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Online dating

Online dating websites are a great way to find your perfect partner. You can browse thousands of profiles, chat online with interesting people and arrange off-line dates with promising singles. Full of infinite possibilities, online dating can be a fun, exciting way to find your soulmate.

Online dating comparison chart for 2017

Rank 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Dating Direct
Chemistry
Lavalife
spark
Plentyoffish
Date
Excellent
Five stars means excellent
Very good
Four stars means very good
Good
Three stars means good
Average
Two stars means average /
Poor
One star means poor
Match has been awarded best buy Product image of match Product image of eharmony Product image of zoosk Product image of perfectmatch Product image of dating direct Product image of chemistry Product image of lavalife Product image of spark Product image of plentyoffish Product image of date
 
 
 
Percentage of people who bought this item
75.0% 15.0% 3.0% 0.0% 3.5% 0.0% 1.5% 0.0% 2.0% 0.0%
Lowest price
per month
Ratings
open or close tab
Overall
match has a rating of five for overall eharmony has a rating of five for overall zoosk has a rating of one for overall perfectmatch has a rating of five for overall dating direct has a rating of four for overall chemistry has a rating of five for overall lavalife has a rating of five for overall spark has a rating of four for overall plentyoffish has a rating of four for overall date has a rating of three for overall
Sign up
match has a rating of five for sign up eharmony has a rating of five for sign up zoosk has a rating of four for sign up perfectmatch has a rating of five for sign up dating direct has a rating of three for sign up chemistry has a rating of four for sign up lavalife has a rating of four for sign up spark has a rating of three for sign up plentyoffish has a rating of five for sign up date has a rating of three for sign up
Search
match has a rating of five for search eharmony has a rating of five for search zoosk has a rating of three for search perfectmatch has a rating of five for search dating direct has a rating of four for search chemistry has a rating of four for search lavalife has a rating of four for search spark has a rating of four for search plentyoffish has a rating of three for search date has a rating of two for search
Communication
match has a rating of five for communication eharmony has a rating of five for communication zoosk has a rating of three for communication perfectmatch has a rating of five for communication dating direct has a rating of three for communication chemistry has a rating of four for communication lavalife has a rating of four for communication spark has a rating of five for communication plentyoffish has a rating of four for communication date has a rating of three for communication
Safety
match has a rating of five for safety eharmony has a rating of five for safety zoosk has a rating of three for safety perfectmatch has a rating of five for safety dating direct has a rating of four for safety chemistry has a rating of four for safety lavalife has a rating of four for safety spark has a rating of three for safety plentyoffish has a rating of four for safety date has a rating of three for safety
Ease of use
match has a rating of five for ease of use eharmony has a rating of five for ease of use zoosk has a rating of three for ease of use perfectmatch has a rating of five for ease of use dating direct has a rating of three for ease of use chemistry has a rating of four for ease of use lavalife has a rating of four for ease of use spark has a rating of four for ease of use plentyoffish has a rating of four for ease of use date has a rating of three for ease of use
Help & support
match has a rating of five for help & support eharmony has a rating of four for help & support zoosk has a rating of three for help & support perfectmatch has a rating of four for help & support dating direct has a rating of four for help & support chemistry has a rating of four for help & support lavalife has a rating of four for help & support spark has a rating of four for help & support plentyoffish has a rating of four for help & support date has a rating of three for help & support
Members
open or close tab
Active members
20 million 2 million 2 million 2 million 3.5 million 60,000 18 million 100,000 900,000 30,000
Male / female ratio
39 / 61 32 / 68 65 / 35 40 / 60 49 / 52 35 / 65 65 / 45 50 / 50 53 / 47 55 / 45
Search
open or close tab
Communication
open or close tab
Safety
open or close tab
Reporting
open or close tab
Features
open or close tab
24 hour approval
match includes 24 hour approval eharmony includes 24 hour approval zoosk includes 24 hour approval perfectmatch includes 24 hour approval dating direct does not include 24 hour approval chemistry includes 24 hour approval lavalife includes 24 hour approval spark includes 24 hour approval plentyoffish includes 24 hour approval date includes 24 hour approval
Activity status
match includes activity status eharmony includes activity status zoosk does not include activity status perfectmatch does not include activity status dating direct does not include activity status chemistry does not include activity status lavalife does not include activity status spark does not include activity status plentyoffish does not include activity status date does not include activity status
Browse for free
match includes browse for free eharmony includes browse for free zoosk includes browse for free perfectmatch includes browse for free dating direct does not include browse for free chemistry does not include browse for free lavalife does not include browse for free spark includes browse for free plentyoffish includes browse for free date does not include browse for free
Compatibility tests
match does not include compatibility tests eharmony includes compatibility tests zoosk includes compatibility tests perfectmatch includes compatibility tests dating direct does not include compatibility tests chemistry includes compatibility tests lavalife does not include compatibility tests spark includes compatibility tests plentyoffish includes compatibility tests date does not include compatibility tests
Dating tips & advice
match includes dating tips & advice eharmony includes dating tips & advice zoosk does not include dating tips & advice perfectmatch includes dating tips & advice dating direct includes dating tips & advice chemistry includes dating tips & advice lavalife includes dating tips & advice spark includes dating tips & advice plentyoffish includes dating tips & advice date includes dating tips & advice
Events
match does not include events eharmony does not include events zoosk does not include events perfectmatch does not include events dating direct does not include events chemistry does not include events lavalife does not include events spark does not include events plentyoffish does not include events date does not include events
Favourites
match includes favourites eharmony includes favourites zoosk does not include favourites perfectmatch includes favourites dating direct includes favourites chemistry includes favourites lavalife does not include favourites spark includes favourites plentyoffish includes favourites date includes favourites
Recommendations
match does not include recommendations eharmony does not include recommendations zoosk does not include recommendations perfectmatch does not include recommendations dating direct does not include recommendations chemistry does not include recommendations lavalife does not include recommendations spark does not include recommendations plentyoffish does not include recommendations date does not include recommendations
Relationship type
match does not include relationship type eharmony does not include relationship type zoosk does not include relationship type perfectmatch does not include relationship type dating direct includes relationship type chemistry does not include relationship type lavalife includes relationship type spark includes relationship type plentyoffish includes relationship type date includes relationship type
Testimonials
match includes testimonials eharmony does not include testimonials zoosk does not include testimonials perfectmatch does not include testimonials dating direct includes testimonials chemistry does not include testimonials lavalife does not include testimonials spark includes testimonials plentyoffish includes testimonials date includes testimonials
Help & support
open or close tab
Telephone support
match offers telephone support eharmony offers telephone support zoosk offers telephone support perfectmatch offers telephone support dating direct does not offer telephone support chemistry does not offer telephone support lavalife does not offer telephone support spark offers telephone support plentyoffish offers telephone support date does not offer telephone support
Email support
match does not offer email support eharmony does not offer email support zoosk does not offer email support perfectmatch does not offer email support dating direct offers email support chemistry does not offer email support lavalife offers email support spark offers email support plentyoffish does not offer email support date offers email support
Live chat
match does not offer live chat eharmony does not offer live chat zoosk does not offer live chat perfectmatch does not offer live chat dating direct does not offer live chat chemistry does not offer live chat lavalife does not offer live chat spark does not offer live chat plentyoffish does not offer live chat date does not offer live chat
Help files
match offers help files eharmony offers help files zoosk offers help files perfectmatch does not offer help files dating direct does not offer help files chemistry offers help files lavalife offers help files spark offers help files plentyoffish does not offer help files date offers help files
Forums
match offers forums eharmony offers forums zoosk offers forums perfectmatch offers forums dating direct offers forums chemistry offers forums lavalife offers forums spark offers forums plentyoffish offers forums date offers forums
FAQs
match offers faqs eharmony offers faqs zoosk offers faqs perfectmatch offers faqs dating direct does not offer faqs chemistry offers faqs lavalife does not offer faqs spark offers faqs plentyoffish offers faqs date offers faqs

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.

  • Offer thousands of profiles of single people in your area.
  • Provide easy ways to start chatting to new people – such as winks, nudges or standard introduction notes.
  • Help you find the perfect match by recommending people who are compatible.
  • Let you get to know people before you arrange a date with emails, instant messages and video chat.
  • Help you stay safe online by monitoring communications within the site.
  • Give you space for pictures, text and maybe even audio.

What to look for in online dating

Compatibility matching

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.

Communication

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.

Profile

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?

Guarantees

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.

Jargon explained

Compatibility matching

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.

Personality tests

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.

Personal quiz

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.

Winks

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.

Favourites

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.

Primary photo

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!

Blocking

If you receive unwanted attention or inappropriate messages, you can block contact from that user.

Related help & advice



Rank
Match
eHarmony
Zoosk
PerfectMatch
Dating Direct
Chemistry
Lavalife
spark
Plentyoffish
Date