Factors Affecting Online Dating Startup Rating

How Hinge Got Dated Online Dating And Users Are Now Finding Love

Published in August 2015 Vanity Fair an article in which she heavily pilloried the hookup culture. The author predicted a "dating apocalypse" and exposed the various dating apps of the time. The article pointed to Hinge, among other things, accusing her of her involvement in "wiping love and romance off the screen".

Back then, just like Tinder and Bumble, the hinge app used the profile swipe system, a feature inspired by the gaming psychology of slot machines that was widely blamed for trivializing modern romance. But unlike the other giants of the day, Hinge began to take a closer look.

In a 2016 interview, Hinge founder and CEO Justin McLeod told Vanity Fairthat that article on the dating apocalypse sparked a rigorous questioning of the real benefits of this profile swipe function and the impact it has on the lives of hinge users.

Ultimately, the Hinge team chose to base their decisions on data. "Just one swipe out of 500 resulted in a phone number exchange, and 81 percent of Hinge users said they never found a long-term relationship with a swipe app," said Tim MacGougan, chief product officer at Hinge.

Tim joined the product team when the Hinge leadership decided to detoxify the dating app culture and equip Hinge with new tools that would lead to more relationships. By unlocking empathy and data, Tim and the team helped transform the way relationships are built online. In doing so, they helped more people relate to others with Hinge and ultimately achieved the good kind of user churn, the one that it was aimed at and that meant people found love with the app.

Communication with customers

While Hinge started the company in 2011, Tim worked as a customer service representative at Bonobos, the start-up retail company that has grown to become the largest clothing brand on the Internet in the United States. This role helped him gain some important insight into his burgeoning career in products - before he even embarked on this career path.

“At Bonobos, I fell in love with the dynamic, chaotic startup culture. It was incredibly instructive to see how teams would work together and find an innovative solution for the best of the customer, ”remembers Tim. In retrospect, Tim realized that he had a knack for quickly understanding and capturing a user's experience, which would resolve frustrations and improve experiences.

“It wasn't just the process of solving each individual problem. I enjoyed finding the best solution to what a person specifically asked for while knowing intuitively what could improve their overall experience. "

Tim's early work in customer service shaped his career in products very deeply. His sharpened focus on empathy was not just a so-called soft skill. The nuanced ability to interpret various signals from qualitative feedback on the one hand and quantitative data points on the other helped him navigate his career after moving from bonobos at Hinge.

“A customer service background has advantages and disadvantages,” says Tim. “The upside is that you get along very well with real people and customers, not just statistics or theories. You take every individual feedback very seriously and that gives you powerful advantages. "

“But it also means that you have to work twice as hard to link these customer conversations with data. When interpreting qualitative and quantitative feedback on user satisfaction with your product, you definitely need to find a balance so that you have a better measure of the exact mood Write to a company like this just to give you glowing feedback. Users typically contact the company, often through support, when they need to resolve a problem.

But then there are real world moments when users rave about how they met their partners through the dating app. For hinge in particular, the everyday moments of joy may not be passed on directly to the product team, but rather shared among friends, on social media or in a more private environment. Even today, when “dating” is synonymous with dating apps, matters of the heart are still very cautiously approached.

“It is easy to understand a critical minority as a consensus. It is always important to empathize with the expressed frustration of a user, but one must not neglect a larger perspective. "

Tim joined Hinge while the app was still in its infancy, "the endemic superficiality of swipe apps," as he calls it. But the sky-high expectations of the users came as a bit of a surprise. “We sold pants at my previous start-up. Sometimes they cracked, we gave customers credit and that was it, ”remembers Tim. It was completely different with Hinge. "Even with Hinge's free membership - even before there was even an option to subscribe to a paid status option - people watched us very closely with everything, because we were touching such an important part of their lives, one with possible fundamental consequences."

This put pressure on the Hinge team to provide matchmaking with greater accuracy. To do this, they had to extract more meaningful data from the app and understand what made long-term relationships exist, what held them together, and how they could be predicted. Plus, they faced industry-wide allegations of superficiality, which likely meant a redesign of the app. All of these challenges landed on Tim's desk.

Redesign for relationships

According to Tim, great dates are a matter of timing and compatibility. However, what the Hinge team drew from the data and people's primary experiences was that a real connection is difficult to see from photos alone.

"There's a lot of algorithmic complexity that goes into what we do," says Tim. “If we recommend someone you might like who has been inactive for three months, that's a great recommendation, but a date that won't come off. We have to understand a lot more than just preferences. "

Hinge needed more data, so the team launched scrollable profiles that users could use to add more information.

“During the first relaunch, we reset what people saw as superficial.” The team removed the swipe function and introduced what is known as the “like” function for content, which allows users to reveal what they like about a person liked their picture. Users completed their profiles by uploading pictures and then answering several prompts so that they would better show their personalities rather than describe them.

“The reason for this was to solve the so-called signal and noise problem. We wanted people to focus on their matches, not the next person. In the old swiping format, many people liked each other because they were curious whether the other person liked them too, not out of actual interest. That was of course a very weak signal, which is why we wanted to show more meaningful matches. "

The team removed the element of anonymity so everyone could see who had liked him or her. They also offered the extended fee-based service level called Preferred. "We see Preferred as an accelerator tool for people who are highly motivated to tackle everything faster and find others with whom they have a lot in common," says Tim.

Those who opted for the Preferred service were given access to unlimited Like winks to potential matches, contact with hinge experts, and the ability to narrow down their preferences with additional filters.

“Everything we do - whether corporate goals or product goals - can be measured. All of the features we publish have metrics that we expect to have certain effects. The most important element is that we approach the problems to be solved and the desired effects based on statistical analysis. "

The team compared quantitative data from the Mixpanel user analysis with qualitative data from focus groups and surveys. “These form the overall picture not only of what is happening, but also why it is happening. Without the why, the data are meaningless because they do not guide the action. "

For Tim, data is the ultimate counterbalance to his strong customer intuition. “My concerns are always that I may be convincing, but that I am wrong. Perfect evidence is difficult, especially with a product like ours, such a complex ecosystem where everything affects everything. Good data that is properly understood therefore makes a significant contribution to making the right decisions. "

During this process and with each iterative change, the team kept a close eye on the user behavior data. And with that user data came a plethora of insights into what people liked and didn't like about the app. This prompted the team to redesign Hinge again and into its current, beloved incarnation.

Data-related improvements

The second redesign revolved around user retention, especially that of the newcomers. "We observed that there was less action going on on the start screen - on this screen the users saw a list of matches and likes - and realized that we had drawn users' attention too much to their matches." The team then set up the start page with more discovery features, so users would see new people every time they returned to the app.

The data also showed why more match connections did not lead to getting to know each other as expected. “We found that users were reluctant to get in touch with their like matches because they were all shown on a list.” Users would browse, select some and forget about the rest. “Timing is important in dating. You have to forge the iron while it's hot to have the best chance of a great date. "

Rather than allowing likes to accumulate, the team switched to a user interface that only displayed a single like match at a time. “That makes the decision easier. Users are less passive and make more appointments. ”They also found that even after users both“ Like ”each other, a stalemate sometimes occurred.

“Let's say I like your photo and you decide to contact me. But who will start the chat now? ”Says Tim. “The users didn't know that, so we gave them an impetus with the“ Your Turn ”function, whereby the initiator's profile shows who is next to start the chat. " This feature reduced the stalemate by 13 percent.

Further insights came to light. The team published reciprocal algorithm recommendations, which paired potential partners with a high likelihood of a relationship. They are currently developing features that will allow them to learn from users' offline experiences and hope to gain even more insight and test more theories.

All the while, they keep an eye on what users are saying. “When we introduce a new function, I always communicate with customer service. I ask you to tell us negative sentiments. The good thing is that they don't hear anything. With the help of user analyzes, however, we can observe the entire ecosystem so that we get an overall picture. "

Build on successful design

Hinge started its second redesign with the clear goal of becoming its users' most popular dating app, and it paid off.In the past year, Hinge recorded a 4-fold increase in users. With a focus on user retention, that growth data improved by 20 percent and, according to Tim, the redesign happened overnight, so to speak.

While older swiping apps toyed with dating at the expense of human relationships, Hinge relied on positive interactions that led to more and deeper connections. This, in turn, was reflected in a higher retention because users came back because they wanted to interact with the people they were actually interested in.

“We want to see more relationships and more dates through the app. We also have income, but it is not our main objective. The main goals of the product are two sides of the same coin: To effectively generate the right matches that people can use to forge new relationships. And ultimately, Hinge wants to be loved and be the app of choice for people looking for deeper connections. "

Ultimately, one of Hinge's corporate goals was “good churn” - people who leave Hinge because they found a relationship. "Aside from the fact that we all care about people and want the best for our users, it's a good thing when users leave the app because of a relationship that we helped shape," explains Tim.

“These people are out and about in the real world and they answer what most couples always ask the first question:“ How did you meet? ”When they say Hinge, the best marketing for us is the most authentic recommendation and the biggest driver of growth that there can be. "

“The reason I enjoy working for Hinge is because of my inspiring staff who approach such a meaningful problem with care and consideration. We concentrate just as much on our processes as we do on the product itself. We are constantly learning and developing as we work. That is really the heart and soul of what made the product so successful. "

The app experience created at Hinge is popular with both users and competitors of the company. In May 2018, Facebook Hinge paid the ultimate admiration by announcing a future product called Dating, which would be integrated directly into Facebook's app and web platform. This future product had an eerily similar user interface and functionality to Hinge's. Then, a month later, IAC, the dating conglomerate whose portfolio includes almost every major dating app, including Match.com, Tinder, and OKCupid, acquired a controlling stake in Hinge.

"We had to completely rethink our previous approaches," Joey Levin, CEO of IAC, told reporters. “Hinge seems to have a real appeal to a very interesting audience. The app is a really great product. "