Design Implications

The behavioral analysis in the previous chapter can aide efforts to improve online dating systems in the future. First, we can use findings about which characteristics users rely on to make decisions about whom to contact to make simpler profiles that comprise only the truly salient information. Some descriptors are noise more than signal: they clutter the profile with information that users do not need, and they attract attention that might otherwise be spent on more salient attributes.

Moreover, to the degree that dating sites use all of their profile information, even the extraneous, to perform automated matching, we can make the matching process more accurate by weighting more heavily those features that users deem relevant through their actions in studies like this.

Specifically, it appears that descriptors relating to life course are among the most important pieces of information to learn about a prospective partner. Online dating systems should bring this information to the forefront in their designs; they should also give it additional weight in their matching algorithms.

This study also highlighted dramatic differences in preference by gender. Such differences are not surprising, but present heterosexual dating systems do not tailor their searching and matching tools to the distinct needs of men and women. Table 2.3 indicates how much the most desirable attributes differ by sex; search tools should present interfaces that reflect the varying goals of the groups they serve.

It is likely that other groups, perhaps divided according to culture, religion, or geography, have similarly distinct and specific needs. The data set in this study was unsuitable for answering that question, however, because it was mostly Caucasian, Christian, and American. Future research should examine this issue and provide guidance for designers of dating systems.

The inability of this analysis to explain a large proportion of the variance in who contacts whom suggests that simple categorical and numerical characteristics provide only part of the information that people use to seek dates online. Researchers will need other methods — ethnography, surveys — to determine what else influences people in their search and communication. In the New Directions section below, I offer some ideas about how we might move our designs beyond the database mentality as well.

Kickass Dating Conversation

Kickass Dating Conversation

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