Classic Dating Sites (OkCupid, Match) vs. Swipe Apps (Tinder, Bumble) – Which Is the Better Match for You?

There are so many options in the big sea of online dating that most of us simply can’t invest the time and effort to really try all of the available services and find the right one for us.

The purpose of this review is to help you decide which kind of dating service is the right fit for you: Classic sites like match.com, or OkCupid, where you can see and write to all other members (supposedly, more on that later), or more modern and allegedly superficial swipe based dating apps like Tinder or Bumble.

While reviewing these opposing philosophies, we will mainly compare OkCupid to Tinder, as the champions of their respective camp. They are also both free to use (really, including messaging members), with some premium quality of life features. Let’s start with the basics:

How does it all work?

The process of creating your profile and getting into contact with potential matches can vary greatly from app to app.

OkCupid

Profile Creation

As a more classic dating site, OkCupid lays a great deal of importance on offering an in depth view of your personality and trying to find someone supposedly fitting that personality. As such, you can expect to invest a lot of time into crafting your profile.

After selecting some attractive pictures of yourself to showcase and answering a few questions about your personality, you face a task many of us would rather avoid: Give a description of yourself. And not just a few words. You are expected to write at least a few free paragraphs about yourself first, and then fill in the remaining sections like “Aspirations”, “Talents”, “Hobbies”, etc.

Finally, to make the system really work, you should answer more questions about your personality. You can answer thousands, but should at least complete two or three hundred. Answer honestly, and think about how important your ideal mate’s answers are to you.

All of this gives you a relatively detailed personality profile that OkCupid then matches to other users, giving the two of you a compatibility percentage to help you identify great matches at a glance, before reading their profile. At least in theory.

Messaging

Once you have finished your profile – your ideal representation of yourself – it’s time to attract a mate. You can do that by just waiting for someone to find you and like your style, but only really if you’re a woman. As a guy, you’ll have to get out there and get in people’s faces to call attention to yourself.

A male OkCupid user trying to attract a mate.

A male user trying to attract a mate.

I.e. you have to write first messages to potential matches. That means reading their profile and finding some conversation starter like a shared love for a mutual hobby, or a question about something they said. You should put in enough effort to show you care and read what they had to say, but not so much effort that you seem obsessed with them.

And then you wait. Actually, you shouldn’t wait for a reply, but just keep going and reaching out to people you might like, instantly forgetting about them after sending you message so as not to feel too disappointed if they don’t respond. Because the reality is a vast majority of your efforts of love will go unnoticed or ignored. Getting a reply on about 10% of your messages is normal.

After that, the real conversations start. You can expect most of them to feel like writing emails, meaning longer texts that will be answered maybe once or twice a day. Some of them might not die out and actually result in a date.

Tinder

Profile Creation

As per its reputation, Tinder goes about things in a more superficial manner. The most important part of your profile is the images you add, so you should really make sure to use the right ones (see: Ground Rules for Dating Profile Pictures).

You also get a small bio space to describe yourself, but due to character limitations you won’t get beyond keywords or a short paragraph. Many opt for just a (funny) sentence or two.

Finally, you can link your Instagram and/or spotify account to let yome more of your personality shine through.

All in all, creating a Tinder profile is a quick affair. Though optimizing it for more success is a different story.

Swiping / Messaging

Once your Profile is all set up for success, you can get to swipin’. As opposed to OkCupid, you can’t send messages to just anyone; You have to match with them first. This means you swipe right (Like) or left (Nope) on the profile (main pictures) Tinder shows you, or tap to open the whole profile and see the rest of their pics and read their bio (if applicable).

The whole process can be quite addictive and fun, as long as you get a match every once in a while.

If someone you liked likes you too, that’s a match and you can now find them in the corresponding screen and start chatting with them. Tinder chats tend to be more agile and along the lines of texting rather than writing emails. You’ll also have to cope with shorter attention spans, as chats that don’t lead to asking for a number or date within a few days tend to fizzle out in favor of a more interesting conversation.

Addendum

Note that OkCupid has been shifting from website to app rather heavily in recent years, and has become more similar to Tinder in that they also offer swiping and matching mechanics now, with the difference that this is not necessary to contact people and seems to have virtually no effect on the likelihood of them responding.

The core experience is still the one of the original web version, and since we’re comparing dating service philosophies, that’s the one we’re going with.

OkCupid and Tinder’s Users Base / Whom You Can Expect to Find Where

As mentioned, Tinder has the reputation to be more superficial than OkCupid. Though I would (and will later) argue that this is not necessarily a bad thing, it does mean the app attracts different users in general than OkCupid does. Especially considering Tinder also has a bit of a “hook-up app” reputation as well, though you may find yourself disappointed if you believe that.

Well first off, you can find all kinds of people on both services of course. That being said, people looking for relationships and taking dating more seriously, as well as people enjoying personality quizzes, graphs, and data, i.e. geeks like me tend to gravitate more towards OkCupid, while those just looking for some lighthearted dating/fun towards Tinder. That doesn’t mean you can’t find a relationship on Tinder, or a hookup on OkCupid though.

Depending on where you live, there may not be many active users on OkCupid, while Tinder in general sports a much larger user base. Chances are you’ll run out of people to write to before you run out of people to swipe on.

The crowd on both services tends to be on the younger side, while match.com or bumble will sport more middle-aged professionals (though by far not exclusively).

(Unexpected) Similarities and Other Details

Categorizing Users by Attractivenes

While it is relatively well known that Tinder uses an algorithm to assign people attractiveness scores, fewer people are aware that so does OkCupid. If you thought that OkCupid lets you see and be seen by all other users (as they themselves claim), you were sorely mistaken.

From the same official page on OkCupid premium features:

With a basic account, you can see all of your potential matches, send and receive likes (we’ll even let you know if you like each other, for free!), and send and receive messages.

Premium A-List:
– All of the features of Standard A-List, plus:
– One automatic boost per day during prime time 
– See everyone’s public answers to their questions before you answer
– See and be seen by more attractive matches

While that might seem like nitpicking at semantics, I can tell you from experience that you do actually see profiles that were hidden before if you pay for “Premium A-List”. I can say that with certainty because there were only about 500 profiles or so in my region, all of which I had visited before, and upon becoming a premium member I suddenly saw about 200 additional profiles of vastly more attractive people than the previous average.

Speaking of paying:

Premium Plans

Both Tinder and OkCupid offer premium plans with various features of varying usefulness.

I believe Tinder has some useful features that enhance the experience greatly (such as Rewind and Passport), as well as some use- but also harmless ones like Tinder Gold for example. See here for a complete evaluation of Tinder’s premium features.

OkCupid’s premium plans on the other hand range from useless (search by body type; see who likes you) to creepy (search by body type; message read receipts; read answers before answering yourself; incognito mode; etc.) with some useful ones sprinkled in, like seeing all users regardless of your attractiveness caste.

Both Tinder and OkCupid are Owned by the Match.com Group

Title basically says it all, but the match group bought OkCupid around 2014, which is roughly when they started pushing the app and making OkCupid more similar to the newer and tremendously successful Tinder.

Pictures Are All That Matters!

Despite OkCupid’s best efforts to put personality above all else and attempts to make its users do the same, what quickly becomes clear is that your pictures play the biggest role in whether or not someone will write or reply to you.

The standard process is:

  1. See thumbnail
  2. If remotely attractive, check match rating
    1. If very attractive, disregard poor match rating
  3. Open profile, see if interesting, find commonalities/things to write about
    1. If not interesting but very attractive, find one commonality/interesting detail and cling to it
      1. If all else fails, just write to the attractive person anyway, say hi at least.
  4. Check pictures again and write message if still attracted.

After all the effort you put in your profile and answered questions, all (most) people really care about when looking at your carefully crafted display is your pictures and whether you are attractive to them. And that’s just human nature. Nobody wants to be with someone they don’t find attractive, including you, probably.

Even OkCupid knows and admitted as much. They used to have a really cool blog called OkTrends, where they would evaluate user data and conduct interesting experiments. In their last entry before they were acquired by the match group, entitled “We Experiment On Human Beings!”, they came to the conclusion that pictures are the determining factor in matching and profiles and personality tests don’t matter (nearly as much).

Here’s a relevant excerpt:

In short, according to our users, “looks” and “personality” were the same thing, which of course makes perfect sense because, you know, this young female account holder, with a 99th percentile personality:

…and whose profile, by the way, contained no text, is just so obviously a really cool person to hang out and talk to and clutch driftwood with.

Proof

Since then, they have moved their blog over to medium and for some reason deleted/excluded that article. I guess the new regime thought it better if that particular piece of information was kept from the users. I do know I’m not imagining things, because I found other blog posts referencing the same article (with dead links).

But alas, the web archive is a thing that exists and so I can proudly present to you the original “We Experiment On Human Beings!” blog post by OkCupid themselves. Enjoy.

Dating Service Philosophies – Personal Opinions

Swiping is more efficient

So, even OkCupid knows pictures are all that really matters, and in my Opinion, Tinder is just cutting to the chase. Why go through all the effort of creating an extremely detailed and thorough self description and personality profile, when people will decide whether to reply to your messages based on primarily your looks anyway?

Speaking of messages, I believe it’s just so much more efficient to delay the messaging part until both people have expressed their attraction to one another. That way, you’re not spending time and effort writing meaningful first messages to people who will look at your thumbnail and go “Nope.” Instead, by the time you get to writing, you already know they like your looks. Now you can only screw it up with your personality and boring messages. (But I do have some tips on that).

Conversations flow more naturally on Tinder

Of course looks are not all that matters, and you want to know you’re compatible with someone before you start dating. At least you should feel like there’s a good chance you will be. So from that viewpoint, it makes sense to have as much info as possible in your profile. The problem is what should enable conversations turns out to be detrimental to them.

When you already know all about a person’s stances and interests before even starting the conversation, you take out some very essential conversational and emotional fuel: Getting to know each other. Discovering commonalities or interesting opinions that can then lead to deeper conversations.

Coupled with Tinder conversations flowing better by default because they feel more like texting rather than emailing, and people being more inclined to reply to a relatively short message on the go, means chatting with love interests on Tinder has a greater potential to be a joy, rather than a chore.

Conclusion

Swiping apps like Tinder or Bumble are just more fun to use, and despite the more light hearted, superficial approach and the hookup app reputation, I was able to form not only more but deeper connections on Tinder than on personality focused sites like OkCupid, match, or eharmony (and some others), and finally found my “one” on Tinder.

Your mileage may vary.

What do you think? Would you like to share your own experience? Feel free to leave a comment below, or visit the SwipeHelper Subreddit. See you there 🙂

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