How do the dating sites compare in the UK?

Emilee Geist

eharmony vs. EliteSingles: How do the dating sites compare in the UK?
eharmony vs. EliteSingles: How do the dating sites compare in the UK?

Online dating is great, but there’s a slight shudder factor attached to the practice now that everyone and their mother (literally) has some sort of profile.

The biggest advantage, obviously, is the potential to meet thousands of eligible singles who you likely wouldn’t have known existed otherwise. But whether those singles use their profile regularly or are even on it for the right reasons is another question — thus, the terrifying edge that can cause singles genuinely searching for the real thing to shy away from such a valuable tool.

SEE ALSO: Match vs. eharmony: Both are for serious relationships, but how do the dating sites compare in the UK?

When the dating pool is so deep, it’s important to narrow down your options to dating sites that are most likely to attract a very specific type of person and introduce you to people who have the same intentions that you do. Whether unspoken or not, eharmony and EliteSingles are two websites for serious relationships that make those kinds of definitions clear.

After deciding that online dating is your best shot at meeting someone who’s in it for the long haul, eharmony probably immediately came to mind. Since its debut in 2000, it has reached over 200 countries worldwide and can steadily see around five million visitors per month. A 2017 study cited in the MIT Technology Review found that people who meet online are more likely to be compatible and have a higher chance of a healthy marriage if they decide to get hitched. If any dating site will make you believe that, it’s eharmony.

eharmony’s dedication to becoming a space that welcomes young people is remarkable, with a total app redesign that resonates with millennials and a refreshed, shortened questionnaire. What hasn’t changed is its marriage-minded approach. People know what eharmony is used for, and it’s unlikely that someone looking for a casual fling would even consider paying that monthly fee to scope out a friend with benefits.

If eharmony is for marriage-minded people, EliteSingles is for work-minded people who want to share their success with someone special — and someone who understand that work schedules can sometimes mean cancelled dates at the last minute. With 170,000 monthly active users in 2019, its user base is a fraction of eharmony’s. However, the site claims that an average of 2,000 couples pair off every month, and it could be a less overwhelming entry point for hesitant singles who aren’t ready to be flooded with messages. Older users who are possibly looking at a second marriage may feel more comfortable with EliteSingles’ age demographics: 90% of users are over 30 and the App Store describes it as a place for users 30 to 50.

eharmony is so confident that you’ll find the one within three months that they’ll give you another three months for free if you don’t.

Pretty much the whole site has undergone a much-needed overhaul in the past year or two. The design is clean with a calming turquoise colour scheme and doesn’t overload users with notifications, winks, or faces popping up in every corner. Unlike the chaotic home pages of competing dating sites, eharmony avoids sensory overload to keep you focused on the potential match at hand and whether you can see a real, solid future with them.

In 2018, when eharmony finally slashed its 150 question quiz to 50 (down from over 400 originally), users begged for the old questionnaire back — the deep dive is eharmony’s claim to fame, after all. Now, users can rank the questions they find important or skip the compatibility quiz altogether. A compatibility score and colour-coded graphics will show which wants or needs you have in common, based on how both of you described yourselves and what you’re looking for in “the one.” If there are enough interesting similarities there, it could give you or the other person more confidence to break the ice.

The Video Date feature, launched shortly after social distancing rules made it difficult to meet up in person, aims to keep first dates alive without the need to give out a Zoom username or phone number.

Everything is based on a 32-dimension system of multiple facets of successful relationships and companionship, but worded in a way that’s actually enjoyable to take. Questions and prompts are relatable, steer away from corny self rankings, and put a much larger focus on core values, future family life, and people skills outside of romance. It’s refreshing to see eharmony listen to its younger users and make changes to appeal to all types of serious relationships — not just the 40-year-old Christian, marriage-bound ones.

Where eharmony falls short

Familiarity with the eharmony that existed in the early 2010s means you probably also know about its not-so-inclusive past. The landing page used to feature your typical heterosexual hipster couple and users searching for same sex matches were automatically sent to eharmony’s spin-off site, Compatible Partners. After a 2010 lawsuit over the separation of gay and lesbian users from straight users, the early 2020 replacement of the original CEO with a CCO, CFO, and COO, and a clear need to move in a more modern, young, and inclusive direction, same-sex matching is now offered on the same page as straight matching and the hovering Christian vibe and church-related questions are gone. Still, this past might still be a turnoff for the LGBTQ community and their allies. Users on Reddit as recently as 2019 say that it still seems more geared toward straight people.

Pinning down the official membership price is tricky. Prices change constantly, but as of this story’s writing, a subscription will cost you £29.90 a month for a six-month plan, £11.95 a month for a 12-month plan, or £8.95 a month for a 24-month plan. To be fair, eharmony does offer frequent sales where monthly prices are often slashed in half.

Other than having a forgiving attitude and prepared bank account, you’ll definitely need patience. The questionnaire is much less tedious, but if you’re picky and won’t settle for an average compatibility score (as you shouldn’t), it can take a while to sort through everyone the algorithm hurls at you — especially now that the questionnaire has been shortened and lazy folks can skip it all together.

Though work and school stuff is the underlying reason for choosing EliteSingles over another site, we appreciate that the opening questionnaire isn’t completely dedicated to the professional stuff. The end goal here is still to find a romantic connection with a solid long-term partner, and factors related to emotions, communication, and interests past a career still matter. The recently-modified questionnaire, now shorter and super personable, puts you in hypothetical situations and asks you to guess how you’d behave. If your partner showed up to a date late, would you let them know you’re annoyed or would you let it go because you’re also late sometimes? If you get into an argument, do you need to talk it out before bedtime or do you need a day to blow off steam?

Questions about your ideal first date and whether you’d initiate a kiss are also tossed in. Preferences on smoking, drinking, and whether potential matches have kids or not can also be marked — a smart way to set parameters that can avoid lifestyle disagreements in the future.

Keeping in line with the EliteSingles mantra, you’ll be asked to disclose your job title, type of degree, and income bracket. This seems like a breeding ground for scammers and sugar daddy-seekers, but EliteSingles claims to manually verify accounts to ensure that your data (or pure little heart) isn’t at risk.

The EliteSingles app is much less based on scrolling through all available users than eharmony, Match, and other similar sites. This may be a plus for busy individuals who don’t have the time (or any interest) in spending their free time playing the “hot or not” game. Instead, EliteSingles will reveal a certain number of matches just for you each day (the number of matches depends on how much you’re paying). Putting your fate in their hands means you won’t have to be scrolling during every break between Zoom calls, and logging on to new matches every day is kind of like unwrapping a present.

The membership prices that were once ridiculous and weirdly exclusive have gotten quite sensible in recent years. Singles can sign up for EliteSingles for £49.95 per month for three months, £34.95 per month for six months, and £24.95 a month for one year. The six and 12-month memberships are the only ones that allow you to see all user photos and profile visitors.

Money and work ethic are two huge real-world things that can drive a wedge between a couple. Wanting your life partner to be educated, share your career goals, and have the skills to provide for you or a family doesn’t make you a bad person. If you’re a teacher, it makes total sense to be interested in starting something with someone who also understands that teacher life.

But using “elite” to describe those who have a college degree or high-paying jobs feels snobby, right? Just because someone didn’t pick a four-year university doesn’t mean they’re not intellectual or successful, and everyone who has a degree isn’t automatically a catch. EliteSingles has gotten better over the past few years, but the way the site talks about its user base can still feel archaic. Another example: The option to opt in or out of suggested matches from certain ethnic groups is a controversial feature that dating apps like Grindr and Hinge have received backlash over.

But people are taking issue with the fact that the site is more focused on the percentage of college degrees than it is on the actual connections being made on the site. The SSL encryption and fraud detection technology can weed out scammers, but it isn’t a reliable way of flagging dishonest profiles. Who knows how many people are stretching their education or salary to seem more “elite?” Naturally, people question the frequently-touted statistic about 80% of users having a degree when the site can’t verify whether that piece of paper exists. The review sections on the App Store and Google Play Store are smeared with claims of wasted money.

The self-ranking questions have got to go. No one wants to admit that they’re selfish or get mad too quickly, and “I can handle a great deal of information at once” is hardly helpful. People will click “Applies completely” to the prompt “I’m a good listener” even if their last relationship ended because they couldn’t communicate like an adult.

In the end, eharmony and EliteSingles have very similar goals: Introduce you to someone who’s at a place in their life where they want to share their success, dreams, and a home with their soulmate. Neither website does much to attract casual daters who might pull the “I just don’t think I can commit right now” card three months into the relationship — a good sign for single folks who are tired of immature, half-assed games.

Both have strong pockets of users aged between 30 and 50, though eharmony probably has more options for folks under 30 and over 60.

You might like eharmony better if you’re a millennial in your mid-30s or below and appreciate a design that feels streamlined and modern. The company is under new management and has made drastic UX design changes and updated the questionnaire to keep up with the times. These matchmakers have spent two decades decoding what makes a happy relationship, and the site’s long-time love for, well, love, makes it a no-brainer for folks who want this to be their last time around the dating pool. You’ll have to get over eharmony’s patchy past of being less inclusive than it is today.

You might like EliteSingles better if you put your romantic endeavours on hold to focus on your career and, now that you’ve completed school and are comfortably employed, are looking for a life partner who’s at the same point in their life.

You’ll have to get over EliteSingles’ snooty rhetoric surrounding education and income, questionable verification system when it comes to confirming that people actually have a degree or a certain job, and less-than-stellar reviews of the Android and iPhone apps.

eharmony — Sign up for eharmony See Details

EliteSingles — Sign up for EliteSingles See Details

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