This is the second in a series of posts. Keep an eye out for the following posts, which will be published later this week.
So having decided to bite the bullet and investigate online dating, I needed to decide which website to join. I had identified two potentials. Both OkCupid and Match.com have their advantages and disadvantages.
In OkCupid’s favour, its key is that the website is generally geared towards being a fun place to hang around in. The match questions may seem irrelevant, but they are quite fun to answer — and it is interesting to see other people’s answers too.
Then there are the quizzes and tests that OkCupid is famous for. Apparently I am a ‘Slow Dancer’ (Deliberate Gentle Love Dreamer), based on the questionnaire about my traits that only I answered, which had no input from anyone else that might have an opinion on my deliberately gentle loving dreaminess.
But the real plus point of OkCupid is the crowd of people that are there. For the most part, at least compared to other dating websites, they seem to be savvy, smart, interesting and open-minded (although some perhaps try too hard to be ‘alternative’). The major downside is that there are not many of them. It did not take long for me to become a bit bored of seeing the same handful of people being offered up as potential matches over and over again.
I suppose you get what you pay for. You see, the other big advantage of OkCupid is that it is completely free to use. (Although you can buy a premium account, this doesn’t provide any essential features.) This, combined with the fact that the people there are generally quite appealing means that I am most likely to persevere with OkCupid.
Match.com unsettled me pretty much straight away. It may be slick and high-profile, but the user is left in no doubt that the chief concern of the website is to extract cash from your wallet. I almost felt like I was signing up to something like Friends Reunited — a version of it that contained no long-lost friends, but plenty of mad strangers.
There are lots of aspects of Match.com that I find frustrating and unnerving. First of all, there is the fact that it the place is covered in adverts for its spin-off website, MatchAffinity. It doesn’t exactly fill me with confidence. It just comes across as though even Match.com struggle to believe that their website will work, so they set up two websites to double their chances.
It would almost be understandable if it was just a few adverts and links here and there. But instead, the website resorts to the sort of usability no-nos that any decent website would have done away with years ago. In fact, it reminds me a lot of the sort of things pointed out by Dark Patterns, the website dedicated to calling out other websites that are designed to trick users into doing things they don’t want to do.
First, it tries to automatically open up MatchAffinity in a pop-up window. If you have pop-ups disabled, no worries — one will open anyway when you click the link to login to Match.com. There is no way to escape being forced to visit MatchAffinity. Extremely frustrating!
Once you’re in, all of the features are displayed to you as though you were a fully paid-up subscriber. You can fill in your profile, do a search and view other people’s profiles. Then all of a sudden you will click on some other feature that — without warning — takes you to a page that asks for your credit card details.
Fair enough, I guess. Match.com is a commercial website and it’s there to make money. But this payment page breaks the back button in your browser. To return to the previous page, you need to hunt down an obscurely hidden link.
But maybe I do want to subscribe. OK, so how much does it cost? A fiver a month? A tenner a month?
Actually, it is £14.99 a month — but only if you subscribe for six months, and are prepared to be charged the full £89.94 straight away. I am being asked for the best part of ninety quid for the ability to send messages to mad people.
Don’t worry, there are other payment options available. I could go for three months at £19.99 per month, paying £59.97 in one go. Alternatively, I could pay £29.99 a month.
£30 a month?! Suddenly, this online dating malarkey doesn’t seem quite so appealing.
Remember also that all the while I am also being encouraged to join a second dating website, with a separate — similarly prohibitive — subscription scheme, which probably has a great many of the same users. This is the sort of thing you expect from dodgy porn sites, and I feel like I cannot browse these websites without constantly having my wits about me in case my pocket gets picked.
If Facebook is evil, then Match.com is Satan. It is a shame, therefore, that just after I had dipped my toe into the water, Match.com bought OkCupid.