How to start a dating app

  • Date:Jan 14, 2022

Anyone who owns a smartphone is carrying around a single bar just a swipe away. With a tap and a flick, users are “matched” with potential mates, friends, and everything in between.

More than one third of recent marriages in the United States today started online, according to a study published on USA Today. That study is already several years old—a similar study today would doubtless find an even greater percent of today’s successful matches made online.

Technology has taken hold of most aspects of our lives. Dating is no exception.

There are over 20 million potential matches made a day on Tinder alone. That represents 40 million people connecting with prospective love or company. The demand for dating applications is high and the dating app market is bursting with 6-9% growth annually.

The global dating apps market is expected to pass $8.4 billion by 2024.

In all that opportunity, many app developers have already taken interest. There are new dating websites, most of them following Tinder-like app development.

Is there still room for new entrepreneurs and startups to design a dating app?

The answer depends on what a dating app builder is looking to do—if you’re creating a generic dating app, you might see less opportunity than a niche dating app for a unique target audience. App users today are hungry for new emotions, and using a dating app they feel was positively “made for them” is one way to get what they’re looking for.

Societally, we are increasingly meeting more of our romantic partners, connections, and friends online. While that is true from every dating app to social media, it’s the world of dating apps that most aggressively drives that growth.

If you’re determined to take a shot at your piece of the dating app business, keep reading to learn about dating app development and how much money almost all dating apps tend to cost to build.

How dating apps work

Mankind has been on social media accounts for about 20 years. We have a platform for every interest and intent today—share your photo of your homemade lunch on Instagram, share your political discontent in 140 characters or less on Twitter, and find out who’s working where on LinkedIn.

Social media of all kinds allows you to find other people. That’s its purpose. A dating app allows you to find people who are in the market for love.

When you share a virtual space with others who are openly looking, it’s less intimidating than meeting people, say, in the bars. It’s less bizarre to say “hey” in dating services than reaching out for dates on a platform like Facebook or other social media accounts, too.

Dating apps are so much more than a platform of profiles for people in the market, though. From in app purchase to location based dating app niches, how, specifically, does a dating app work? How do the most successful dating apps work? How do you create a dating app and attract potential users?

Here are the basic features a dating app startup should include…

Dating App UI
  • A login page: keep it simple with a quick sign in feature so people can login instantly but feel that their dating profile is secure.
  • User profiles: no one wants to fill out huge forms, but if you ask each app user easy enough questions about his or her likes, dislikes and experiences, most dating app users will warm up. The better the information you collect, the more sophisticated your matching app algorithm can get.
  • Premium app version: beyond the basics of a user profile, premium customization options give users full control over their experience. Allowing users to add or remove some of the “secondary” fields on their profile will engage them right into the dating app.
  • Gamification: this might look like an advanced feature or a thing of the future, but it’s the heart and soul of how apps like Tinder have become such popular dating apps. Imagine spinning a digital wheel or racking up points for filling out profile fields. These are ways you can gamify your experience. Do that, and users will get into your successful dating app fast.
Dating App UX
  • Biodiversity data: this term refers to the personal information provided by dating app users at sign-up. This includes completing sentences that represent each user’s personality and preferences, answering questions about the past, present and dreams for the future, and filling out personalia like majors in college, number of pets, etc.
  • Push notification features on the mobile app: a dating app that populates instant notifications about matches, messages, and gamification milestones gets app users more engaged. Each dating app always allows for customization of notification frequency, format and category so users can choose which they prefer.
  • Admin panel: a functional admin panel allows users to retain total control over their profile on the online dating app.
  • Location: geolocation is commonly used in dating apps. Not only do users set their residential location at account setup, they can also meet people when their physical geolocation updates automatically as they travel to another state (or country).
  • Matching algorithm: app developers create algorithms so a dating app can match people (often with a swiping feature) based on mutual likes and other factors in common. The science behind each proprietary algorithm is kept internal to the dating app builder.

What people expect from dating apps

Dating apps enjoy extraordinary popularity for a lot of reasons. The principal benefit early adopters spoke to, though, was the luxury (and comfort) of screening other users before going out with them. They could even block users when necessary.

Before even the “dinosaurs” of dating sites were dreamed up, people instead were accustomed to walking up to strangers in bars to make their first pass. Those people would face possible instant rejection; maybe the other person wasn’t single or looking, or local to the area, or even remotely compatible or interested.

Meeting people was a complex system of social deciphering, without a doubt.

Safety was another big concern back then, too. In contrast, online dating today gives dating app users a safe way to learn early if someone engages in something risky or uncomfortable.

Ease of usage in dating app development added propane to the fire as more users adopted each new dating app like Tinder, OKCupid, and more. This rapid rate of adoption made the most popular dating apps even more effective.

To keep with a theme that’s familiar to those in marketing, the user experience on dating apps innately brought a sense of “urgency” because of the possibility that a user of interest could disappear at any moment. This was the final spritz of gasoline to the already hot dating app market.

Ultimately, this is what users want out of their dating apps:

  • Privacy (behind a sign in feature)
  • Safety (online and off)
  • Matches
  • Convenience (especially a free version of the dating app)
  • A big pool of other app users

To make a real mark in the dating app industry today, take these core expectations and expand on one of them in a new and creative way. It’s that one special thing you can give users (above and beyond their expectations) that will make your own dating app stand out.

How to create a successful dating app

Every person thinking about creating a dating app today should start with a plan to capitalize on the existing apps and trends. All successful dating apps are gamified, have key premium features, and offer superior privacy (and even a sense of “exclusivity” when a user belongs to a given platform).

Entrepreneurs hungry to make waves with a dating app like Tinder need to go beyond the popular swiping functionality. It won’t be enough for a new product.

Niches, as mentioned earlier, offer fertile ground to get a foothold in the market. Bumble is an example that imitated Tinder’s existing functionality in an unambiguous way. Their take on things, however, included giving female users the power to initiate contact; there would be no uninvited unsolicited photos or sexual slurs received from male users.

Bumble has since come into its own with even more differentiating premium features, including its new “5 Love Languages” feature that plays on how users each prefer to give and receive affection.

The more specific your niche and target audience for your dating services, the smaller your potential market. However, the smaller that potential market gets, the more open your target audience will be to try your dating app out.

Creating niche dating apps will help new users create more meaningful connections with like-minded people, often resulting in more long-term relationships than the hookup culture of dating apps like Tinder.

Considering your niches and core functionality is important, but there are some other high-level tips when building out your ideal dating app, too:

  • Keep it simple: whatever functionality you add to your own dating app, users are looking for online dating apps with simple and convenient user interfaces. Even those who are on the app looking for “the one,” their commitment to your particular mobile app or dating website is more fickle. Don’t overload them.
  • Gamify it: dating apps are as much databases as they are a source of entertainment. Gaming and entertainment components are fundamental to the success of your app. Dating app development focuses on this core feature of the most popular dating apps today.
  • Win your niche: once you decide what niche your dating app will be designed to reach, win that niche over with specific UI, UX and marketing decisions that fit that ideal user perfectly.
  • Do your competitor research: even if you choose a super-specific niche, it’s likely there’s already someone in the space. Do a deep analysis of all your potential competition, including creating dating site profiles for yourself to try the other dating apps out.

Dating mobile app development and modern technologies are, without a doubt, as exciting as they are promising. The dating application market is booming with user needs, all with the underlying gratification of humongous user demand.

Players who come to the field with an unconventional approach or with a hyper-focused market segment will gain a better foothold.

The cost and time needed to develop a dating all

Prices and timelines for developing such apps will vary a great deal. Will you start your dating app development team to build MVP? How will you run beta testing? Will you launch all your basic features at once or develop a few now and then the rest later?

With the caveat that these numbers do vary project-to-project, there is an approximate tech stack and feature breakdown that can determine average budgets to create a dating app.

Any future dating app startup is a business, too, meaning that legal and operational business requirements must be specified and accounted for now, too.

Timescale for developing a dating app

Spoiler alert: if you’re committed to creating your own dating app that will attract its target audience, you’ll have to be equally committed to investing an appropriate budget to make it happen. The architecture of any native, cross-platform or hybrid online dating app will require a complex process of development that builds up over time.

Core components that you must start with lay the base of your dating app’s performance. These will be the most expensive and time-consuming investments in the overall dating app development cost.

Those base investments include:

  • The core components of a dating app (which might take around 1,000 hours of time to develop)
  • Building a backend (which could take at least another 300 hours)
  • The dating app’s UI and UX design (/which might take around 100 hours)
  • Testing and pre-launch (which could take another 50 hours)

For dating mobile app development with basic features (for dating app like Tinder), here are how hours break down in price-points with an development fee according to an average dating app development company today:

  • Starting point of $55,000 for a basic dating app (they won’t come cheaper than this)
  • Up to $70,000 for a single-platform dating app
  • Upwards of $100,000 for a cross-platform app with premium access and features

How to monetize a dating app

Naturally, app development is followed up with the question, “how will you monetize it?” Developers and dating app innovators need to recover their investments and turn their app into a revenue-producing, self-sustaining machine.

The possibilities to monetize your dating app can be broken down into these principal categories:

  • Paid subscriptions: you can either charge a regular, monthly fee or a one-time subscription cost for your dating app. Some dating apps offer discounts if users pay a year’s worth of monthly subscriptions at once.
  • The “freemium” approach: this allows users to enjoy basic functions for free, usually for life. Additional features come after upgrading to a membership or paying a small one-time fee. This free version spreads the product faster than any other and builds user loyalty with the flexible payment options.
  • In app advertisement: your dating app or website can sell ad space at a set fee or earn a kick-back by clicks, views or transactions. The most common ads in dating apps follow an affiliate program model.
  • Premium model: where basic service functions are only accessible to users after creating an account. The premium model provides a tier of monthly subscriptions to get more features on top of the basic dating services. Tinder, for example, had success attracting new paying users recently by adding an “undo” for accidental left swipes for dating site users. This feature is only available for users with a premium account.

Make your dating app idea as perfect as can be. Then monetize it. Pick your dating app niche and target audience wisely. Above all, deliver your dating website users a good time.

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