As you embark on the joyful and optimistic journey towards dating, romance and maybe even true love, you have a lot of decisions to make. There’s a certain amount of work to be done before you find yourself getting spiffed up for that first date. It’s funny, but also true about so many glorious things in life: you have to do the work first before you reap the rewards.
Knowing what kind of relationship you want and whether you want free to paid service is just the tip of the iceberg. Doing your research, making lists and answering your own questions will help you make the best choice. But don’t be daunted. Though there are many factors to consider when choosing an online dating service, today’s blog will help walk you through the decision-making process.
The following checklist is designed to clarify some of the issues around selecting the best site for you.
- What do you want? Specifically—from an on-line dating site. Knowing what kind of relationship you want is crucial. Do you want a long term commitment or are you simply looking for casual dating or companionship? Some sites cater to the more serious-minded seekers who are in the market for true love and a lifetime connection. Others are perfect for you if you are not there yet, and simply want to date for awhile.
- Who do you want? Criteria such as age, interests, location and spiritual beliefs can help you narrow your search for a site. There are niche sites for particular geographic regions, certain religious affiliations, and hobbies, and even sites that cater to singles with or without children. Joining a site that is specific to your wants and needs can save you time!
- Privacy policies. It is a good idea to check a dating site’s privacy settings before registering. Some sites share your personal information with other companies and you may not be allowed to opt out. If you only want your profile to be visible to selected people, make sure the site has that function. For added security, there are websites that do background checks of all subscribers. They may certify the subscriber’s age, background and marital status. Check for security affiliations that protect your personal information. Look for a privacy program that has a trademark.
- Professionalism in construction and appearance. If it looks cheesy, it probably is. Look over the dating site to see how it’s constructed. Is it consistent, attractive, and cohesive? Does it work, or are there links that, when you click them, go nowhere? If the fonts are crooked or jagged or there are missing graphics, these are red flags. Dating sites that lack attention to detail can also lack organization, follow through and even many basic security features.
- Cost or no cost? Most dating sites offer free sign up and then charge you when it’s time to actually contact potential matches. Paid sites typically have more options (chat, video, IM, mobile apps) than free sites and are more secure since they verify members’ credit card information (and maybe even picture ID). And not surprisingly, people who pay for online service are often more serious about finding someone than free subscribers. Also look out for the free websites that contain “dummy” profiles that send you to links to adult sites in private or instant messages. Free sites may have fewer security features, though this is not an absolute.
- Be savvy about billing. If you choose a paid site, educate yourself about the billing and cancellation policies before paying. Most accounts automatically renew unless you specifically disable that function. You may have to mark the automatic renewal date in your calendar and go in and manually opt out of renewing at that time.
- Does size matter? Not necessarily, but there are some differences between large and small dating sites. The bigger sites can provide you with more options to choose from when posting your profile and searches. Some offer specific questionnaires to help match you with the most compatible people and a money back guarantee. They are also liable to have a wider range of subscribers for you to choose from. The large sites will probably charge monthly or annual fees. Some of the smaller, niche dating sites don’t charge membership fees, and many of them are excellent resources, especially the ones that serve people of certain backgrounds (based on religion or nationality for example). Still, refer to my admonitions above about security features on free sites.
Choosing the right online dating service takes time and perseverance, but can also be fun. Make time for this. Set aside an evening or two during which you will do your dating site “homework.” Using the checklist above, and any other criteria that are important to you, browse various sites with a notepad handy. Enjoy the chance to “shop” without making a commitment. You won’t be able to view actual profiles (unless the security features are very poor, which in itself is good information to have), but you can find out how many subscribers the site has, what their rules and guidelines are, and how they handle billing and security.