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To find a needle in a haystack, you want lots of needles and not too much hay. After analyzing usage data and talking to dating experts, we test-drove the top seven to see which of the best online dating sites led to the highest quality hellos. The offline part, we've left up to you. We’ll be the first to admit evaluating online dating sites is a subjective process. Chemistry, attraction, and love are obviously difficult to quantify, and different people have different desires, needs, and goals for their romantic lives. Plus, your experience with any dating site is going to be colored by all sorts of things: your gender, age, sexual orientation, looks, location. The list goes on.

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Knowing it would be impossible to evaluate the ineffable, we set out simply to find which dating sites or apps were most likely to get you a compatible match. (The actual “going on dates” part we’ll leave to you. Com. It organizes in-person events like speed dating, happy hours, and game nights for its members to help accelerate the search for “the one, ” and it works — studies have shown it’s one of the top two sites to produce marriages. (Match. Com’s user base is slightly older, too, which may indicate more people who are ready to settle down. ) However, Match lacks the robust matching algorithm of OkCupid — it came in fourth place for good matches in our testing — and isn’t as streamlined as Tinder or Bumble. On top of that, it costs $78 per month. We also tested three other sites: eHarmony, Plenty of Fish, and Zoosk. While we can’t recommend them, we hope we can save you the trouble of experiencing them yourself. Take it from us, eHarmony was just a worse version of Match. At $96 per month it’s the most expensive option out there, but had the highest number of blank profiles. Meanwhile, Plenty of Fish lives up to its name — we received twice as many messages compared to OkCupid. But almost all of them were suspiciously short, spammy, or just plain rude. Matchmaker and online dating expert Carmelia Ray points out that “as a user, you want to have the most selection and options.

When you’re putting in your search criteria, and it’s coming back ‘no matches found, ’ that’s a bummer. ”To find the most popular options, we turned to Alexa, a web-traffic analytics company. We tested any with at least a million active users in the US. It’s impossible to know exactly how many users are active on a given site or app (especially because mobile users aren’t reflected in Alexa data), but we’re definitely in the ballpark. In early 7567, Barron’s estimated that Tinder has about 85 million active users and Bumble is close to 65 million. They’re are all likely names you recognize: OkCupid, Match. Com, eHarmony, Plenty of Fish, Tinder, Bumble, and Zoosk. Our tester tried them all. She kept a detailed log of every view, like, wink, fave, and message she received. We used it all to find the best. Good online dating profiles are both extremely important and surprisingly hard to find. Krissy Dolor, the director of dating at eFlirt says, “When online dating, people skim through profiles, so it’s important to stand out in the crowd. Avoid being generic with clichés like ‘live, laugh, love’ or ‘I like to laugh and have fun. But of course, without your voice, it’s hard for your personality to shine through in your profile. The best ones strike a balance between both approaches.

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All of our top dating apps use an algorithm to match you with people you should be compatible with and interested in — and keep those “automatic nos” out of your feed. This is the real heart of online dating (anyone could sift through profiles on their own) and some sites and apps do it better than others. Since our tester was a straight woman, her experience with online dating is weighted more toward receiving messages than sending messages. (According to a study from OkCupid, the majority of women don’t send the first message in online dating conversations — but they get great results when they do. ) To keep our judgments as objective as possible, we used a rubric to categorize each message: Unfortunately — but perhaps not all that surprisingly — the majority of the messages we received on traditional dating sites were mediocre or downright bad. We still got a few bad messages, but the overall quality was better compared to the traditional dating sites we tested. We received too few messages on eHarmony and Bumble to provide an accurate comparison. Because none of the platforms we tested were exorbitantly priced, we didn t weigh cost too heavily when ranking them. That said, the fact that OkCupid, Tinder, and Bumble are free definitely stands out. It’s by far the best-looking and easiest to use of our top four, on both browser and mobile, with intuitive iconography and streamlined features. Two factors really set OkCupid apart from the competition: It produces the best profiles, and it uses the best matching algorithm. OkCupid sports a clean layout on both desktop and mobile (left) and it’s playful enough (right) to make for a fun overall experience. The standard fields you fill in on your profile are open-ended without being too general, which lets people come up with creative, interesting answers almost without trying. Yes, it includes the standard prompt to list your favorite movies, music, and TV shows, but it also asks you what six things you couldn’t live without and what you spend a lot of time thinking about.

With those kinds of questions, it would be hard not to come up with unique answers that show potential dates what makes you you. Unlike on most of the other apps we tested, we didn’t find any OkCupid profiles left blank or populated by “I’ll fill this out later. Like many other dating sites, OkCupid algorithmically compares your answers to those of other users to determine if you’re compatible. But unlike most dating sites, it (a) lets you choose the answer you want your partner to give, and (b) lets you rank how important the question is to you. OkCupid uses your answers to these questions to do a bunch of math, so that whenever you look at another user’s profile, you see a “match percentage” (which measures ways you’re compatible with someone) and an “enemy percentage” (which measures ways you’re not compatible with someone). Though OkCupid emphasizes high match percentages, it’s just as important to have a low enemy percentage. (Right) Match Percentage gives you a quick glance at your compatibility with other members. Regardless, of the 95 matches we browsed during our week of testing, 86 seemed promising — a higher percentage than any other dating site. On the receiving end, we got 98 messages (a good amount, but not too many to deal with), and 78 percent were good. That s lower than on Tinder, but still pretty good for a site where anyone can send you a message. Our advice: start with the free version. Tinder is the exact of opposite of OkCupid — matches are based purely on mutual attraction — but it works just as well. When you find someone you think is cute, you get off the app, go on a date, and see if any sparks fly. It has evolved from its early days as a hookup app to an app for, but it maintains its casual, carefree aesthetic by doing away with the extensive questionnaires of first-generation dating sites. Your photos are by far the most prominent part of your profile, and you only get 555 characters (about four or five sentences) to describe yourself.

That may sound a little superficial if you’re on the market for a long-term partner, but there is something to be said for the kind of chemistry that a computer can’t calculate for you. Tinder does use an algorithm to match people, but it’s based more on attractiveness than on suitability as a partner. On more traditional dating sites, men generally send a lot of messages to women, most of them pretty bad. People (of any gender) can of course still send bad messages, but the self-selection factor tends to cut it down a bit. Our tester received a higher proportion of high-quality messages on Tinder than on any other dating app: 6 of 65 messages were good. You’ll likely get fewer messages, but the ones you get will probably be higher quality. For users under 85, that price is cut in half. After a mutual match, women have to send the first message and if she doesn’t make a move in 79 hours, the match disappears forever — unless, that is, you have a paid account, in which case either person can extend a match by another 79 hours or even reconnect with expired matches. For same-sex matches, the 79-hour rule still applies, but either person can message first. Because of these features, the paid version of Bumble is substantially better to use than the unpaid version (unlike Tinder and OkCupid, where there’s not a huge difference between paying and not paying). Bumble is $8 a week, $8 a month, $65 for three months, or $79 for six months. Tinder co-founder, Whitney Wolfe conceived Bumble as a “ 655 percent feminist ” way to reduce that harassment in the online dating world. She says forcing women to make the first move is good for both genders: Women not only receive less harassment but also don’t get trapped in a passive role they don’t want, while men have to do less work and get to feel “flattered” instead of experiencing “rejection and aggression. ”This was kind of a difficult claim for our tester, a straight woman, to evaluate.

On other dating sites and apps, men messaged her, and she could sort the messages into good, bad, and mediocre. On Bumble, she had to send the first message, in which she revealed she was just testing out the app for a review. Most men simply never replied, a few responded warmly and talked about their experiences on Bumble, and a couple responded with hostility.

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