Internet dating has evolved from asking a person of interest “A/S/L?” in an ISP’s chat room to browsing dozens upon dozens of profiles at dedicated online dating services—OkCupid among them. This people-matching service removes the barrier of entry by letting users search for potential partners—and contact them, as well—for free! Truly free, not “free” with numerous limitations that are removed when you pony up cash. OKCupid offers a better free product than rival free site Plenty of Fish, but lacks eHarmony’s deep feature set, matchmaking magic, and overall slickness.
You begin by creating an OkCupid account and answering the seemingly endless questions that the service uses to discover compatible partners via a mathematical matching formula. Most top dating site do this, but OkCupid stands out because it not only asks you a question, but demands that you label its importance and how you’d ideally like a potential date to answer. Plenty of Fish, on the other hand, has a set amount of questions, but the queries aren’t as in-depth as OkCupid’s. Plus, OkCupid allows you to type in a brief question addendum if you’d like to further explain your answer for clarification purposes—a nice touch.
OkCupid gives you a short personality run down that describes your dating style after you answer a chunk of questions, but it isn’t anywhere near as in-depth as Plenty of Fish’s which offers a ton of highly accurate info, despite pressing you with fewer questions.
Interface and Profiles
OkCupid’s left column houses most of its important goodies. You can check out Matches (which lets you look for others based on user-selected criteria), Messages (your inbox), Visitors (people who’ve viewed your profile), QuickMatch (lets you rate potentials on a five-star scale), Events (local happenings where you’ll find other OkCupid members), a section that displays who’s online of the people you’ve favorited, and recently visited and recommended profiles. You start with one recommended profile slot, but unlock more as you answer questions (for a maximum of three slots). OkCupid’s layout is vastly superior to Plenty of Fish’s ancient, borderline repulsive design, but nowhere near as attractive as eHarmony’s beautiful website.
The OkCupid profile components are essentially guided questions presented in fill-in-the-blank-sections such as “My Self Summary” and “On a typical Friday night I am….’” They prompt users to provide a general information, yet still allow for answer flexibility. For example, “The Six Things I Could Never Do Without…” section lets users answer questions as they see fit.
Profiles contain the expected information (photos, age, body type, ethnicity, location, income, etc.), but also toss in additional sections based on how well you’re matched with a fellow member. OKCupid serves up a numerical percentage based on “Match,” “Friendship,” and “Enemy.” Naturally, you’ll want that Match percentage to be as high as possible.
If you see “Ya’ll Got Issues,” it’s probably best to not message or IM that person because the OkCupid secret matching sauce doesn’t think you’re compatible. When OkCupid finds a good match, “The Two of Us” and “Personality” tabs appear. The former showcases how you and your interest answered the personality quiz questions; the latter shows how the person ranks in regards to the OkCupid masses (a person may be “More Outgoing” or “Less Sex-Driven,” for example).
The match search feature, while it does provide adequately detailed filters, did not produce a wide range of results. I would often see the same users from one day to the next, which was discouraging and made the site seem stagnant.
Thankfully, OkCupid doesn’t truncate profiles like Plenty of Fish, which asks that you buy a premium subscription (starting at $6.78 per month) to view them in their entirety.
Members who sign up for the $4.95 per month A-List premium service enjoy an ad-free experience, photo albums, read receipts for sent messages, additional filtering options (for example, you can only choose to see four- or five-star rated people in your results), the ability to see who’s rated you highly, higher placements within search results, and more. For those who’d rather browse OKCupid with discretion, the A-list membership also lets users browse profiles while keeping their traces under wraps. Normally, people are alerted when you view their profiles unless you opt to go “Invisible” in settings. Doing that also sparks a tradeoff—people can’t see that you’ve visited, but you can’t see their entire profiles.
OkCupid lets users boost their profiles’ visibility by shelling out some extra coin. Boosts are available in single boost ($2), five boost ($1.90), and ten boost ($1.70) packages. In fact, OkCupid claims that you’ll see a whole day’s worth of activity within a few minutes. A boast puts you ahead of the non-boosting pack in results for a total of 15 minutes, and a running tally of the number of people who can potentially view your profile is kept in the right column. Out of the 2601 times I was placed in front of someone, five people actually clicked through to my profile. I’m not sure if that’s great for two bucks, or horrible for thousands of impressions. Plenty of Fish has a similar feature that’s part of the larger subscription fee—you can’t purchase it separately. I like OkCupid’s flexibility in that regard.
Kara in the City
PCMag.com Commerce Editor, Kara Kamenec, also explored OkCupid to make sure we had both men’s and women’s perspectives. She also actually went on some dates, too. Kara was first contacted by an OKCupid bachelor via message. The member in this case—let’s call him “OKCB”—displayed a sense of confidence that walked a thin line between arrogance and charm. They initially communicated via OkCupid’s messaging system, but it quickly lead to text messages, and eventually a date.
Kara met OKCB during the day at a bar and restaurant. His OKCupid profile had provided enough physical details that she easily identified him when she arrived at the location. The details section of OKCB’s profile, where basic appearance and lifestyle features are selected from drop down menus, had been filled in truthfully and accurately, and it reflected his height and body structure. OKCB’s profile provided sufficient points of interest to spark initial topics of conversation, and profile verbiage and approach to open ended questions did correctly reflect his in-person attitude and demeanor. He was sarcastic and witty enough to hold her interest.
OKCupid’s matching percentages were not too far off base; Kara and OKCB were given an 83 percent match rank (Kara would’ve reduced the number down to 73 percent). The first in-person date resulted in an invite for a second date later in the week. All in all, the experience wasn’t exactly what Kara expected, but OKCB was intriguing and she wanted to see him again. Not a bad result for OKCupid!
Shot to the Heart
OkCupid’s matching science is somewhat disappointing as it functions more as a gatekeeping filter than a proactive matching algorithm. It accurately alerts users who had a low match score, but when it came to members with more positive scores, it was of trivial use. There’s little difference when comparing users who were a 65 percent match and those who were an 85 percent match. Additionally, 90 percent matches were few and far between. We’re not sure if this says something about us, or if the top tier of OKCupid’s results are just needlessly out of reach.
The free OkCupid, with its well-designed interface, open-ended questions, and low-cost premium features, is a solid online dating site that puts no-cost rival-Plenty of Fish-to shame. OkCupid lacks some of eHarmony’s cooler features (the impressive design and members-only virtual phone numbers, to name a few), but it’s an affordable, functional alternative for those who don’t need the extra bells and whistles.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc