On this Valentine’s Day, we want to honor a special, often unsung section of the product design community: those who have created or contributed to a dating app.
For they are the modern-day Cupid, bringing love (short- and long-term) to an entire generation while also pioneering the way digital products work. Their tools? Not an arrow, not a bow. But pixels, creative wit, and a whole lot of empathy.
Without dating apps, there would be no swipe right—a UI interface movement that has come to represent the act of acceptance itself.
Or consider how, along with iMessage, Tinder helped popularized “quick reactions” in an effort to curb bad behavior.
The full-screen emojis now happen on Instagram, among others.
But mainly, thanks to OkCupid, Bumble, and Tinder (among others), dating apps are a shining example of what mobile apps can be. The first experience many people have with the joys of a digital product that changes their (night?)life for the better.
You may remember that the first generation of mobile apps was often just the entire website but on a tiny screen. An entire ecosystem jammed into your iPhone 4. But dating product designers were among the first that boiled it down to the essence: Match, message, and then meet up.
“Old dating apps were like putting an entire mansion into a tiny area with a bunch of doors,” says former Tinder product designer Freddie Iboy. “For Tinder, we gave you one door—and it was never locked.”
Not only did dating apps improve the screen, but they are also one of the purest forms of user empathy.
Consider any social media platform vs. Match.com. If you don’t log into Facebook for months, Facebook will send you emails and notifications to re-engage. Match’s goal is to have you be so successful you sign in a few times and then never have to use the app again.
Or, consider how thoughtful dating app product designers must be. While some social networks grapple with negative impacts on its user base, dating apps are ahead of the game.
“Now seeing all the things Facebook is going through with Cambridge Analytica because people don’t think of the consequences of what they are building,” says Iboy. “On dating apps, that’s literally the first thing you think about: What is the worst thing that can happen with this? And then we design around it.”
In an age where every app is trying to reduce us down to a filter bubble or a predictable algorithm, it is the dating app product designer who gives us a blueprint for the best part of digital product design: one that opens us up to a chance encounter that can end in love. Consider that dating apps increase the rate of interracial marriage. One-sixth of all first marriages are via dating apps. And 70% of homosexual relationships start online.
Where is online dating going? We’re not sure. But we know that the practice of digital product design (and the world) is better because of dating apps and those who design them.
And so, we wish them an extra happy Valentine’s Day.