About 3 months ago, I tore myself away from OkCupid, everyone’s favorite free dating site, to try HowAboutWe, an online dating startup that’s been around a couple of years but is still fairly new to the scene. I found it through someecards, one of the sites with which they’ve partnered (one of the many cool innovations HAW has been engaged in), and at first mistook it for an online dating site for fans of snarky greeting cards. This, of course, is not far from the intended effect, which is to connect interest-based communities and move away from the user-blind “dating warehouse” feel of many established players, such as Match (which, by the way, is now leading from behind by ripping off similar concepts).
HAW instantly sucked me in, not only with a really slick UI and smooth as silk Ruby on Rails design, but the concept of immediately focusing your dating energies on the date from the get-go as and away from selling yourself with cheesy/generic lines to a cataloged list of faces and proclamations to “work hard/play hard.” To be sure, [as a guy] you will still find yourself selling yourself to a cataloged list of faces, but HAW makes it a heck of a lot more fun–and easier. For one, even when you encounter the many annoyingly threadbare profiles giving you absolutely no insights into the Jack or Jill you’re trying to cyber-woo, with the click of a mouse you can indicate that you’re intrigued by their suggestion to “have dinner at an underground supper club led by a secret famous chef,” “stomp around in some puddles on the next rainy day–then warm up in a cafe or bar,” “take a trapeze class, cause why not,” or, of course, “walk the Highline.” With 2 or 3 clicks, you can be a little more proactive and build you own date using the built-in Foursquare geolocator–and maybe throw in a zinger or two if you’re so inclined.
In the last few weeks, I’ve gone on several dates arranged through the site. As always, some noticeable trends emerged. Here are a few:
- Generally, people seem more eager than elsewhere (e.g. OkCupids) to get offline and quicker to offer their numbers. This makes sense. You start talking about doing something fun together, rather than asking if the other person is having a good day or how their Midwestern hometown compares to NYC. And this is positive. If the point of the site is to get offline as quickly as possible, mission accomplished. (The side effect of this is that for people who enjoy a more epistolary start to romance, this might be a bit disappointing. To them I say, look to other sites.)
- Because women likely get flooded with messages the same way they do on other portals, most guys will be tempted to spam ladies with quick date suggestions or just to click “intrigued” on the girls’ dates. This is ineffective and perpetuates an endless loop–girls with too many “intrigues” will inevitably grow weary and numb, and guys will soon stop paying even perfunctory attention to profile details. So it’s really on us to take a more strategic and deliberative approach. Filtering and combining date invitations with personal messages may be the better plan of attack.
- Women (and perhaps men as well, though I haven’t looked) often post amusingly unfeasible date ideas, such as “Let’s omakase at Masa and then bungee jump off the Statue of Liberty while discussing poetry.” I’ve already written about this phenomenon, particular to HAW. I’m sure for many these may serve as ice-breakers or conversation starters, many users might be put off by someone whose first date ideas all list ideas that require a private jet or a secret society membership. On the other hand, these may also serve as good warnings against people who wouldn’t be good matches to begin with. Whatever the case may be, I urge those who take meeting someone, if not the site itself, at least somewhat seriously, to give their date ideas a bit of thought.
- There seem to be a fair number of immigrants from OkCupid. This is not surprising, considering the similar audience and the OkC fatigue all of us awesome online daters have encountered at one point or another. HAW does not guarantee better results, but it can be a really refreshing splash of water that you need after going out with some lamos on OkC or not getting any traction with your messages.
In addition to a nice layout and a very well designed app (with small kinks that can be refined in future updates), I also love their agile approach to future improvements. User feedback is crowdsourced with total transparency, and the top gripes and suggestions are no doubt continually monitored and considered for adoption by the product designers and software engineers. Basically, what few complaints I’ve had (e.g., include a subscriber flag so paid members know they’re not throwing their “dating resume” into a bottomless well of lurkers) have already been levied.
There are no silver bullets in online dating, and HAW is no exception. Success is ultimately based on your level of energy, decent photos, a profile with some semblance of personality, an open mind, and above all a lot of luck in finding chemistry. What HAW is doing better than anyone else at the moment, INMHO, is making the experience much more fun. It feels like a site built by real people, not corporate tools (the founders are childhood friends and former teachers, no less!). You might find your true love, you might find yourself, or you might find VD and sue the bastard. Whatever happens, you might definitely have some fun and discover some awesome new spots in the process.