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Modern Dating In The Future

Date
June 2022
5 weeks
Tools
Google Forms, Figma, Notion
Services
Speculative Fiction, Design Research, UX/UI Design

Speculative fiction design piece on modern dating and AI algorithms.

This project was for our senior capstone thesis for the Interaction Design program. We had the choice of working individually or in a team to research, design, evaluate, and create an innovation idea to solve a specific problem. 

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Project Overview

This was a group project in a team of 4. I was the user researcher and ux/ui designer. I designed the survey, competitive analysis, performed outreach and organized participants for user testing, designed wireframes and high fidelity prototypes. 

Project Overview

How might we start a discussion on modern dating and how algorithms play a larger part in our decision making than we may think.

Project Overview

The Problem

The way people connect and date has been influenced by the way technology, specifically dating apps, have been designed. Dating apps are designed to categorize people through filters on height, ethnicity, occupation, and more. However these filters are poor indicators of a sustainable relationship and instigate discrimination by contributing to people’s biases when trying to find matches. 

Project Overview

The Solution

With this in mind, we knew the most productive thing to do wasn’t creating another dating app, but rather to start a conversation about how we respond to the influence of them. Even though dating apps play a role in the issue, we still have a choice in the way we respond to them.

Project Overview

Insights

Algorithms will always be inherently bias because they are created by humans who are inherently bias. Therefore it is not entirely the fault of the algorithm to blame in people’s decision-making processes. It has more to do with human behavior and individual choices in spite of the algorithim’s influence. 

People do not always want to change when presented with their bias. Dating algorithims contribute to physical biases people have when swiping through matches. We tested what would happen if people became aware of these biases and learned to respect the fact that not everyone will want to change. 

Dating apps don’t make money finding you a relationship the same way casinos don’t make money when you win. They are designed to keep users hooked.

Research

First Things First, Survey!

We designed a survey on Google forms to gain quantitative and qualitative data on our target audience. The goal of the survey was to better understand users pain points and their behaviors on dating apps. We sent the survey over Instagram which was shared by SMC’s career services account, Facebook groups, and to friends who have used dating apps.

Do people like the swiping concept on dating apps?
We were surprised at how split the answers were.

Results from survey question: Do people like the swiping concept on dating apps?

Insights

Well written bio & common interest are most important

Singles are interested in a strong bio and common interests.

Displaying age is a key factor

Singles want to see age and answers to prompts and questions.

Swiping interaction is ambivalence among users

50/50 on liking or disliking swipe concept.

Disjointed Communication

There's different levels of potential when people form connections.

Connections play a significant role

Singles care most about the connections they’re making and levels of investment they’re willing to take. There's different levels of potential when people form connections.

Field Research: Speed Dating

Research

We Attended Virtual Speed Dates

For our research, two of us attended a speed-dating event hosted by The Zero Date where we rapidly interview a total of 6 people. We wanted to know why singles are seeking alternatives to popular dating apps such as Tinder, Bumble, and Hinge. 

Hypothesis

Singled out singles who want relationships are using mixer events to meet people in person instead of using dating apps.

Observational research goals

  •       Learn if video speed dates worked for them in the past and why?
  •      Whether singled out singles are the main audience seeking dating app alternatives
  •      Gain a perspective on current singles 
  •      Learn why people are seeking an alternative to online dating platforms
Research

We Interviewed a PHD Certified Sex and Relationship Psychologist

“When we exist in a culture, and we create what is desirable we have to undo the problematic messaging, we have to keep working on these systemic issues.” - Dr. Jess
Research

Designing for Modern Dating

At Config, a conference hosted by Figma, we attended a talk on designing for modern dating by Hinge VP of Design Lindsay Norman. The talk served as a check-point in our research process as we compared and contrasted the pain points identified by Hinge. We shifted our project direction to a more speculative approach after this talk.

Insights

The power of the prompt

The Hinge app's design differs from swiping apps by adding friction to the app in the form of prompts. Prompts guide users by tailoring their dating profiles that allows users’ to express their personalities.

User pain points on hinge

Hinge identified four core problems—efficiency, signal (profiles not matching personality), responsiveness, and dissatisfaction with the dating pool. Recognizing these issues as similar to our own discoveries, we wondered whether we could redirect our project in order to go beyond creating another niche dating app.

Gauging chemistry with voice prompts

Hinge introduced a new voice-prompted feature in their app, and the response was positive. The company credits its success to going viral on TikTok, but it also made sure to personalize the experience by reducing the noise (and number of decisions) users had to make.

Lindsay Norman's presentation on designing for modern dating at Config 2022

Research

Research Synthesis

After weeks of researching the relationship between dating apps and human behavior, we hosted several brainstorm sessions to start figuring our main points.

What were some of the most important takeaways for people to know and what did we want to create that could further the conversation on our research?

Research Synthesis

Insights

Affection is shaped by culture

The objects of our affections are shaped by our cultural environments, as well as the affordances of the platforms that facilitate intimate interactions. Dating apps like Tinder play a role in facilitating romance, but it does force users behaviors or actions. There is still a much larger societal component that is more difficult to analyze in modern romance.

Our take on swiping

The swiping concept is great from a design perspective since it emulates the natural sensation of how the human mind works, but it is terrible for mental health. It’s an addictive behavior that rewards instant gratification with dopamine.

We thought about different micro-interactions that could replace the swiping concept, and ultimately decided that our focus should be on creating conversations for others to join us on how we can reimagine something better.

The door for discussion

Our team hosted several brainstorm sessions that were rich in their depth and diversity of ideas. However, we ultimately felt that we needed to move forward with one idea we could use as the door for discussion. Our other ideas were not feasible and would require extensive testing.

Mindmap of online dating problems we could focus on

Research Synthesis

Insights

Affection is shaped by culture

The objects of our affections are shaped by our cultural environments, as well as the affordances of the platforms that facilitate intimate interactions. Dating apps like Tinder play a role in facilitating romance, but it does force users behaviors or actions. There is still a much larger societal component that is more difficult to analyze in modern romance.

Our take on swiping

The swiping concept is great from a design perspective since it emulates the natural sensation of how the human mind works, but it is terrible for mental health. It’s an addictive behavior that rewards instant gratification with dopamine.

We thought about different micro-interactions that could replace the swiping concept, and ultimately decided that our focus should be on creating conversations for others to join us on how we can reimagine something better.

The door for discussion

Our team hosted several brainstorm sessions that were rich in their depth and diversity of ideas. However, we ultimately felt that we needed to move forward with one idea we could use as the door for discussion. Our other ideas were not feasible and would require extensive testing.

Determining what avenue to pick; crowdsourcing or AI predictions

Design

design / Prototyping

AI Predicts Your Love Life

Algorithms are biased

All algorithms have biases because they are made by people and people have biases which transfer into algorithms. 

The message

People are dependent on algorithms, and they aren’t aware of it. AI predictions show users what their future might be like with potential matches. Will people change their decision-making in dating if they knew their future?

AI Predicts Your Love Life Mock-Ups

design / Prototyping

You Have a Type!

Exposing people to their biases

Exposing how the algorithm categorizes people and showing  users their tailored preferences. 

The message

Everyone has a type, and the algorithm even knows it. Bias Reminders helps bring awareness to peoples unconscious biases. What if the algorithm called you out on your biases? How would you react to this?

You Have A Type Mock-Ups

design / Prototyping

Your Trash is Full

We live in a disposable world

Dating apps and swiping specifically have enabled people to view others as disposable. Swiping is a micro interaction that occurs when you are liking or disliking a potential match. This microinteraction can be executed within seconds which allows for users to swipe a hundred, maybe even a thousand people daily. 

The message

People view others as disposable because of the way dating apps are created to function and your money is being exploited to use premium features. Once you swipe left (dislike) on 100 people your trash will become full and you’ll have the option to either review trash or have to pay to empty it. This gives the disliked profiles another chance of getting a match. 

Your Trash Is Full Mock-Ups

design / Prototyping

Plan B’s

Gone without a trace

Ghosting is a direct side effect of the algorithm overwhelming you with thousands of matches. You may unintentionally leave someone hangs just because you have 50 other possible people you’re interested in. 

The message

Being more mindful of how we treat others online. When people end conversations with others online without an explanation the other person is often left wondering what happened. This ghosting feature will unmatch you after 2 weeks if the conversation ends and you will have 24 hours to either revive the chat or let it expire.

But don’t worry, you can still view these expired matches in settings under Plan B’s. Cause you know, just in case whoever you're talking to now doesn’t pan out. 

Plan B's Mock-Ups

design

User Testing

We talked to 4 different people who have familiarity with dating apps to better understand their opinion and to start a discussion with them on our concept. The goal of our testing was to validate or rebuke our research assumptions, discuss the 4 features we created, and to get ideas about how to move forward.

Insights

Make it easy to understand

The 4 ideas we presented were difficult to understand from an outside perspective. One user told us that we needed to find a way to make our ideas more simple without having to explain how it worked. 

Biased reminders may fail

We operated our project under the assumption that dating app algorithms contribute to the bias people share and these biases are problematic. We assumed that when presented with these biases that people would change, however after user testing, we realized that not everyone operates under the lens that biases can be problematic. One of our users even told us that some people may be proud and accepting to admit their biases.

Think about human behavior 

After doing user testing, we realized our concepts asked people to do too much. We were creating features without realizing how opposite human behavior is. For example, dating apps are built around swiping because it is instant gratification. Our concepts asked users to go through slow processes of interactions.

Screenshot of user testing on Zoom

design

Iterations

design

Final Design Concepts

Summary

Summary

What did I find challenging?

Picking one idea

It was difficult to narrow down and solve one problem. We had so many amazing discussions on what our solutions could be, but we not able to come to a decision on our own. We hit a wall and had to reach out to others for advice.

Summary

What would I do differently?

Clear deadlines to keep the project moving

Have more established deadlines when we will move onto a next phase. For example, we spent many weeks on the research phase, but in retrospect it took away from our ideation phase so it felt rushed towards the end.

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