From the very beginning I have been fascinated with how people communicate. This is both face to face and the various ways we talk online. The first year I started getting on the internet frequently was in 1996, I remember because this was shortly before 2Pac Shakur died. What I noticed afterwards were many websites popping up in tribute to him. People felt compelled to create memorial pages for an artist who had touched them with his music. I viewed this as simply people creating spaces in order to communicate to the world how they felt about one of their favorite celebrities. This could have been therapeutic for some who needed an outlet to share their mourning over his passing, a celebration of his music or maybe even to showcase their web design skills on a popular topic all over the internet. Either way, I viewed it as a way in where people were pushing their work out there so that their voices can be heard around the world.
Fast forward 19 years later and the way we communicate online is very different. We have social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat that allow us to record our thoughts instantly and share it with everyone. The tools are different, but the same goal remains…we all want to communicate and share our thoughts with our friends and family AND also potentially meet someone new. It is a great time to be able to get our messages over to many people with a few clicks and has changed the world we live in dramatically. Many of us are always on our phones reading status updates, checking the latest news, reading user comments and the latest popular meme floating around. In the mid 90’s we fetched for the information we wanted and in 2015 one could argue that too much information is pushed out to us after logging in.
With all this information at our disposal today I have often wondered if we are disposing people just as easy? Does anyone truly have anyone’s undivided attention when initiating conversation online anymore? Is it possible to create a memorable and intimate connection online? These are some of the questions I have had over the past 2 years when first trying to learn more about how people are talking today. The details behind the data below is private and I cannot share individual responses, but the percentages below are from a pool of ~3000 single men and women and ~600 that were currently in a relationship aged 18-50. I made some quick and ugly pie charts for those who like to view pictures. The numbers that stood out to me are highlighted in red.
Do you remember most details about the first online conversation with people you have met in person? 32% YES, 68% NO
Do you find dating apps/sites an overall enjoyable experience? 59% YES, 41% NO
How many dating app/sites are you currently active on? 1 – 34%, 2 – 22%, 3+ (44%)
People in relationships:
Do you remember what app/site you met your partner online? 92% YES, 8% NO
Do you remember the first conversation you had online with your partner? 63% YES, 37% NO
Do you remember the first conversation you had in person with your partner? 85% YES, 15% NO
There are also questions I asked that received many different responses with varying levels of annoyance, concerns and many other factors that cannot be quantified in a simple chart. These results weren’t surprising to me and also considering the online dating statistics posted by statisticbrain I think it is clear that we still have a lot of work to do. No personal details will be shared and will in fact be destroyed shortly after this page is published. Don’t bother asking.
What is the reason behind such a large disparity between average length of courtship before marriages between people that met online (18.5 Months) and offline (42.5 Months)? It appears to be that relationships that start online tend to move quicker due to more options available a click away. 48% of all breakups happen via email which is disturbing to learn, but also not surprising. A huffington post article released last October suggests that people who meet online are more likely to break up.
What you have here is a mix of conflicting results.
When you consider the average courtship before marriage is less than HALF of what it normally takes offline it would seem to indicate that more intimate experiences are happening online. However, data showing that those who meet online tend to break up quicker goes against that logic. Perhaps I am not looking at this the right way, maybe the information overload creates this incredible high at the start in where couples rationalize a life changing decision quicker. This could be based on the fact that they can see most of each other’s friends, years worth of information on their timelines and family interaction. This goes down a rabbit hole of the always changing individual, which will steer this entire page into a much longer and colorful discussion. Maybe we will revisit this in the future as data continues to come from various sources.
Based on my research most people remember where they met their partners, but a large percentage can’t remember the details of the first online conversation. The 41% dissatisfaction number is an incredibly high percentage of people not thrilled with these services and thus makes sense that many I have chatted with are on 3+ apps/sites searching for a connection. The 3 out of 5 stars often found on app review pages also tends to support this number.
Many individual complaints about these platforms center around the same core of hurdles we have not been able to get around just yet. Many women have expressed concerns about security in certain apps such as “Happn” and the overwhelming amount of attention received by men. Men on the other hand are frustrated with the fact that most women do not tend to respond to their messages and have as a result gone with the copy and paste model of a generic message. This probably explains why not many were able to describe memorable connections they have had online, you have one side in which is predominantly the receiver overwhelmed and initiators who are not sure if their messages are even being read.
This goes back to something I have written about before. I think the three biggest problems we have on many of these platforms are noise, the inability for one to initiate conversation and monetization.
Noise – Probably the biggest problem we all face today within these apps. As I have stated before I had a lady friend of mine sign up for POF and received 68 messages in a 3 hour window. This causes 2 problems that many are frustrated with, the receiver can be overwhelmed with the attention in a relatively short amount of time and the initiators run the risk of their message being lost in the shuffle. How does the receiver go about reading and possibly responding to all messages? Let’s take away the idea of pagination and imagine all the messages displayed as neatly as possible. What is the path to take? Is it based on time message sent? How about the first one put in the top position and the latest all the way towards the back. How is it fair either way to both? It has become a job for the receiver and insecurity to the initiator that their message can be lost. Over 400 of those surveyed admitted that they just copy and paste messages to multiple people in order to “catch” one. How can these methods help build a genuine connection if it all feels recycled?
Unable to initiate conversation – This is a relatively new trend in where the service has more power than the individuals involved. It breaks the flow of conversation and creates a situation in where members get annoyed because they cannot directly contact someone immediately and have to wait for the system to confirm that you are both interested. Does it solve the noise problem? Sure, but now it creates a problem in which the initiators first message has to be put on hold. This could have been a comment on someone’s profile text, current pictures or anything else that popped into mind in those special first moments. The individual will now have to refresh in a few hours or days to imagine the message they had in mind when they first ran across the profile. This is of course after the service has alerted both parties that it is okay to talk to each other.
Monetization – Clearly a service needs a revenue stream to support itself, but the way it is introduced in most apps/sites is totally broken when you consider the way people talk offline. Ads? Do you remember a cheetos ad when you met the love of your life offline? Probably not, but there was likely an ad or two that you viewed in order to get to them it just wasn’t important at that time. It also shouldn’t cost money to talk to someone. This is how we first encounter a profile online with the current ad and or paid model on many sites:
The response to these problems have been apps such as “tools for tinder” which can automatically swipe right to everyone in your area and then you can easily dispose “matches” you don’t find attractive. Disregard the potential feeling behind the swipe on the other side, just go get yours. I understand the reason behind the creation of the tools as I think this is a problem that tinder has created. Why should an individual sit down and continue swiping left or right when they have no power to start a conversation? The app is a hot or not concept on steroids in where only after a match does it make sense to pay attention. It is the quickest way I have found yet to dispose of a person’s profile and appears to have been created as a response to the frustration users feel when using tinder or apps that have cloned the model. Don’t interpret this as a shot at tinder or the creators behind these tools, I just view them as problems that I have been tackling.
The past 3 weeks have been very eventful in getting this project out. It looks like I now have a team member on board and 2 or 3 others I am talking to in the coming days. It took a while, but the design and flow of phase 1 is complete and I am happy with the current state after feedback I have received recently. I am a pretty harsh critic when it comes to my work, so I am a bit confident at how things have developed so far. It also appears that I am starting to gain a small following with 12 likes on Facebook, 2 followers on twitter and about 6 unique visitors to this blog every 24 hours. At this pace I might reach 20 likes on my facebook page and a handful of followers on twitter by the end of the year! It turns out you can indeed write lengthy rambling posts about the internal struggles of design and gain a following. I have always been uncomfortable about the idea of a large following so it will be interesting to see how I feel as more people are aware of my work and start following my updates.
I have also been focusing on the small details that make things stand out. Can our apps and video games feel more human? Can we use these tools to help people make emotional connections remotely? Are things a little too predictable and boring? What does this all mean? What can be shown on the screen on top of all the code in the background? I had a pretty good back and forth with Steve Hoober from 4ourth Mobile talking about design, ethics and the current state we are in with social networks and dating apps. His touch template and insight has helped me in the past few days tidy things up and reevaluate some of my positions. He has put a ton of information out there for free that I think are fantastic reading material to get a better understanding current patterns.
I will focus on 2 video games in this update and share how I view these things. Neither of these games push the current hardware out there to it’s limits, but they do a great job at delivering a great experience to the person playing.
Sound Shapes is an award winning music game released for the PS3, PS4, and the PS Vita. It was designed by Jonathan Mak and Shaw-Han Liem and developed by Queasy Games in Canada. The entire game has great tracks that you can play through, but the highlight in the title is “Cities” by Beck. This song also won an award for best song in game and is often quoted by people as their favorite song in the game.
Fez is also an award winning indie game designed by Phil Fish and developed by Renaud Bédard and a small team at Polytron Corporation. Fez is about your controlled character Gomez receiving a fez to reveal that his 2D world is in fact just one side of a 3D world. Shortly after this discovery the player will have to rotate between these sides to solve puzzles. The goal is to collect cube fragments to restore order to the world. It is a masterfully designed and developed concept and one of my favorite games of all time. The soundtrack is also great composed by disasterpeace.
I remember when Fez was first released and how the internet was going crazy trying to figure out how to solve these puzzles. It is one of the best examples of how a video game can connect those online to collaboratively reach a goal. Fez was in development for over 5 years and had a lot of hype around it upon release and met those expectations. Phil Fish appears to be a bit of an eccentric individual who has unfortunately stopped production on a sequel, but I hope that he is secretly in his lab working on something. It is clear that he has a great mind when it comes to video game design.
So apart from the great design, soundtrack and how everything flowed what stood out to me about Fez? I can sum this up with a simple image and that is of Gomez smiling.
That image is probably the best representation I can show to someone as to why I started playing video games and got interested in development. It takes me back to when my mom first got me my NES and played through Super Mario Bros. The excitement and the almost uncontrollable joy when you first finish a level. I think we have lost a bit of that today with AAA games that are pushed with these massive budgets.
What do both of these games have in common? They focus on the details that I appreciate and don’t have stiff penalties for mistakes. I’ll end it this week with the first 15 minutes of Fez. I recommend anyone who is even remotely interested in video games to consider buying this game and enjoy the ride. It is an experience that helped me get to where I am today in development.