How to Build a Viral Dating App

The dating app market is overflowing. And the demand for dating apps among consumers is far from declining. This is especially true in the US, as a new study by the Pew Research Center reveals. After all, dating apps are like social networks – when everybody around you is using them, you start to think you should as well.

But while dating apps are numerous, there aren’t many that can satisfy the majority of users. For entrepreneurs who are looking to create a dating app, a market flooded with low-quality dating solutions represents an opportunity.

What do consumers expect from dating apps?

According to research conducted by Kaspersky Lab, privacy and security are among the most important qualities that customers look for in a dating app. UK crime statistics prove this point. Data referenced by the BBC show a rise over five years of people reporting being raped on a first date by someone they met on a dating website or through a mobile app.

If you want to build the next Tinder, you might even consider investing in some form of security checks for people who sign up for your dating app. Providing a safe user experience might be your dating app’s competitive advantage.

The second most valued quality in a dating app, after security, is an intuitive user experience. A location-based dating app Tinder that set off the dating app craze, is successful largely because of their effortless swipe technique and elegant user interface.

Other popular dating apps include Hinge, Zoosk, Bumble and OkCupid. Her and Grindr seem to be the stars of the gay dating universe.

There are lots of interesting niche apps as well, such as JSwipe, a dating app aimed at Jews, and Dine, which wants to get you on a date in a restaurant right from the app. All these apps get top reviews from their users.

Now let’s discuss in detail how to make an app like Tinder and how to provide the experience consumers are looking for.

Koloda Tinder-like swipes

[Our open-source librabry Koloda that implements Tinder-like swipes. See the case study on our blog. Grab the library on Github]

How to develop a location-based dating app

We believe that the most important functionalities for a dating app – based on consumer expectations – are access control, matching, and messaging. These are the three functionalities we’ll focus on below.  

Access control

The majority of dating apps, both for Android and for iOS, allow users to sign up through Facebook. And they offer this sign-up option not only because signing up with one click is more convenient than typing in an email address and password.

Facebook sign up offers access to user data that you can use in your dating app to suggest singles in the area, find common friends and interests, and fill out other profile information about the user.

If you use Facebook sign up in your dating app, make it clear to users that you’re not going to post and share any information associated with your dating app on their Facebook timeline. Despite the dating app hype, people still find using dating apps a bit embarrassing, and don’t fully trust the “sign up with Facebook” option because of privacy concerns.

A lesbian dating app, Her uses sign up with Facebook to check if a user who signs up is female so others don’t need to worry about being matched with straight men and time wasters. What’s more, Her checks supplied email addresses against a third-party database to see if the email has been used to create accounts elsewhere on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Foursquare. This helps Her check whether the user is a real person, and also whether they’re a woman.

Zoosk verifies photos to confirm that they’re actually of you. Hinge and Bumble pull your full name, where you went to school, where you work, and your mutual friends from Facebook once you’re matched with someone.

The majority of dating apps display user pictures as Pinterest-style image boards. Dating app developers not only do this for the purpose of looking like a dating version of Instagram, but also to increase their app’s credibility.

To make sure pictures that users post are clear and don’t include nudity, you can validate them manually. We implemented this functionality in Bro, an app for straight, bi, and gay men that we developed for one of our US-based clients.

Some time in the past, online dating was associated with ‘fake.’ Anonymity – hiding behind obscure usernames like “badgirl24” was normal practice. Today, the more transparent your app is, the better chances it has to attract users.

A dating app is supposed to be about meeting people, so you have to push your users to show their real names and include information about themselves in their profiles.

how to build a dating app

[Image source: Global Dating Insights]

Matching people

Assessing people’s personalities using math is terribly hard, if not impossible. My point is that it’s absolutely not a necessity for a dating app to develop matchmaking algorithms. And there’s a lot of proof to support my position.

Tinder matches users based on their preferences and location. On Hinge, you can only match with people your friends already know. But this means that your potential swipes are limited. On the other hand, though, Hinge’s recommendations are supposed to be curated and safe.

Dine offers a unique way of matching people. The app integrates with Yelp to get users out on a date in a restaurant. After filling out a profile, Dine asks you to pick three restaurants or bars where you’d want to go on a date. Then, you’ll get matched with two to five people per day based on the places you chose, and you can request to go on a date.

If you think that algorithms can provide better matches, there are a lot of examples of apps that use matchmaking technology successfully as well. One of the most prominent examples is OkCupid. This dating app will ask you questions like “Are you a cat or dog person?” and compare your answers to other people’s answers. In this way, OkCupid determines what “percentage” match you are with someone.

Zoosk’s behavioral matchmaking algorithm can evaluate compatibility between Zoosk members by learning from simple yes/ no responses. Synapse, the matching algorithm behind the Match app, suggests possible dates according to a variety of factors: stated preferences, interests, and on-site actions.

Whether you want to match people with the help of algorithms or just using plain filters, we can help you develop a dating app that will match people with those they’re looking for.  


A messenger is an absolute necessity for a dating app because the whole point of matching with people on a dating app is to start conversations. However, if you’ve ever used Tinder, you’ve probably noticed that after you match with someone you would rather keep playing than immediately message your new match. After all, there are so many more options still out there!

The majority of people ignore their matches on dating apps. Maybe if you created a rule about who should message first your dating app could keep its retention rates up?

This is exactly how Bumble works: on Bumble women have to message first. JSwipe uses a different but no less effective tactic: matches on JSwipe expire. This forces both parties to start conversations right away.

On OkCupid, you aren’t required to match with someone to start a conversation. While this rule leads to more conversations among users, it also means that users will get more gross and inappropriate messages from random people. As a result, they might leave the app and never come back.

To incentivize people to start conversations, you can send them reminder messages and push notifications so they don’t forget about the matches that are waiting for them.  

how to make a dating app

[Image source: Global Dating Insights]

How do dating apps make money?

People spend tons of time on dating apps – around 90 minutes a day, for the average user – which means there’s a lot of money in dating app development. But is the monetization potential really that huge? In fact, making money on dating apps is a problem, and not only because the competition is insane.

The reality is that people don’t often take dating apps seriously. Swiping left or right is fun, but comes with no obligations. Paying for a dating app would mean you’re serious about dating. And honestly, there is nothing serious about Tinder.

No wonder Tinder Plus, the app’s subscription service that added extra functionality like unlimited swipes and undos, isn’t getting many paying users. The reason is that Tinder’s price is inconsistent with its value. Tinder asks users to pay for features (unlimited swipes) that they once had for free. This is not an additional value, therefore, but rather a ‘value’ that isn’t quite valuable.

An example of value that some users might be willing to pay for is ‘profile boost’s that make their profiles show up in more searches.

Advertising is another way to make money on a dating app. For Grindr, revenue comes from ads and Grindr Xtra — essentially a paid version of the app without ads and with more guys to choose from. The advertising method, however, is quite obtrusive, and if you rely on ads, you risk having users leave your app. This is especially the case since there are ad-free apps out there like Tinder and Bumble.

A more effective way of advertising is through affiliate networks. You can display deals from businesses relevant to the dating industry such as restaurants and bars, florists, jewelers, or candy stores.

Alternatively, you can monetize virtual gifts that users might want to send to their dates.

Offline monetization through live events is another idea for how to make money through a dating app. You can either host local dating events, such as speed dating, or sell event tickets in your app.

All in all, making money with a dating app is a challenge. Users won’t pay unless you offer them something truly valuable. If you can’t charge for your app itself, try to figure out how you can make partnerships with local venues or gift shops and how you can mutually benefit from these partnerships.

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