Project Info This is a MFA thesis project.
Timeline September 2015 – Present.
Role and Responsibilities Founder, content creator and designer of all the assets in this project, including video and marketing materials. Front-end development is also completed by Eliana Feng. Back-end development is completed by Eliana Feng and another developer.
The key to solving the love equation, HotDate is a question game that focuses upon the critical aspects of social behavior and communication that drives human attachment. It is designed to be an extension and enhancement of current dating technologies. By reusing online matchmaking data — i.e OkCupid match questions, HotDate helps online daters continue the chemistry established by online trust proxies onto a real life situation, or more simply, the first date.
The problem with the current online dating system is that on the one hand, the so-called online “dating” platforms do not facilitate actual dates; on the other hand, the online trust proxies that have been used to help establish perceived affinity between two online daters in the first place, do not carry into an actual date.
Because online trust proxies are abstract, there is a higher probability that online daters would experience trouble establishing connection on a first date.
HotDate proposes to mitigate the risks of ‘bad date” experiences, and help online daters establish better rapport on a first date.
The user scenario was created based on extensive research on the user experience pattern of a first date. An important premise of playing HotDate is that there is a mutual attraction between two daters. About 75% into a first date when two daters are more comfortable with and have gained some basic knowledge about each other, they are searching for more topics to talk about. HotDate can help to spice up the date and break down physical boundaries at this point.
Domain Research I started this project with extensive research on the domain of online dating. Based on my research analysis, I created a data visualization that showcases the research analysis of the differences between 16 most popular online dating platforms currently live in the market (Fig.6).
Precedent Research 36 Questions to Fall In Love is the precedent that inspired the conceptualization and content creation of HotDate. I conducted thorough research on the 36 Questions and the mobile applications that utilize the 36 Questions as conversation starter to help foster closeness between two people.
User Experience Pattern Research As part of design research, I also conducted a survey and research analysis on the user experience pattern of a first date. The survey was created on SurveyMonkey.com, and 71 anonymous responses were collected fromSurveyMonkey.com’s paid respondent service. Out of 71 respondents, 33 are male and 38 are female. A first date is categorized into five stages: 0% (the moment when two online daters meet in person for the first time), 25% (25% completion into a first date), 50% (50% completion into a first date), 75% (75% completion into a first date), 100% (the moment when two online daters say goodbye at the end of the date). The user experience pattern of a first date is mapped out in terms of the evolvement of emotions, physical contact and conversation topics. The findings are summarized in Fig.7.
Angela has been doing online dating for 4 years. She has had many first dates, only 30% of which turned into a second date. None of those first dates turned into a relationship. After 4 years of online dating, Angela has been extremely frustrated, and found herself unable to connect with the other person in a meaningful way on a first date.
Human-Device Interaction Design A sample of OkCupid questions were tested on 10 OkCupid dates to evaluate three possible ways of interactions. Human-Device Interaction I is such that daters would receive text prompts of the match questions at random timing during a date. Human-Device Interaction II is such that two people would take turn to send each other a surprise question with their own device. Human-Device Interaction III is such that two people would view and discuss all the match questions on one device.
The above three interactions were prototyped with both paper and digital prototypes (Fig.10).
The findings from the testings show that users normally don’t check their phones during first dates and almost didn't notice the text prompts. Therefore this experience has to be a human-initiated and mutually consented activity. Instead of two devices, HotDate is designed to a share activity on one device that colocates two people.
Proof Of Concept As opposed to an organic flow of conversations, does relying on external conversation materials help enhance the first date experience? The user feedbacks from the 10 OkCupid dates have validated the assumption that relying on external conversation starter, or specifically, OkCupid match questions, helps improve the first date experience.
“I think i learned way more about my date in the ten minute of questions than the hour before that.” — Dylan
“It took the pressure off the situation, or the stress off meeting someone new because it is a shared activity.” — Michael
“Great conversation material. It helps you laugh. It easily provides the juicy questions that are too scary/weird to bring up yourselves.” — Jim
“It really fast forwarded some of the deeper conversations as some of the subjects we talked about are more difficult to come up organically. It also helped with awkward pauses.” — Nick
Content Strategy The original match questions, such as "how spicy do you want your spicy food to be," could sound a bit interrogating. Inspired by a widely popular party game Cards Against Humanity, I redesigned the match questions into the format of fill-in-the-blanket, such as "I like my spicy food to be ______". Inspired by the theory of Five Levels of Intimacy, the content design follows the principle of “a sustained, gradual, reciprocal and personalistic self-disclosure”. The three levels of questions, "mild," "medium," "hot," encourage expressions of personal opinions, feelings, and desires, as shown below. Also inspired by 36 Questions To Fall In Love, Certain questions are redesigned into guessing questions to further encourage reciprocal self disclosure.
Human-Human Interaction Design The design of Human-Human Interaction has gone through multiple rounds of iterations. Inspired by Fingle, the original concept was to encourage finger-touching in the way which daters answer the match questions on the mobile app. The original concept was to sort all the match questions into three types: Yes/No binary, scale, and Multiple-Choice question. Below shows the interaction design for the above three types of match questions:
A live prototype was produced with Ionic Framework (Node.JS, Angular JS). Four pairs of couples participated in play-testing. The first three pairs went on a first date, and the last pair is married. Angela also volunteered in the play-testing. Below is a response from her:
Users have responded that the interface was too touch sensitive. Therefore, in the latest iteration, a rewind function has been added in case users have accidentally skipped questions (Fig.12).
Users, especially female users mentioned they are uncomfortable with the shaming and hygiene questions, which in the latest iteration have been replaced by questions on moral dilemma and future goals (Fig.13).
However, not every user responded favorably to the idea of Hotdate. Jonathan pointed out that he usually moves fast on a first date and it breaks the flow and sexual tension to play HotDate (Fig.14). His feedbacks helped me discover that HotDate is less suitable for people who tend to move fast on a first date.
I created a landing page and Google Adwords campaign for a quick market test (Fig.15). The result shows that the clickthrough rate for HotDate’s Google Ad was 3.21%, which indicates a market potential.
Love has always been considered as a complex subject that takes months or even years to happen. The lab experiment of 36 Questions To Fall In Love suggests that intimacy, or even love can be approached in a scientific way. As writer Len Catron who has experimented 36 Questions To Fall In Love on herself commented, “love didn't happen to us. We’re in love because we each made the choice to be” (Catron 2015). Inspired by 36 Questions To Fall In Love, HotDate is intended to continue the discussion about the reality of love. Following a series of scientific approaches, intimacy, or even love could be expedited.
User feedbacks and responses show that people aren’t as receptive to the use of technology on a date as we might expect. A large portion of the people who have been approached about the concept of HotDate believe that love should naturally happen, and the use of technology on a first date could potentially ruin the date. Some of them suggested that HotDate should be made into card game, which in their opinion, is more “natural”. Ironically, all of the people who have been approached are active users of online dating platforms. In some way, they have accepted the idea that love does not need to happen organically — i.e.running into the one in real life, and that technology could be used to find love. Therefore, why can’t technology be used to discover love on a first date? How the relationship between technology and humanity would further evolve in the future would be something interesting to expect.
HotDate is currently on the stage of further live prototype iterations. It will be launched into the market (Apple Store and Google Play) in a few weeks.