Nir’s Note: In this guest post, Ryan Hoover takes a look at Tinder, a red hot dating app. Ryan dives into what makes the Tinder app so popular and engaging. Ryan blogs at ryanhoover.me and you can follow him on Twitter at rrhoover.
Tinder, a hot new entrant in the world of online dating, is capturing the attention of millions of single hopefuls. The premise of Tinder is simple. After launching the Tinder mobile app and logging in with Facebook, users browse profiles of other men or women. Each potential match is presented as a card. Swipe left if you’re disinterested and right if someone catches your fancy. Once both parties express interest, a match is made and a private chat connects the two potential lovebirds.
The Tinder app has become a fixture in the U.S. App Store as one of the top 25 social networking applications, generating 1.5 million daily matches as more than 50 percent of its users login multiple times per day.
This isn’t luck. It’s smart design based in part, on game mechanics and an understanding of user psychology.
Here are four ways Tinder engages its calloused-fingered users:
Tinder demands very little of the brain. Tinder reduces cognitive overhead into a binary decision: swipe left (not interested) or swipe right (interested). Traditional dating sites provide several ways to express interest. OkCupid users can rate others 1-5 stars, send a message, or start a chat. More options provide greater freedom of expression, but also introduce more mental effort. “Is she a 3 or 4 star catch? Should I message her? If so, what should I say?” These are questions guys and gals ask themselves before taking action. Increasingly, technology consumers multitask, fiddling with their “second-screen” while watching TV and chatting with friends. In turn, this decreases how often users engage with products that demand their full attention. By requiring less mental energy, Tinder users are more apt to use the service throughout the day.
Tinder also requires less physical effort than traditional, web-based dating sites. Users of the latter must process a wealth of information, evaluating several calls-to-action. And once a decision is made, they must exercise hand-eye coordination to move the mouse and click a link on the large display. This may appear trivial, especially to the digital native, but every bit of effort influences our likelihood of using and remaining engaged with the service. By making it easy to take action, Tinder encourages users to continue swiping.
Tinder’s swiping mechanic is not dissimilar from the ever-present infinite scroll, popularized by Pinterest. What makes it so addictive? Both interactions – scrolling and swiping – require less effort than tapping or clicking a button and present visual queues to spike curiosity, furthering engagement. Each user profile is presented as a card amongst a seemingly infinite number of users. This metaphor manifests not only in its presentation but also the way in which it influences users to keep playing. The deck of cards is disorderly as the edges of hidden cards poke outside the stack, teasing the next profile. This instigates tension as users feel compelled to resolve their curiosity and continue swiping.
It’s not unusual for Tinder users to swipe through more than 100 profiles in a single session. Each swipe delivers immediate gratification, resolving the mystery of who will appear next. After all, the next one just might be the one. Users swipe right in attempts to satiate their appetite for social validation and discover if the object of their affection shares the same yearning. After each swipe, the next profile is fluidly revealed before the decision is cast.
Spreading Bets and Doing Work
Traditional dating sites require no further investment of the user to find a match once a profile is created. Tinder, on the other hand, makes its users work, impressing feelings productivity and accomplishment with each swipe. The only way to connect with someone is to use the service – both singles need to express interest before a match is made.
Each swipe to the right creates a match opportunity, immediately or in the future. Like a playboy who dates several women at once, spreading his bets, Tinder users increase their chances of getting lucky the more they use the service. This drives users to continue swiping, hoping their investment pays off.
Double Opt-In Dating
I met my (now ex) girlfriend on OkCupid. Prior to meeting her, I received very few messages from other women (they were probably too intimidated). Curiously, I asked her how many guys messaged her on the service. “I received over a dozen messages every day in the first few weeks,” she said. “I continue to get at least a few every day. I barely even look at them now.”
Her experience is very common. Men send a majority of messages to prospective dates online, creating a heavily lopsided market. This mismatch leads to burnout as women feel overwhelmed with interest from (often questionable) suitors and men feel disheartened from the lack of response.
Tinder solves this by making the connection double opt-in, requiring both men and women to express interest. This gives women the authority to decide who can send them a message and more control of their dating experience. Additionally, it avoids signaling feelings of rejection. When one sends a message with no response, they reasonably assume rejection. The more often this occurs, the less motivated the lonely man will be to continue sending messages and using the Tinder service.
In reality, Tinder is less a dating site and more of a game. The reward of finding a hot match isn’t what continues to drive engagement. It’s the anticipation of the reward that encourages users to keep swiping, scratching their curiosity to reveal what’s next.
Compare that to Match, eHarmony, and the rest, and which do you think would be more fun to play?
Top Consumer Psychology Articles
- Can We Regulate Social Networks To Curb Addiction—Without Making Them Suck?
- So, You Want To Become a Great Product Manager? [Q&A with Jackie Bavaro]
- Will Clubhouse be a Habit or Has-Been?
- The One Fitness App That Hooked Me For Good
- Here’s How Fortnite ‘Hooked’ Millions
- How Apps Can Shape Your Future Self
- How Netflix’s Customer Obsession Created a Customer Obsession
- Want to Design User Behavior? Pass the ‘Regret Test’ First
- How to Trigger Product Usage that Sticks
- How to Get People to Help Each Other, Online and Off
- Here’s How Amazon’s Alexa Hooks You
- How to Use Psychology to Make Persuasive Video
- How to Use Personality Science to Drive Online Conversions
- The Unbelievable Future of Habit-Forming Technology
- The Secret Marketing Power of Evolutionary Psychology
- Don’t Ask People What They Want, Watch What They Do
- How Cognitive Biases Can Help (and Hurt) Your Business
- What Most People Don’t Know About Behavioral Design
- How to Start a Career in Behavioral Design
- Your World is Full of Placebo Buttons (and That’s a Good Thing)
- How to Build Technology that Feels Like a Friend
- 3 Pillars of the Most Successful Tech Products
- Here’s How to Ethically Manipulate Other People
- How Two Companies Hooked Customers On Products They Rarely Use
- How to Hook Users in 3 Steps: An Intro to Habit Testing
- Die Dashboards, Die! Why Conversations Will Reinvent Software
- The Secret to Sending Emails and Notifications That Work
- How to Win Your Competition’s Customers
- Hooked for Good: How Habit-Forming Products Improve Lives
- Good Products Start With Good Questions
- Human + A.I. = Your Digital Future
- Why ‘Assistant-As-App’ Might Be the Next Big Tech Trend
- People Don’t Want Something Truly New, They Want the Familiar Done Differently.
- 4 Ways to Win Your Competitor’s Customer Habits (Slides)
- Here’s Why You’ll Hate the Apple Watch (and the Important Business Lesson You Need to Know)
- The Secret Psychology of Snapchat
- The Psychology of Notifications: How to Send Triggers that Work
- How Technology Tricks You Into Tipping More
- Building Community Starts with Understanding People
- When Persuasion Becomes Deception
- Mastering Pricing Principles
- A Handy Behavioral Design Toolkit
- Onboarding Matters – Getting Users Engaged in your Product
- The Limits of Loyalty: When Habits Change, You’re Toast
- Dual Process Theory: Is Your Product the Elephant or the Rider?
- 4 Ways to Use Psychology to Win Your Competition’s Customers
- Web Psychology – The Science of Online Persuasion
- Developing User Empathy with Design Sprints
- The Real Reason “Stupid” Startups Raise So Much Money
- Understanding the Psychology Behind Game Design
- The Psychology Behind Why We Can’t Stop Messaging
- How to Do Effective User Research
- Context Driven Design (The “Context Effect”)
- The Psychology of a Billion-Dollar Enterprise App: Why is Slack so Habit-Forming?
- Writing Copy for Your Reader’s Brain
- Designing Habit-Forming Products
- Framing Reward is as Important as Reward Itself
- Games, Play, and Motivation
- How Scarcity & Impatience Drive Irrational User Behavior
- Should You Listen To Your Users or Your Data?
- Emotional Engagement – Designing with the Heart in Mind
- A Free Course on User Behavior
- It’s Not All Fun And Games: The Pros and Cons of Gamification at Work
- Product Psychology: The 3 Things Everyone Should Know About
- Getting Traction: How to Hook New Users
- Designing for Behavior Change Book Review
- The Sneaky Trick Behind the Explosive Growth of the Kardashian Game
- How Successful Companies Design for Users’ Multi-Device Lives
- The Link Between Habits and User Satisfaction
- What Triggers The Best Word of Mouth Marketing?
- What Tech Companies Can Learn from Rehab
- The Secrets of Addictive Online Auctions
- Teach or Hook? What’s the Real Goal of Online Education?
- Using Mind Control to Raise Startup Cash
- How To Build Habits In A Multi-Device World
- How To Cope with Your Insane Jealousy Of The WhatsApp Deal
- Why Do Fads Fade? The Inevitable Death Of Flappy Bird
- You’d Be Surprised By What Really Motivates Users
- Nostalgia: A Product Designer’s Secret Weapon
- How You Can Help Users Change Habits
- Is “Lean Startup” Right for Your Idea?
- Hunting for Habits: Keying in on smart design to make a product irresistible
- Are Companies Too Obsessed With Growth? How to Measure Habits
- Refresh: The App a Secret Agent Would Love
- Angel or Devil: Who’s Really Investing In Your Start-Up?
- In 10 Years, We Won’t Use Personal Technology
- 4 Simple Things I Did to Control My Bad Tech Habits
- “Yes, And”: The Two Words that Created a #1 App
- From Laid to Paid: How Tinder Set Fire to Online Dating
- What if In-App Purchases Came to Real Life?
- Hooking Users One Snapchat at a Time
- How To Save Your Startup From The “Spotlight Effect”
- Bible App: Getting 100 Million Downloads is More Psychology Than Miracles
- How to Boost Desire Using the Psychology of Scarcity
- Marketplaces & The Curse of the Network Effect
- Today’s Behaviors, Tomorrow’s Startups
- Venture Capital and The Superstitious Investor
- The Future is Driven by Interface Changes
- Why Business is Addicted to Habits
- Viral Loops Or Viral ‘Oops’?
- Making a Marketplace
- What Killed Turntable.fm?
- What You Don’t Know About Human Intuition Can Hurt You
- Designing to Reward our Tribal Sides
- New Video – “Hooked: Building Habit-Forming Products”
- How Technology is Like Bug Sex
- Ways To Get People To Do Things They Don’t Want To Do
- The Network Effect Isn’t Good Enough
- Mass Persuasion, One User At A Time
- How Investment Drives Engagement (Slides)
- Getting Your Product Into the Habit Zone
- Where Have The Users Gone?
- Infinite Scroll: The Web’s Slot Machine
- Designing User Habits Video
- Psychology of Sports: How Sports Infect Your Brain
- This is Your Brain On Boarding: How to Turn Visitors Into Users
- User Investment: Make Your Users Do the Work
- Behavior by Design Video
- When Designing for Good Is Bad
- Stop Building Apps, Start Building User Behaviors
- The Next Secrets of the Internet
- User Growth and Engagement: A Hacker Metric
- Spotting the Next Facebook: Why Emotions are Big Business
- The Billion Dollar Mind Trick: An Intro to Triggers
- Why Everyone Hates I.T. People
- Hooking Users In 3 Steps: An Intro to Habit Testing
- Abolish The Reference Check
- Variable Rewards: Want To Hook Users? Drive Them Crazy
- How to Design Behavior (The Behavior Change Matrix)
- How To Design For “Normals”
- The Hook Model: How to Manufacture Desire in 4 Steps
- User Habits: Why Startups Must Be Behavior Experts
- What Is, and Is Not, Your Product’s Job
- Pinterest’s Obvious Secret
- Personalized eCommerce Is Already Here, You Just Don’t Recognize It
- Where is the Web Going?
- The Developer Divide: When Great Companies Can’t Hire
- Being a Quitter Makes You a Good Entrepreneur
- Behavior by Design
- Why You Should Run Your Business Barefoot
- Are you a Startup Star, Wacko, or Wannabe?