Tinder CEO wants to use glanceable UI to create meaningful relationships

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Transcription details:
Date:
05-Nov-2013
Input sound file:
1002.MP3

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Session Name: The Glanceable UI
Announcer
Katie Fehrenbacher
Sean Rad
Audience Member

Announcer
00:01
So much fun. That was great guys. Thank you. I just learned my wife is watching the live stream so I had to re-write my intro to this. I have no idea what Tinder does, but the person who is coming out is the CEO of Tinder. Evidently, it’s an app that you can download. No, he’s going to be– Sean Rad is the CEO of Tinder. He’s going to be speaking with Katie Fehrenbacher, co-chair of this conference and they’re going to be discussing the Glanceable UI. Please welcome Katie and Sean to the stage.

[applause]
Katie Fehrenbacher
00:31
Hello. Interesting transition from decade looking at the evolution of typeface to Tinder a year old, mobile dating app that’s got insane explosive growth right now. If you guys don’t know, I put a couple of slides of what the UI experience of Tinder looks like. It’s a mobile dating app that you can find people around you based on their location and there’s swipe to the right if you like the person, swipe to the left if you don’t like the person. And then, there’s a double opt-in so if two people swiped to the right, then they’re a match and they can chat.
Sean Rad
01:08
Very simple.
Katie Fehrenbacher
01:09
Yes, super simple. I asked Sean here today because I really wanted to pick his brain about how you and Tinder created this experience, which is so drop dead simple but that is so incredibly addictive to your users and your community to that. There’s some stats that average Tinder user goes on 11 times a day, six minutes at a time. They’ve got 350 million swipes a day and 3.5 million total matches a day. Crazy, explosive growth. How did you create that experience back when you started with a blank sheet of paper?
Sean Rad
01:48
We had a lot of frustrations with making new relationships in our lives, and we realized there’s a lot of great tools that help you get closer to the people that you know, but there’s really a lack of efficiency when it comes to meeting new people. One of the biggest challenges is you’re either a hunter, you’re going out there and you’re making a new relationship, or you’re seeking a new relationship, whether it’s in business or in a romantic context and you feel like you’re putting yourself out there and you naturally feel rejected. On the other end of that, you’re somebody who’s being pursued and you feel overwhelmed, and you feel exposed. What that’s done is as a society, it’s made us fearful of putting ourselves out there and making new relationships, and it’s made us reject the people who approach us. We noticed this in our group of friends and when we looked at how we can solve it, we realized that the answer lies in this experience you have in high school or elementary school, which is your friend comes and tells you that your crush also has a crush on you. That moment of that double opt-in, you’re interested in her, she’s interested in you and that signal has been exposed, creates this trust and this strength that allows you to go out there and pursue that relationship. Tinder’s all about bringing, capturing the signals that we give out on a daily basis, whether we’re walking down the street or we’re in a room, we’re subconsciously looking at people and saying yes, no, yes, no, but those signals are being thrown away. Our vision is to capture those signals and to make sense of them and to create new relationships based off of them.
Katie Fehrenbacher
03:42
In the creation process, was there a lot of testing? You went out and figured out the double opt-in was the key, how did you come up with those two key – the swipe right, swipe left, and the double opt-in?
Sean Rad
03:55
We knew that in order to– we related this moment, this putting that rating system out there, we related it to the subconscious mind which works extremely fast. We knew that in order to capture that data, we had to work at the pace that our minds work. We had to allow you to A, get the minimum amount of information you need to make a decision, and then B, give you a quick model for throwing that signal out into the world. Initially, we had the button of saying yes or no. I think we started looking at what do we want to put on the front of the card and we started with an image that really tells a lot about a person. The image that you choose on Tinder, whether it’s because you’re skiing or you’re doing whatever I think in that split second says a lot about who you are, much like if I walk into a room your body language and what you’re wearing and what you’re doing says a lot about who you are.
Katie Fehrenbacher
05:02
Or like are you hot or not?
Sean Rad
05:03
Of course. That’s something we all consider in every type of relationship. The next thing is your common friends and your common interests and that simple signal you can glance at that and understand if there’s a level of trust with this person, and then ultimately you just say yes or no. We got the information I think right, but when we originally designed the buttons we knew that when we were using it ourselves we realized that this idea of tapping and then seeing the card go is a little slow. It’s slower than the time it takes me to make a judgment. I need a way to act as I’m making the judgment and therefore we can exponentially increase the number of ratings we get, and by doing that you’re increasing the number of matches, and so on and so on and the cycle continues.
Katie Fehrenbacher
06:03
You guys went to great lengths to make it a lot more female friendly than some other sites. You go on and you have all these different things that you’re trying to make women feel comfortable, and also it’s not like a huge sausage fest on there. There’s women on there, right?
Sean Rad
06:21
There’s a lot of women on it.
Katie Fehrenbacher
06:23
What did you do? What was your strategy?
Sean Rad
06:28
It’s the idea of the whole double opt-in. It’s the idea of not creeping people out. It’s interesting because when we talk to women and we talked to them about their experiences going out, not even on the Internet, what we hear is that because of the hunter/hunted scenario I explained, the good guys that they want to be approached by are not approaching them, and then the ones that approach them are the creeps. When a good guy actually does approach them they think that they’re a creep and reject the guy and then it feeds into the cycle where guys stop approaching girls. We go downhill in society when it comes to our ability to make new relationships. What we hear from girls is that it’s sort of solving that problem, and most importantly, it’s putting control back into their hands by saying, I’m only going to talk to the people that I want to talk to, and if I swipe right and I say no to somebody, I don’t feel like I’m rejecting them. There’s no social pressure to interact with somebody that I truly don’t want to interact with. In a way, that makes society a little better, because people are feeling less rejected. They’re feeling more confident, better about themselves, and you’re just nudging somebody down the path of least resistance when it comes to making new relationship.
Katie Fehrenbacher
07:57
I thought it was super interesting the way Timber launched. I was reading, I think it was the VP of Marketing was talking about the launch in a few college campuses with very hot girls, right?
Sean Rad
08:11
That’s part of it.
Katie Fehrenbacher
08:12
Known for party campuses. Tell us about that strategy and maybe why that was so important.
Sean Rad
08:17
The idea was, day one, we told ourselves that we want to make sure that we’re solving a core human issue. If you think about meeting new people, the last group in society that you think would need help is college students, because they live in a very socially charged environment. We told ourselves if we could get college students to use Tinder and we could solve a problem for them when it comes to social discovery, then we could work for everyone. It was our way of stress testing the idea, the application, and it was a great way to see the product in this very organic, this very dense environment. What we did was we went to colleges and we seeded the product with fraternities and sororities and key influencers in a given area, and we monitored their behavior and next thing we knew it just exploded all over the US and then spread like a virus overseas. The moment where it expanded was in January, a few months after our launch when everyone went home for break and told their friends and told their older brothers and sisters and just exploded from there.
Katie Fehrenbacher
09:45
It’s really word of mouth is the growth.
Sean Rad
09:47
It’s the current growth engine and we’ve never bought an ad. I think we’ve tested. We probably spent $200 on ads just for fun, but it’s pure organic growth and it’s our users teaching their friends how to use Tinder. I always like to think when you have a product and a tool set that you’ve created around solving a problem, ultimately, the context around how people use those tools, whether it’s Tinder and who you swipe-right to and then what you say when you match with somebody, or whether it’s Snapchat and what kind of content you’re sharing, that content is a learned behavior. It’s not something you can teach your users. In order for that to successfully grow, it needs to be organic. I don’t think you can engineer the type of growth Tinder’s had, because if you engineer it, I think if you look at the retention, the engagement, the product will break at the seams. There wouldn’t be an ecosystem. There wouldn’t be an engaged audience to interact with.
Katie Fehrenbacher
11:02
Is there a way that you’re tweaking or changing the experience as you hit so much growth? Obviously, it changes because there’s more people but beyond that?
Sean Rad
11:12
We spend a lot of time tweaking our algorithm, or in other words, the recommendation engine or the logic that defines who sees who based on what interest set or commonalities or whatnot, and what we found – and this is the fascinating thing – the more users that come into Tinder, the better the experience is for everyone because if you think about it, we’re routing you to the right person or the more people we have, the more options we can give you and the smarter the algorithm becomes. It’s actually initially when we first started it was one of our fears – because everything was pretty random – our fear was… or what happens when you now, have a diverse audience? It works on a college campus where everyone has this common thread, which is the fact that they go to, let’s say USC, or they have common friends, but when it expands and it becomes diverse, how do you maintain that quality and that relevance? That was a fear of ours, and something that we worked very hard to perfect over the last nine months. Now, I think you’re getting this increasing return with every new user as far as the match rate as we call it, the number of matches to swipes.
Katie Fehrenbacher
12:34
When your user group gets so large are there other problems introduced like security, privacy, or things like that? Obviously, you were talking on stage your infrastructure exploded, do you have to rewrite stuff all the time?
Sean Rad
12:47
There’s a lot of interesting challenges when you’re growing as fast as we are. Everyone always says success or those types of problems are fun to have, but they’re not that fun. They’re very scary. We’re fortunate because we have an awesome team that has given their heart and soul to Tinder, and really overcome all those challenges but there are many points when we were like, “Fuck. Everything’s about to break.”
Katie Fehrenbacher
13:18
Thanks for that.
Sean Rad
13:19
We’re all adults here.
Katie Fehrenbacher
13:21
That’s fine.
Sean Rad
13:23
F-u-c-k. It’s a scary position to be in. It’s very scary when you know you have everything to lose and you’re hanging by a thread because you start with this prototype code which is how we started Tinder. We didn’t build the product to handle withstand all the users we have right now. You have this unique problem where you have to maintain the current system, the current code to sustain the existing audience but then rewrite everything while you’re maintaining that current one to sustain the ongoing demand. It’s a very challenging and emotional experience. Luckily we went through it and now we’re in a very healthy place as far as our architecture and the health of our system technology.
Katie Fehrenbacher
14:22
Because we care about our audience and we want the experience to be good for you guys, we’re going to open up some questions to the audience. We’ve got mic runners, and while you’re thinking of your questions I’m going to ask you one more. You’ve talked a little bit about moving Tinder beyond dating. What would that look like? What would a Tinder without the hot or not aspect be like?
Sean Rad
14:45
The core experience behind Tinder is this idea of a double opt-in, and if you look at marketplaces, if you can efficiently create this double opt-in experience, you can add a lot of efficiency to marketplaces. We’ve done that when it comes to social discovery with context to making a new friendship or making a new romantic relationship, but there’s a lot of areas in our daily lives where this double opt-in can enhance the marketplace experience and enhance the relevance of our interactions. We don’t know if we’ll go out of dating because it’s core to who we are. We don’t think about it as dating, more of social discovery – meeting friends, meeting people in your area, but it’s definitely as curious product guys. We always think about how could philosophically what we’re doing apply to different areas of our lives.
Katie Fehrenbacher
16:03
They’re telling me, please prompt anyone with a question to raise your hand and the mic will come to you. You guys know you have some questions. Right down over here.
Audience Member
16:23
Can you talk a little bit about the design process that you went through when designing your original app and how that’s evolved as you’ve grown and made updates to your application?
Sean Rad
16:33
Sure. It was centered around simplicity. Obviously, what we realized was two things – we realized that when it comes to mobile we have a set of learned behaviors that we have to respect. If you look at the top three apps that users use every single day, we looked at those apps and we said there’s behaviors here, there are things here that people are used to, that have been learned and that we should respect. That was one of the core things when we looked at our app, we’re like, “What can we take from other apps that are familiar?” The second thing that I think was very important to how we approached design is to have a singular focused experience and application. We don’t want you to open Tinder and do five different things or have all these different buttons and options. We want the value to be front and center and to be accessible. We don’t want to put barriers in between you and actually experiencing Tinder. We did a lot to ask the user less and provide the user more. Our registration process, we do a lot to learn about the user behind the scenes. We’ll employ a lot of technology to understand a very simple data point just so we don’t have to ask you, because the cost of asking you could create this expensive ripple effect throughout the whole application. That’s the second thing that cores our experience. How that’s expanded and how that’s grown is we realized that by accident or consciously we’ve created our own familiar behaviors and standards when it comes to mobile experiences. So now, we have to respect our own language that we’ve created with our users. And when you’re redesigning the app, like our upcoming IOS7 redesign that we have coming, you have to look at what brought you here and really analyze every little nuance and experience, whether we did it on purpose or by accident and respect that as you design forward.
Katie Fehrenbacher
18:58
Unfortunately, sorry, we only had time for one question. We’ve got to run. Sorry about that. I took all the question time. Thank you so much, Sean.
Sean Rad
19:07
Thank you.
Katie Fehrenbacher
19:07
It was awesome.
Sean Rad
19:08
Thanks.

[applause]