This is the first of my product breakdown articles where I attempt to dive into what makes the product popular and engaging.
The premise of Tinder is stupid simple. User flips through nearby women (or men), and swipes left to reject or right to like. Once two people mutually like one another, they are notified and a private chat is created. Today, the app processes 750M swipes and 10M matches per day. Average user is said to spend an hour per day on Tinder, and 57% of active users are on it daily.
That’s crazy numbers for an app less than 2 years old, but it isn’t a result of pure luck. The app leverages user psychology and seamless design to make it highly sticky.
How fast can a user get to the aha moment after being introduced to the product? For Tinder, it’s immediate. There is no profile to craft, nor connections to make before experiencing the value of the product. There is one Facebook log-in button to click during on-boarding. Next, the user begins swiping.
Of course, users may wish to tweak their profiles later, changing pictures and updating their 500 character bio. But that’s optional and they are not roadblocks for users to get to their aha moment right away. Default profile and settings are created for users when they log in for the first time.
One of the reasons users get to the aha moment immediately is due to the app’s stupid simplicity. To get a match, users just make routine, binary decisions: swipe left to reject or right to like – based on photos. Compare this to traditional dating sites / apps where there are multiple ways to express interest, filter users, and craft detailed profiles. This creates a large to-do list and several call-to-actions to evaluate from. Tinder does not make users think .
Today, tech consumers multitask. They fiddle with their phones on the go, on their laptops, while watching TV, or chatting with their friends, etc. Tinder allows users to exert minimal mental energy and multitask. Case in point – I see my friends on Tinder while taking notes in class all the time.
Real World +
In the real dating world, people constantly look at others and judge them by their looks – especially in the case of looking for a date in a bar. Tinder is superficial, but so is real world. Instead of incorporating some magic matchmaking algorithm and have users craft profiles, Tinder has created a place to do all the things we love doing, but won’t admit to: act shallow and make snap-judgements based on looks. As result, people are thrilled to take part in it. Consider the user journey of Tinder:
This seems pretty close to real world to me (at least in the scenario of looking for a date in a bar).
I say it’s real world “+” because not only does it mimic real world scenario, it does it better: faster and more efficiently. It’s like giving users super power of stepping into a crowd and immediately knowing which people are interested in talking to them. This is part of Tinder’s double opt-in mechanics. Tinder eliminates the basic fear of rejection; so it boosts users’ level of confidence with everyone they approach inside the app. Double opt-in gives men and women authority to decide who can send them a message and more control of their interaction with strangers.
In my opinion, Tinder has one of the best usage of reward mechanisms Ive ever seen in a consumer app.
Each swipe on Tinder delivers immediate gratification. Each swipe satisfies users’ appetite for social validation: they want to discover if the person they just swiped to the right shares the same interest towards them. Even if there isn’t one, it resolves the mystery of whose profile will appear next. This process seems endless. The design emphasizes this further with its deck of cards emulating user profiles. Edges of next cards poke outside the deck, teasing users to swipe again to reveal them.
Double opt-in makes the reward mechanism of Tinder highly effective. To gain more matches, users are encouraged to continue swiping. The more they swipe, the more chance of getting lucky with their matches, and remember – swiping is dead simple. Once a match is made, the likelihood of the matched person responding in the private chat is multiplied. This model is much more rewarding than traditional dating sites / apps where users heavily invest to show interest to other people that end up ignoring. ROI for users is high on Tinder.
Lastly, once a private chat is initiated, the reward gets even better because it varies all the time. There are no features that guide users on what to do next, and this opens up the door for users to get creative with its use case. Users end up hooking up, dating, temporarily flirting online, making casual connections, making new friendship, or w/e else – depending on the match. I’ve seen a group of friends at a bar use Tinder on a single phone, “playing” the app together.
Tinder seems to be less of a dating app and more of a game with its infinite, variable rewards. The reward of getting a hot match is one thing, but the anticipation of the reward is what encourages users to keep swiping.
Have you noticed how users can’t create new profiles and pictures inside the app? Their profiles are sucked in automatically from existing Facebook profiles. They can still fake data, but Tinder makes it very difficult to do so. In return, Tinder has created a sense of authenticity. For example, when trying to change the photos, users can only access photos from their existing Facebook profiles. There is authenticity built into the product, and that makes users feel so casual and be real. There is nothing to hide; its mainstream and all of their friends are on it.
With its product design, Tinder has made approaching total strangers seamless and exciting.
I haven’t given much thought into its improvements, but there are two things that come to mind right away. First, the most important metric for Tinder would be the number of matches made per user. To drive the needle for this metric, I’d like Tinder’s algorithm to detect and surface users it believes will have higher chance of matching first (here are other suggestions). For instance, looking at the match data, Tinder may find that a particular user consistently shows interest towards a specific race. Secondly, once a private chat is created, the experience could be much more personal if voice and picture messaging features are enabled.