You have probablly heard of the giant dating sites like, and I want to share with you how Tinder is blowing up. I have never seen any posts by them or a single ad. They have raw viral spread. Friends telling friends. What every app developer wants. How did they do this? By doing the opposite of what everyone else is doing.

Note: Personally I am not big on dating sites not because I am good with women I can assure you of that. Ironically the only time I signed up for one(beside the research I did for this post) was when I had living in a lake house I had rented(//TODO Insert link to story about janesville). You would think a lake house would get me a date but no.

Basic Idea:

Judging people based solely on their picture is pretty shallow and I wouldn't recommend it day to day. But think about it, if you are being really honest with yourself would you consider a mate that didn't meet some minimum aesthetic criteria? And no one says what that minimum aesthetic criteria has to be.

What everyone else was doing:

Afraid to offend most peoples delicate sensibilities they try and pretend like the picture isn't the most important thing on a dating site. They pretend to sum you up with a bloated profile full of random facts about you.

I would bet around my age occupation would be second. If its not looks its money

What Tinder did:

Tinder offended people. There is a sticky note attached to a door I commonly walk through that says "If you are not pissing someone off you are not doing it right". The are pissing people off, but not everyone. But by pissing off a few people they are delivering an incredibly simple product to a whole lot of others.


What everyone else was doing:

Asking for more info so they could "match you more effectively"... Bullshit. They know that more content means more useless information for users to read so they can up their stats for average time on the site and sell more ads.

What Tinder did:

Less is more. One click "Authenticate with Facebook" and you are in. Yeah you can edit your profile but only up to 6 photos and one text field. Beautifully simple.


What everyone else was doing:

Long complicated search and sorting mechanisms. Sort by this or that. It is like choosing your mate using an Excel spreadsheet. That does not sound like a lot of fun.

Then they leave it open ended. "Should I date this person? Maybe we will be friends, maybe we will lovers maybe a one night stand".

What Tinder did:

One picture, one name, one number(age). Two decisions. Done!

Again incredibly simple. By cutting out all other input you remove the mental cost of choice. Basically all of us have a certain amount of mental cycles at our disposal, similar to a computer processor. If you spend your efforts focus on one subject you have less to give to others.

Tinder helped their users budget their cycles by allowing them to dismiss the options presented to them in a split second then zoom into more detail on others.

Even more impressive they even force the user forward by not allowing them to go back and view profiles of people they have given a thumbs up or down to. This forces the user to press forward interacting with a higher volume of people and increasing overall user engagement.


What everyone else was doing:

"We use complex searching algorithms to match you with the best possible... blah blah blah"
Sure you do, I am not saying it is not completely possible to do. I have studied machine learning algorythems and am confident that their can be value to using them. I have no doubt the bigger dating sites use algorithms successfully.

But the middle level guys, no way. Not enough data to properly craft one. These are the same middle level guys fighting for market share that Tinder would have had to fight through to get traction.

What Tinder did:

Used a far more complex matching system that people have been using in bars forever.
1. You see a member of the opposite or in a lot of cases same gender
2. You decide if you want to make a move or not

It is that simple. So simple drunk people can do it. Perhaps I add that to my list of UX experiments: Can drunk people operate the app?

Customer Acquisition:

What everyone else was doing:

Everyone come join! Lets grab every tom, dick, harry, and jane and stuff them into our app. Anyone with a pulse. Hell, anyone without a pulse come on in. Russian Hacker Bots with fake accounts, why not?

What tinder did:

Screw anyone without a facebook page.

This was amazing. Not only did they have the obvious benefit of pulling their users data at signup to the profile cutting the chance the user would quit before they filled out their profile.

They did the massively difficult task of rewarding authenticity and preventing spam. I contemplated using a fake account for this and as I made my living building Facebook apps when I was younger could have done it without to much hassle but it is just enough hassle that it eliminates the vast majority of spammy crap.


What everyone else did:

  • Poorly executed a worn out idea
  • Tried to please everyone because they were afraid to piss off a few
  • Pushed out bloated crap with lots of features and no real benefits to their users
  • Hampered the user experience by asking the user to do more

What tinder did:

  • The opposite of what everyone else did
  • Cut out all of the non-essentials
  • Shipped one hell of an app to a lot of satisfied customers(Satisfied with the App. I can make no speculations on the quality of the dates).

What is Tinder's business model:

Not a clue. I can only speculate but this is the part of the post where I get comments asking how they are going to make money from people that haven't played this numbers game. The answer is if you have that many users eyes you can usually find a way to make money after the growth stage unless you have made the monumental mistake of bloating your overhead some how. If you're smart and keep costs low which is easy in most software ventures then it should not be rocket science. I bet they have a pretty good idea of what comes next. I would be amazed if they are not already running some small experiments to test the waters of monetization.


This is one of the best designed apps I have come across. I wouldn't be surprised if you saw this type of match making app make its way into a lot of other markets. Perhaps I will launch one or two of my own. I have got the time being as I don't have any dates but I doubt that is Tinders fault. The world can only ask so much of one app.

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