Swipe right if you like what you see, swipe left if it’s a pass.
It’s a simple basis for interaction, and yet the simple transition has proven compelling enough to propel Tinder into the very heart of the app world. Boasting 10 million users after just two years in operation, the popular dating app is a success whether you understand its appeal or not.
The question is: What, in particular, has allowed the patented Tinder swipe to stretch so far beyond the world of dating into the territories of real estate, commerce, and even recreational marijuana? Better yet, what kinds of cues can designers take from this simple transition to implement in their own work? Here are five of the most important insights that Tinder has to offer for the mobile experience.
Reflect on Real Human Behaviors
One of the first thoughts a user might have upon firing up Tinder for the first time is that the whole experience feels somewhat … superficial. Is there not, after all, something inherently wrong about basing a relationship on a picture alone?
According to Tinder’s creators, the answer is no. In an interview with Fast Company, co-founder Sean Rad outlined a typical “sizing-up” scenario: “You see somebody. You start with their face. If you find a connection, you continue to understand, 'what are our common interests, our social groups?' You’re trying to create validation. From there, you open a dialog. Where that goes is up to a person.”
In the scheme of things, Tinder is no worse at producing connections than a night at the bar. And even though it might come across as shallow, designers shouldn’t be afraid of crafting experiences that put user instincts front-and-center. It doesn’t matter how vain or superficial your user experience looks on the surface; if you can tap into and streamline a common form of behavior, you’re sure to get a response.
Keep Things Simple
Simplicity is one of the most common virtues of good UX design, but the Tinder swipe has taken the concept to its extreme. Because the entire Tinder experience revolves around the acts of swiping and chatting, the user base has a tendency to interpret any added functionality as invasive and unnecessary.
In June, Tinder gave users the ability to share Snapchat-like “Moments” with their matches. And while the feature probably hasn’t averted many users, they’re walking a slippery slope. Not only did it raise questions about whether or not the app was beginning to abandon its original mission, some critics found “Moments” to be nothing more than an annoyance.
With ease-of-use standing at the top of the mobile priority list, it’s essential to take a data-driven approach toward new features, implementing robust analytics tools wherever possible. Even though Tinder is surely keeping close tabs on this sort of thing, the critical reaction toward “Moments” shows that even the smallest of interface updates can potentially alienate users instead of satisfying them.
The Ephemeral Power of the Swipe
Tinder’s FAQ Page addresses one of the first concerns that every user will eventually confront:
Q: I accidentally left-swiped someone, can I get them back?
A: Nope, you only swipe once! #YOSO
When a user swipes a face away, there’s no going back. It’s gone. The limitation gives the entire Tinder browsing experience a grave finality—which seems to contradict the app as a no-pressure connector of people. But the inability to regain swipes isn’t an inconsistency—it’s one of Tinder’s defining characteristics.
By preventing users from reneging on their split-second decisions, Tinder actually helps to alleviate the stress of the selection process.
We’ve seen it before with the apps like Snapchat, but a certain amount of ephemerality in interface design can actually add value under the right circumstances. Without being able to revisit past decisions, users can focus on the “now” of what’s happening, and can look forward to future swipes without regretting the potential matches they might have rejected. #YOSO (You Only Swipe Once) as a Tinder buzz-phrase might come off as completely ridiculous, but as a concept it actually holds sway.
Keep it Trustworthy
To allow themselves to be judged by hundreds of people on a daily basis, every Tinder user has to have an innate trust in the platform, or the whole thing simply wouldn’t work.
By linking every Tinder profile to a pre-existing Facebook account, users only have to submit the details they’ve already made visible to others. Users are also covered when it comes to profile stalking or unsolicited messages, since no chatting can occur until two users have confirmed mutual interest. With the added ability to spot mutual friends between potential matches, Tinder’s dodginess factor is kept to a minimum, which is probably one of the main drivers behind the app’s success.
Present the Right Information
One of Tinder’s strengths is the way it minimizes the fear of rejection that has historically inhibited the dating process. By not showing users how many times they’ve been rejected, the app keeps its audience in the dark in a way that benefits its user base.
When observed from this angle, it’s clear that as an app, Tinder is simply a collection of elements that work in tandem to diminish the bite of rejection. Whether it’s the quick-swipe selection process, the one-touch Facebook login or the simple design, Tinder is minimalistic by necessity. Where other dating services seek to be comprehensive with personality tests, social profiles, and matchmaking algorithms, Tinder has taken the alternate route of approachability and convenience.
While the final product might seem superficial, there’s something to be learned from the way Tinder’s UX elements work together to create a cohesive whole. And even though the overall model won’t work in every scenario, there are certainly pieces of the Tinder experience that designers can use to enhance their own efforts.