I know someone who had a dating service before the internet became popular. It was a very personalized service. She always had great stories (anonymous of course) and there was one in particular that has always stuck with me.

Once she was yelled at by an irate customer. She had just come back from a date that my friend and her partner set up. She was furious that she was set up with a smoker when she had checked off non-smokers only on her questionnaire. My friend gently explained to her that she was only human and makes mistakes. This did nothing to placate the woman yelling on the other end of the line.

Does Social media replace the grapevine?

Guess what? This furious woman ended up marrying the smoker! Of course, she didn’t have the courtesy to tell my friend but she is well connected and heard about it through the grapevine (the pre social media way of finding out things in your neighborhood).

This proves that the application of multivariate testing is desperately needed in the online dating scene. Today, a nonsmoker who checks off that they will not tolerate a smoker will not go out with a smoker. Since chemistry and other important items are not something that can be checked off online it takes a back seat to less important traits that are easier to define—making match making more difficult.

This means you are optimizing locally but may be missing out on the best optimized solution. It could be that the smoker is better than the others on every count but smoking. However you never even gave him a chance because he had one of those traits that is easy to check off–online.

Multivariate testing for the dating scene.

The obvious solution is to test all the guys simultaneously for all important traits. Unfortunately this is not possible with dating so we need to do other tactics—a subject for another post and on a different kind of blog. And one other thing we need to remember: we all change over time so superficial compatibility is not as important as you may think.

What is the take away for website testing?

Sometimes a bad element on the page may work good in combination with other elements. So be careful of eliminating things you may think are bad. For example, I recently read of a case (I wish I could remember where) where eliminating the coupon code increased conversions dramatically.

The thinking is that a lot of the people didn’t have coupon codes which made them feel like suckers so they didn’t order. Instead of eliminating the coupon code they could have tested these options of adding a note next to the coupon box: