This website is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.
Online dating comparison chart for 2021
Online dating explained
Online dating websites are a popular way to meet people for dates, romance and relationships. Millions of people use dating websites to improve their chances of finding love and companionship. Dating websites typically let you search and browse through their network of daters, while others use a compatibility matching system to match you with compatible singles. After finding someone you fancy you can use the website to initiate contact and to carry on conversations through email, instant messages or video chat, before arranging a face to face meeting.
Who is online dating for?
There is an online dating website for every kind of person – regardless of your age, sexual inclinations or location. Some dating sites cater for young people who want to browse lots of profiles, chat with people online and go on plenty of dates, while other sites use complex compatibility matching systems to introduce you to people who share complementary traits with you, so you are more likely to get on well, and more likely to start a happy long-term relationship. Most online dating sites have users of all ages – from 18 – 80+. Online dating has gone mainstream, so much so that 18% of married couples (married in the past three years) met through Internet dating.
How does online dating work?
You can either choose an online dating website that gives you access to a large community of users that you can search and browse your way through (and then contact people who catch your eye) or you can opt for a compatibility matching system, which uses your answers to a survey to connect you with compatible people. So you can either do all the searching and evaluating yourself, or choose a website that does the work for you. A key benefit of compatibility matching systems is that you can save a great deal of time by weeding out people who aren’t compatible with you. Several dating sites now offer compatibility matching services.
Compatibility matching is not an exact science, but several online dating sites use a complex compatibility matching process to match you with other users. These websites typically begin with a comprehensive personality test or a relationship questionnaire. Other websites may try to match you to compatible people, but base their results on superficial factors like your age and location. Are you the kind of person who prefers to go looking for love, or would you like a website to offer suggestions? Most online dating websites only give you one of the two approaches – so you either get recommendations or you can browse and search.
Search and browsing
Do you want to browse and search for your ideal partner? Every online dating website has a different approach to browsing and searching, with some giving you smart options like the ability to hide the profiles of people you’ve already seen or people you just don’t like. Others let you search by age, sex, location, likes, dislikes and whether they’re looking for love or just a date. If you choose a dating website that uses compatibility matching, check if they also let you browse profiles, because some limit you to viewing the profiles that they recommend.
After finding someone who catches your eye, you’ll want to start a conversation. Online dating websites offer a wide range of communication methods – ranging from the simplicity of email to the directness of video chat – with some sites giving you pre-scripted options to break the ice. So rather than make you write awkward introductions to strangers, online dating websites often give you an easy way to let someone know you might be interested in dating them. These include winks, nudges, and the option to add people to your ‘favorites’ list – which they are then notified of. Emails, instant messages (IM) and video chat are all great ways to get better acquainted without having to meet people. By getting familiar before you ever meet, you reduce your chances of having disappointing dates. Think about how you feel most comfortable communicating and make sure you choose an online dating site that caters for it.
Your online dating profile has a lot of work to do. Ideally, your profile will reveal your personality, showing people just enough to get them interested, but not so much they get bored. Some online dating websites give you vast profiles, with endless questions and categories to complete, but only allow one profile picture. Other dating websites allow more profile pictures or audio snippets to give a fuller profile. Think about how you are likely to evaluate the profiles you look at – do you prefer to read someone’s words or see a handful of pictures? Do you want the flexibility to write as much as you want, or do you prefer to have some boundaries to focus your attention?
Online dating is not cheap – with many website subscriptions costing as much as a gym membership – so how can you guarantee that you get your money’s worth? Well, it’s worth noting that with online dating, you get out as much as you put in, and to get great results you need to put effort into crafting a good profile complete with pictures that show you at your best. While no dating website can guarantee you’ll find a soulmate, they may promise a minimum number of connections for your money.
Safety & blocking
Although most online dating sites screen applicants to try to weed out fraudsters or dubious characters, there is still a chance that you will receive unwanted attention. So make sure you choose an online dating website that lets you block or report anyone who behaves inappropriately. Once blocked, profiles should not appear in your searches or suggestions, and the users you block should not be able to contact you.
Another benefit of online dating is that you can remain anonymous. By using a user name that is different from your real name, and by keeping all communications within the walls of the dating website, you can retain distance between you and the people you meet. After you’ve established trust with someone, you can gradually reveal your true identity.
Ease of use
As much as you want a technologically advanced dating website, it’s critical that it remains easy to use. You don’t want to be overwhelmed by all the options, or confused by the bad design. Some of the popular online dating websites are as attractive as many of the members, while others look a little tired. The less attractive websites may still be very useful, hiding a vibrant community of users – but will the shabby chic give you a headache before it gets you a date?
Help and support
If you get stuck when trying to communicate with a hot prospect or you can’t upload a picture, will there be someone to ask for help? Good online dating websites have a team of support people ready to fix your problems, or to help when you want to report inappropriate behavior or unwanted attention.
Q. How effective is online dating?
Online dating websites are as good as you make them. You can either choose a ‘search and browse’ dating site, where your chances of finding love are linked to the effort you put into searching and your profile, or you can use a ‘compatibility matching’ website to do some of the work for you. Compatibility matching websites claim to be more effective than traditional dating sites because they only connect you to people you are likely to have things in common with. Read our top tips for successful online dating.
Q. Is online dating safe?
Online dating is relatively safe. Of course, an online dating website is only as safe as the people you choose to meet through the website. While online dating websites may vet applicants and give you a system for reporting inappropriate behavior, you still need to take responsibility for your safety. It’s important that you meet strangers in public places, where you feel comfortable, and that you let people know what you’re doing and where you’re going. Another benefit of online dating websites is that they let you communicate with new people anonymously – you can get to know people without revealing your name, address, phone number or email address. Because you can communicate through the dating website, there’s no need to reveal important information until you’ve established trust.
Q. What are the advantages of subscribing to an online dating website?
Online dating websites often offer a free trial version, so you can create a profile and browse members without paying a penny. However, free trials don’t let you contact other members, and may limit you to a restricted profile. So while it’s great to use the free version to test the website and see if you like it, to get the benefits of online dating you need to subscribe for the full version.
Q. Which online dating website is best if I’m looking for a serious relationship?
Every online dating website has its own focus – some are designed to help you find a lifelong partner, while others cater for people looking for casual dates that might develop into something more serious. While every online dating site has the potential to find you both long-term love and casual romance, if you want a serious relationship, you may prefer to pay for a service that uses compatibility matching to improve your chances.
Q. Why are some online dating services paid and some free?
Free dating websites generally offer a basic service, while paid-for services have a better interface and more careful management of the website. So with a paid-for dating service you can expect the website owners to vet members and monitor messages. Paid-for dating services often attract more serious daters, and filter out non-genuine people, because only committed daters are willing to pay a subscription.
Q. What should I include in my online dating profile?
It’s important to give people a good overview of who you are. It’s not easy to convey your entire personality with just a few words on a web page, but you can give clues to your personality and some sense of what’s important to you. It’s also wise to be honest about significant details that are likely to be deal breakers – like whether or not you smoke or like pets. So talk about your aims, your interests, your passions, whether you prefer nights in or out, whether you’re looking for a serious relationship or a casual fling, where you live and whether you have children or would like to have children in the future.
Q. Why should I upload a photo?
Your chances of meeting someone increase dramatically when you include a picture. Think about it: how likely are you to propose a meeting with someone you can’t even see? Online dating is already mysterious enough, so it’s important that you show people what you look like.
Q. How long should I wait before I meet someone in person?
Only you will know when the time is right, but it’s a good idea to exchange a few messages before you arrange a date. Exchanging emails, IMs or video chats is a great way to weed out weirdoes – you can get a better sense of someone’s character by chatting to them online. Once you’re satisfied that the person seems safe, arrange a meeting in a public place.
Q. Is it a good idea to join more than one dating site?
Joining more than one dating website means you increase your chances of meeting someone. However, online dating websites work best when you invest time in them, so unless you have the time to manage two profiles, start off with one. If you don’t have any luck on that site, move on.
Q. How can I avoid getting unwanted attention when dating online?
In many cases, the best way to avoid unwanted to attention is to ignore inappropriate messages. Unpleasant people are unlikely to pursue contact if they never get a response. You should also report any inappropriate behavior to the website administrators to ensure it doesn’t happen to anyone else.
You answer lots of questions about your personality and past relationships, and the online dating website uses intelligent software to analyse your answers. It then uses your profile to match you with someone suitable.
Some online dating websites offer personality tests which help you define who you are and what’s important to you. Personality tests are typically done online by answering questions or multiple-choice questionnaires.
A multiple-choice quiz that you add to your profile, so people who want to get in touch can answer your questions to show they’re interested.
Initiating contact can be tricky. After finding someone you like, how do you make the first move? Do you send a short message, or a long email? Winks are one solution to this problem – they are a simple and fast way to let someone know you might be interested in them.
Instant messaging (IM)
Lets you chat in real-time with other users. So you can have text conversations with greater speed than if you were using email.
Keep track of the people you like by adding them to your favourites list. Users are notified when you add them as a favourite, so adding people to your list is a great way to show you’re interested.
Your main profile picture. This is the first picture people will see, and it’s the picture most people will see when they browse or search through the website. Some websites allow you to add more pictures to your profile, but your primary photo is the most important – so choose wisely!
If you receive unwanted attention or inappropriate messages, you can block contact from that user.