Here at EchoUser, we love to tackle Any Experience, and we’re always inspired by novel ways of interacting with people, products, and places. We also get to meet a lot of the people who are crafting those experiences, and in this occasional series of interviews with experience innovators, we want to share their insights with you.
At DC Tech Day in October, Mick and I met Cheryl Cox, the founder of the DC-based dating site Love Schmove. We were so interested in her approach to online dating that we followed up with her after the event to learn a bit more about the “Love Schmove Experience.”
Dating is a challenging and complex user experience to understand and engineer, yet countless platforms seek to create the perfect environment for it online. The online dating industry has become incredibly experimental in recent years. Platforms range from serious (Match.com) to lightweight (Tinder), and many find a niche across the broad spectrums of religion (J-date, Christian Mingle), profession (Farmer’s Only), and age (Our Time).
Many of the more serious dating sites assume that a highly motivated user — one who is willing to put in the time to craft the perfect profile, screen candidates, and endure numerous first dates — can find success on their platform. Cheryl, who was motivated enough to sign up for a site herself, found the process so unnatural that she didn’t want to continue. It wasn’t a question of motivation, but authenticity.
“It’s weird to talk about yourself in a way that gets people to like you,” she told us. “On dating sites, you’re forced to represent yourself in a superficial way.” The whole experience made her feel quite cynical, in fact, and she found that many of her single friends could relate.
Her solution? Get people who love you - your close friends and family - to represent you. On her site, these people are called “backers.” Backers know you well enough to describe you as you really are, and they are highly motivated to find the right person for you. They can initiate the creation of your profile, help find quality matches, and — with your permission — set you up on dates. The people you date can be vetted by your friends, and are likewise supported by their own friends and family.
Cheryl found that a lot of people were already turning to their friends for help on dating sites; her site just built it in as a central part of the experience, as a way to provide a more genuine, human portrait of each dater.
The Love Schmove Experience recognizes the honesty inherent in the process of friends setting up friends, and brings it online. It lets people share their true personalities, without relying on cheesy self-promotion.
Designing for authenticity brings about a number of unique challenges. For one, finding a high-quality date requires creating a detailed, honest profile, which often takes a lot of time and is hard to enforce at scale. Cheryl is working on streamlining the signup process, and building in mechanisms to ensure that what people say is true. For example, to ensure users show what they currently look like, the site verifies that at least one picture they upload is timestamped within the last 30 days. The rule conveys the importance of authenticity, even if users still decide to misrepresent themselves. An even greater challenge is making her dating model immediately clear to new users. “It’s not a straightforward ‘you’re a user, creating a profile, meeting other daters’ concept,” she noted. “I need to figure out not only what daters want, but what backers want, which is a lot more complex.”
In the end, Cheryl hopes that people will feel more like themselves with this model, enough to have fun with dating.
“So many sites out there have this cheesy, high pressure thing around finding the love of your life,” she explained. Her platform lets you lean on the support of your friends and family as you go out and meet new people, even if it takes time to find the right person. It just might be the answer for the greatest cynics out there.