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09 November 2020

How Much Does It Cost to Start a Dating Website or App

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According to, every fifth man and every tenth woman in the United States found a romantic partner through online dating. Even more people are registered on such services, but have not yet found a couple or are using them to search for friends or short dates.

How do Americans answer the question: “Have you found your partner on a website for online dating or do you know someone who has found it?” (January 2019)

It would be foolish not to try to make money in this market while there are still no well-established leaders there (there are giants, but their positions are not firm). And if you like this idea and you want to understand how much you need to spend to start your website for dating, this article is for you.

We will estimate the cost based on the average hourly rate of the programmer - $ 30 per hour, as well as the average labor costs for a specific element of the site. Think of these numbers as indicative, not numbers for your project’s budget.

The cost of developing the basic functionality of a dating site

It is best to start building your site with an MVP (minimum viable product) with a set of key features. So you can check the concept for minimal money and test the software before launching it on the market. When this stage is over, you can freely improve your MVP and add new features to it.

Key features of the online dating site:

  1. User registration and profile creation.

  2. Search and match of users.

  3. Messaging (chat, video chat).

  4. Security features.

  5. Monetization mechanism.

  6. Administration functions.

  7. Mobile application development.

The development and testing of the described functionality by one programmer will take from 3 to 5 months (420 - 700 hours), which at a rate of $ 30 per hour will result in an amount from 12.6 to 21 thousand dollars.

User registration and profile setting

Zoosk dating site profile. Source of the image

Profiles play a central role for all online dating services, because based on them, users decide whether to communicate with the profile owner or continue searching. In addition, many services use profiles to create recommendations for dating.

So that users spend less time, you can create a mechanism for registration and authentication through social networks. Thus, the service will be able to transfer part of the user information from the social network to your website (photo, city, age, friends). And so you can check the users - make sure that they are real people.

What should be added to the profile functionality:

  1. Tools to create and configure a profile. The ability to register an account, specify the name, gender (your and potential partner), age, city, height, marital status, attitude to religion, alcohol, cigarettes, animals, etc.

  2. Authentication via social networks (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter). The LoginRadius service will help you understand what data you can extract from social networks to import to your site.

  3. User essay. The field in which the user can tell about themselves, their life plans, hobbies and search purposes. Usually there is enough field with the ability to insert 2000 characters.

  4. Questionnaire for compatibility. A set of 20 or more multiple choice questions. They will help determine user compatibility. These could be questions like: “How often do you play sports?”, “When do you wake up?”, “Do you like to travel?”, Etc.

If the site is focused on anonymity, such as, the profile can be simplified by removing the survey and much of the information about the user. The emphasis should be on the photo, and with the ability to hide it (or a separate part - a person) for a wide audience.

User search and mapping

Questionnaire to find compatible users on Source of the image

The main purpose of dating sites is to help people find each other. Usually this is done using filters and profiles. Filters help to find a person suitable for certain parameters. For example, you can set filters on these criteria: a woman, age from 20 to 25 years old, blonde, does not smoke, lives in Dallas. Search options can be anything from body shape to a favorite actor.

As for the survey, it helps to find matches between users, and sites such as Zoosk and attach great importance to this. Since the survey can help find among all the available options "people that you may like".

Thus, the cost of this element of a dating site includes the development of the following functions:

  1. Search by filters: gender, age range, distance to the user (or place of residence), height, religion, purpose of dating, etc.

  2. Recommendations based on questionnaires and personality tests. Now for the analysis of such data it is customary to use deep neural networks.

Messaging (chat, video chat)

Chat interface on Zoosk website. Source of the image

Real-time instant messaging is another essential feature of a dating site. It can be implemented as a text chat, video chat, or a regular call. Text chat is required, the remaining options are optional. Some sites, such as Zoosk, have created a special messenger for more convenient communication between users.

What features need to be created to communicate users:

Safety features

Verification tools on Zoosk website. Source of the image

Security on dating sites has two sides. On the one hand, you need to protect the server from hacking and unauthorized interference. On the other hand, to protect users from fraud, which in this market very much. Malefactors use another's photos and data to get trust in the interlocutor and to entice money from him.

Safety features that you can use:

  1. Confirmation via phone, social networks or recommendations of verified users.

  2. The creation of "blacklists", finding that blocking the ability to communicate and view the profile.

  3. Complaints about incorrect data in the profile, fake profiles and other people's photos.

Some, not very successful, dating sites have tried to introduce a system of reputations and reviews. This idea failed because it is better to immediately delete the accounts of dishonest users, forbid them to create new profiles and block by IP.

In addition, what can say a high rating on a dating site? That a user has met many people, has a lot of conversations, or has received a maximum of invitations for dating within a certain period of time is not the best advertisement for dating.

Monetization mechanism

Zoosk virtual coin features. Source of the image

Dating sites earn millions of dollars, for example, Zoosk earns $ 200 million, - $ 450 million, Tinder - $ 800 million. They earn these sites in the following ways:

  1. Paid membership. Users pay a small amount, $ 5–20, once a month for the ability to search and communicate. Sometimes it's not a subscription, but a one-time payment.

  2. Premium accounts and services. Monetization of access to certain functions or their advanced features. For example, at Tinder, you can expand the search distance for money. Other services sell places in the top search lists, the ability to view an unlimited number of profiles, digital gifts, etc.

  3. Advertising. Usually we are talking about advertising goods and services. Sometimes the service also allows users to pay a subscription "without advertising".

More dating sites earn by selling data about users. Not personal information (name, photo, address), but statistical data. This usually happens without the knowledge and consent of users, which is not always legal.

Admin functionality

Sample of Admin`s Site Interface. Source of the image

With this functionality, the administrator manages the site, monitors its performance, user actions and monetization. So, through the panel, the administrator connects new payment gateways, creates user roles, deletes accounts and sets up the work of marketing tools.

The basic tools of the administrative functions include:

  1. User base management, profiles, roles.

  2. Analytics and reporting.

After testing the concept and MVP, you can add funds to manage your concern, financial instruments, advertising, and more. What exactly you will add, you need to decide in advance to create an opportunity to integrate the necessary functionality. Without this, compatibility issues may occur.

Mobile app

Interface of the dating application Tinder. Source of the image

Calculating the cost of creating a site for dating, it is impossible not to allocate money for the development of a mobile application. Because without it, you will lose up to 80% of the market. In this case, you also need to follow the path of least resistance: first create the MVP, test and improve it, and only after that release the application to the market.

You can create an application yourself, which gives more control over the process, or you can with the help of an outsourced development company. The latter option is preferable, since it will require less effort, will cost less and you will be able to get quality guarantees.

Cost of developing additional features for a dating site

The basis of most dating sites is the same: lists of users, several filters and means for communication (basic functions). While they differ in additional features that may be unique or differently implemented.

Improved Mobile Experience

Zoosk's Burrit-OH app that selects people based on “compatibility” with burritos

Increasing the popularity of mobile applications is a trend that is hard to ignore. And it concerns not only services for online dating, but also the entire Internet as a whole. Therefore, companies, whatever they do, try to release their own application and make it more convenient and pleasant to use than the competition.

Mobile Experience Improvement Tools:

  1. Progressive Web Application (PWA). It works in full screen mode, uses alerts, integrates with other applications and services, has a standalone (offline) mode and so on. In short, this is an application that uses the capabilities of the smartphone and the platform to the maximum.

  2. Cross platform. In a simple version, this is an application that can work on Android, iOS and other platforms. In the complex - this is a service that can be accessed from any platform, like access to a Google or Apple account.

  3. Targeting a narrow niche. The Zoosk dating site has the Burrit-OH app (it’s not the main one), which helps to find a couple based on people's love for the burrito. This is a great example of how you can stand out by targeting a narrow niche.

The cost of PWA - from 2 thousand dollars (70 hours), cross-platform - from 8.5 thousand dollars. Creating a niche application costs from 5 thousand dollars. If the site already has an application, the niche option will be cheaper, since in this case only a new design and a few additional filters will be needed.

Advanced search and selection

Smartpick feature on Zoosk website. Source of the image

Most dating sites use "open databases" to bring people together: "Look what we have, and choose it yourself." More advanced services, such as Zoosk, use “patented behavioral matching mechanisms” that take into account profile data, questionnaires, and past user experience, and make recommendations based on them “you can like this person, take a closer look”.

Here's how it works on Zoosk:

  1. The system generates a pool of possible candidates based on your search patterns (Who You Like) and other people's patterns (Who Likes You).

  2. The first match list, created on the basis of the matching of search patterns, is made using a special technology (it is usually patented), and these results are already shown to users.

  3. Modern matching technologies work on the basis of past user actions (likes, conversations, friend requests, etc.), searching for “digital doubles” and deep neural networks. The more the user uses the site and the matching system, the greater the efficiency of the technology (in theory).

Zoosk was paid 4.2 thousand dollars for the implementation of its match algorithm, it was developed for 4 weeks (140 hours). Integration of neural networks will increase this cost by another 2-10 thousand dollars.

Cost of promotion dating site

Individual logo design professional: from $ 300. You can try to create yourself, but it is better to entrust this to professionals who know which design will receive the maximum response from the target audience. You can also use special services that generate a logo based on keywords.

Google Adwords: from $ 250 per month. It is necessary to attract new users - to increase the base of “looking for a couple” on your site. First you need to spend a rather large amount to get the first 10 thousand users (less if you are focused on a particular city).

Facebook ads: from $ 100 per month. Also needed to increase user base. It will be a big plus if you hire a specialist to set up targeted advertising. This will increase the effectiveness of promoting your site.
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