POF.com (A.K.A. Plenty of Fish) has allowed singles to meet other single for over a decade—and the site certainly looks the part. The free, ad-supported online dating site (with a few premium add-ons) features awful design, intrusive ads, usability issues, and a certain class of clientele that were only good for a few chuckles. Still, POF costs nothing to use, and it offers highly detailed personality assessment test results that may help you better understand how you function within a relationship.
Baiting the Rod
You begin the POF journey by creating an account and answering questions in the Chemistry section. These questions assess your personality via five tests—Chemistry, Needs, Psychological, Keeper, Sex—and use the data you feed it to help find a match. There are a set number of questions, unlike OkCupid.com’s vast bank of queries, but they don’t allow you to type in a statement to clarify a point (one of my favorite aspects of OkCupid’s personality tests).
You cannot, however, save your progress as you go, which means that you must complete a test in one sitting. That makes answering the queries a massive chore as some sections contain close to 100 questions. And you have to quickly answer them, too! There were two instances when POF didn’t take my questions due to my session timing out. I had to fill out the 90+ questions all over again! Naturally, I was very, very miffed.
User Profiles and Bad Web Design
Even if you manage to endure answering a hundred questions in one sitting, you may become frustrated with Plenty of Fish’s awful design. POF’s website is difficult and confusing to navigate; it’s the exact opposite of eHarmony’s gorgeous layout. For example, the first images you see when you visit a profile page are photos of other people, not the person you’re interested in checking out. If some of those recommended profile photos look similar to the person you’d intended to check out, it’s very easy to click to those images and accidently go to a new page. It happened to me. Twice. And you have to scroll all the way to the bottom of the screen to favorite a profile—that’s not a very user-friendly design, especially for the person looking to quickly favorite people to contact later.
POF crams nearly important feature into a menu at the top of the site. There you’ll find Inbox, Search, Favorites, the number of people that are currently logged in, and other options. South of that menu is a filter system that lets you refine your searches based on age and location. The meat of the homepage is a gallery of large images displaying various users’ profile images. It gives you a quick look at the eye candy (or lack thereof) that’s available.
The ads are pretty awful, too, and play into some very questionable preferences. I noticed that I, a black man, was being served an unusually high number of ads asking if I wanted white women or needed help finding a white woman. When I set my profile race to white, I was served mostly ads that wanted to know if I wanted Latinas or sugar mamas. It came off as low-end and borderline offensive.
POF’s profiles provide lots of detailed information that you won’t find on other dating sites. You’ll find personal categories such as Birth Order, Personality Type and length of Longest Relationship, and explicitly state your purpose for being on the site (ranging from “No Commitment” to “I’m Serious and I Want to Find Someone to Marry”). POF also lets you weed out some of deal-breakers from the get-go. When filling out your profile you must clarify if you would date someone who is overweight, smokes, or has kids.
POF offers three premium plan tiers—$6.78 per month (for 12 months), $8.50 per month (for six months), $12.90 per month (for three months)–that let you read full profiles, place you first in Meet Me, upload 16 additional images, see if your messages were read or deleted, and more.
Like OkCupid’s “Boost” feature, a POF subscription also puts your profile in front of more eyeballs. That said, I prefer OkCupid’s take on this as it doesn’t require a multi-month subscription and costs just two dollars. Still, I did notice a bump in the number of times my profile was viewed.
Kara’s POF.com Adventure
PCMag.com Commerce Editor Kara Kamenec dove into the world of POF to explore its dating scene. Kara felt that POF functioned more like a social network than a dating site. The messages that she received ranged from sexually explicit to extremely casual, and many of them were just plain unclear. POF Messaging was unduly time consuming, as users treated the messaging function as a chat box. Dozens of emails generally had to be exchanged before Kara was able to exchange numbers with POF users.
“Selfies” were in abundance, and about one out of every twenty profile pictures was that of a shirtless man snapping a photo of his flexed abs with his iPhone. It was also common for users to send the exact same message twice, which made Kara wonder if there was a glitch with the site or app. Kara also noticed users frequently sent on-going messages without receiving a reply to the first, or third. In general, this unsophisticated site seemed to have the correspondingly least-sophisticated users among the sites we tested.
Luckily, the site does have a Block User feature, to immediately cut communication with users if needed. While using POF.com, Kara received the highest concentration of messages by far of all the dating sites we’ve tested. Without fail, Kara received at least one message within the first two- to three-minutes of logging on. She interacted with 50 percent more users on POF than on any other site we tested, but the quality of people was absolutely the worst. Here are two examples of the POF user base.
Kara spoke with POF Bachelor #1 on the phone, which greatly decreased her interest in the person. POF Bachelor #1 didn’t ask out Kara on the call—he just wanted to chat. He asked Kara for a date a few days later via text message—it was an unnecessary step. Kara felt that he should’ve been more assertive. Plus, his immature tone that was not at all reflective of his profile or messaging style. Needless to say, there was no face-to-face meeting.
Bachelor #2 had stated the first thing that people usually comment on about him is his energy. The first thing Kara noticed was his remarkable ability to start a conversation with himself and detail how much money he wanted to make on Wall Street, the cost of his three-bedroom, two-bathroom Manhattan condo, and how much money he wanted to make each year based on the amount of children he would have (the first child ringing up at $3,555,000.00/year, FYI). Once Bachelor #2 finished that rant, he started another conversation about how much he hated wine—yet he chose a wine bar as the date location.
About 30 minutes into the awkward wine bar date where Bachelor #2 discussed money, children, and his numerous television appearances, Kara tried to spot the similarities between his online profile and his in-person demeanor. Bachelor #2 ‘s basic features were accurately described online, such as height and eye color, but his the personality traits he claimed for himself, such as optimism and friendliness, were just plain wrong. Still, it’s probably not reasonable to expect someone to describe themselves as boastful and offputting. Kara pulled the ripcord within an hour, telling a white lie and leaving. Bachelor #2 texted Kara the next day, but she wasn’t interested in seeing him again.
POF has an extremely active user base—you won’t experience a dead community as you would with Kiss.com. That said, in our experience, POF has a surprisingly irritating and narcissistic clientele.
Toss It Back Into the Sea
POF has its problems—lots of them—from the site design to the caliber of its members. In fact, the only thing keeping POF from netting a lower score is that we didn’t experience any billing issues (we did while using Kiss.com). If you want to experiment with a free online dating site, OkCupid is the free service of choice. Let this guppy get away.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc