A single's guide to online dating

Zoosk: Dating with a social networking feel

I don’t know anyone who has used the San Francisco-based Zoosk, which launched in 2007 as a Facebook app. Although Zoosk officials say it is “integrated into the social graph” with smartphone applications and premium subscriptions, it is extremely difficult to navigate. The user interface is both basic and overly complicated—getting to your own profile page is nearly impossible—and Zoosk doesn’t present matches in a clear fashion. The easiest way I found to see matches was to use the carousel feature and click yes/no/maybe to indicate my preferences.

“[Our matching algorithms are] a combination of search engine comparison, how much of what you like matches up with someone else’s interest based on your online social activity—and the user’s behavior, [such as] which profiles they actually view—so it’s a very dynamic tool,” company spokesperson Kristine David wrote in an email.

Zoosk's website isn't very user friendly.

Zoosk asks 40 predetermined questions to calculate compatibility, an approach that seems vague and insufficient for determining what kind of match the user is looking for. Users get an option to download a Web application in order to exchange messages with other users, but the site was so poorly designed that I couldn’t figure out how to do that. Bonus features include the option to buy “coins,” which allow you to send gifts and receive delivery confirmation on messages, but that seems extraneous.

Although I am in Zoosk’s target audience of 25- to 35-year-olds, I wouldn't recommend Zoosk to anyone. You can find many more free sites out there with engaging user interfaces and a more accurate algorithm.

Match: For compatible long-term relationships

I used Match.com for about three months with little to no success, though the company would have you think that almost all of its users find a relationship or life partner. Realistically, the cause might be my age and my lack of a desire to get married in the next five years. The 50-plus age group is Match.com’s fastest growing demographic, and only 25 percent of its users are under 30.

Still, this site has a better matching sequence, and it showed me more men whom I found attractive and compatible than any other site did. One widely accepted benefit is that, because Match is a paid site (one where you can’t see any matches without putting up the plastic), it weeds out a lot of the cheapos and creepers who lurk on free dating sites. Having been on dates with several men who wouldn’t so much as offer to buy me a drink or who couldn’t afford to take the train to meet me in a central location, I have to admit that I find a guy who is willing to pay for a website appealing, as I enjoy going out and would like to do so regularly with a significant other.

Match found me a nice handful of solid, well, matches.

Although I know only a handful of people my age who have had success on Match, most every person I spoke to over age 45 knew someone who had met their spouse on the site. While Match.com has some users who are seeking casual dating, this site and its matching process are best for people looking for a long-term relationship or marriage. Also, users who are less inclined to write about themselves or who are unsure how to define their ideal mate may find Match appealing, since users pick their favorite features, professions, and even voice tone by using pictures and sounds.

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