles for fear of being rejected. Glimmer wishes to heighten, and subsequently normalise, transparency about such details. The app speaks of a hope to create a safe and stress-free environment for this often neglected group of individuals to connect with others.

Where can we go from here?

Among homegrown dating apps, the most well-known in Singapore would probably be Paktor, created in 2013. Aside from the fact that it features virtual gift-giving and markets itself to the Asian region, its concept doesn’t seem all that far from Tinder’s. Though according to this blogger’s review of Paktor in comparison to Tinder, the former is for the ‘lazy’ individual who doesn’t mind letting the app do the work.

Other local-based apps on the market include LunchClick, whose name might clue you in on its target audience: the busy working professional. The app’s vision and consequent design are reminiscent of CMB, in that LunchClick was made for people who are looking for just a few quality matches and wanting to date seriously. In fact, one of their promises suggests that they, too, are trying to solve the problem of a disproportionate ratio of men to women on dating apps.

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Photo: LunchClick

Introducing a localised product or service, especially when existing products in the market don’t manage to satisfy local needs, can be a good way to go. In doing so, however, startups should make sure that their product does indeed solve a problem specific to the local market and not be a repeat of existing products with the addition of frivolous or little-used features.

Startups can focus on targeting problems that present themselves as societal norms in the country, such as racism that disguises itself as personal preference or men being expected to pay for dates. Coming up with solutions for such problems also makes scaling the project easier as the app will automatically be relevant to markets that face the same problem.

Is app design that focuses on women a good thing? Tell us what you think at hello@upcode.media!

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