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How to Choose the Right UK Dating Website

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Online dating has become a safe, efficient and exciting way to connect with interesting people in cyberspace and to ultimately date some of them in physical space. However, with new dating sites frequently coming online, it can be difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff.

We hope that this buying guide provides you with some useful advice on what to look for when selecting a UK Online Dating site that's right for you.


Particularly Noteworthy Features

There are some particularly valuable features to keep in mind, when choosing an online dating site. All of these features are designed to greatly enhance your online dating experience by making it easier to find and communicate with compatible people in an online environment.

  • Search Parameters: Some sites let you perform more detailed searches by allowing you to apply an extensive range of filters. For example, they may allow you to search for specific eye colour, hair colour, height and weight of a prospective partner, whether they smoke or drink, their academic qualifications (degree, masters, doctorate), their distance from your post code, etc. A massive database of members is pointless if you don't have some powerful search features to help you filter out people who are likely to be totally unsuitable for you. The more refined you can make your search, the more likely you are to find someone who matches your preferences. For example, distance from your post code might be important if you're tired of long-distance relationships and want to get to know someone who lives within commuting distance.
  • Photo or Video Profiles: Profile photos are usually the best way to draw attention to yourself. Look out for sites which allow you to upload a series of high quality photos as these can be a fantastic way to show people the various dimensions of your personality (with scenes of you socialising with friends, playing sport, chilling out in your bedroom, etc.). Video profiles are becoming increasingly popular as users embrace a multi-media approach to online dating. If you have an alluring voice or accent, then a webcam message can be a fabulous way to reveal it.
  • Instant Messaging (IM): A growing number of sites allow users to engage in real-time textual communication via Instant Messaging systems (similar to the IM systems offered by Yahoo, MSN and GoogleChat). Being able to instantly reply creates a much more dynamic communication experience than with standard email (which usually happens in a punctuated, start-stop fashion). For example, it can be a great way to discover that someone has a humorous, quick witted nature. Most people feel so comfortable and relaxed using IM that they find themselves connecting with the other person in a deeper, more meaningful way. (In fact, there have been psychological studies in the UK which have clearly shown this). So we think that it would be wise for you to opt for online dating sites that offer IM.
  • Webcam Chat: This emerging feature allows users to communicate with audio and/or visual modes through their webcams. This can be more dynamic than using an Instant Messaging system as you can see the person's facial expressions, body language, etc. The real-time, audio-visual dimension can be especially useful if you want to titillate others with some alluring moves or outfits!
  • Forums and Chat-rooms: Some online dating sites host forums and chat-rooms where members can share their thoughts on an wide variety of topics. This helps to create a community feel among members and can also give you a window into a member's attitudes. For example, this medium can highlight someone's thoughtful and diplomatic approach towards others; conversely it may also reveal someone's rude or bigoted side. So as well as being a fun way to interact with people, it can be a useful lens through which to view someone's whole persona. (See: Online dating 'good for romance' http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/4250281.stm)
  • FAQs and Technical Support: Look out for sites that have taken the time to compile a comprehensive Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) section as this will be very useful if you need to quickly resolve a common issue. Some sites also offer technical support by email and phone, 24/7. This can also be an invaluable asset, so keep it in mind when you choose between sites.


Pricing & Free Trials

Most sites entice you with a free trial that allows you to explore the site and determine whether you wish to sign up for a paid subscription. There can be quite a bit of variation in the pricing structure for online dating sites. Sometimes the higher subscriptions are justified as a site offers a broader range of noteworthy features, other times they represent poor value for money.

We try our best to keep our reviews up-dated but, from time to time, sites introduce new membership structures with designated features, or suddenly under-cut their rivals in an attempt to increase their market share. So we recommend that you visit the merchant sites to see their current offers and pricing plans before making a final decision between two sites.


The Popularity of a Site

Traditional (offline) dating tends to revolve around basic statistics: the more people you meet, possessing your preferred demographics, the more likely you are to find your perfect match. Online dating is not really any different, except that you can meet many more people than you could by following a more traditional dating approach, and finding a good match can be much quicker (and cheaper!).

In general, the larger the number of members on a particular dating site, possessing your preferred demographics, the greater your chances of meeting someone suitable. (Unless you want something very specific - in which case you may want to sign up with a specialised dating such as Adult Dating, Gay Dating, Senior Dating, and so on. Therefore, when we survey online dating sites, we tend to recommend those with larger databases of members (particularly if they also have a powerful set of search parameters which let you find people with particular demographics or characteristics which appeal to you).


A note on Privacy & Safety

Online dating has come a very long way over the past 10 years. In fact, it has now established itself as a 'mainstream' activity, with hundreds of millions of 'ordinary' people, all over the world, signed up with online dating sites. Your online profile can contain quite a bit of personal information, so it's important to choose an online dating site that offers a good level of privacy protection. Most websites offer the opportunity to block users from viewing your profile or apply additional privacy settings to your profile (for example, to make your photographs or videos private or password only).

In our reviews, we have tried to highlight websites which offer additional privacy protection. Most sites also offer guides on how to stay safe online. Most of their tips are fairly obvious, so if you have a reasonable level of common sense, you should be just fine! With the advent of webcams, you can now meet online and get a much better feel for someone, before meeting them in the physical world. So in some respects, it can be safer than using a traditional dating approach.


Terminology: "Powered By…"

You may see the term "powered by" on some online dating sites. This indicates that the site shares the features, structure and often, membership directory of the larger, more established site. Many users are reassured by this factor as it offers the security of being associated with a major site while at the same time having a slightly more specialised focus. Others will just want to cut out the middle-man and join the parent site directly. This practice is relatively common, so don’t be worried if you see that a site is “powered by” another.


The Bottom Line

Millions of ordinary people across the UK have signed up to online dating sites to find someone to date. Many of them are good-looking, intelligent, exciting, and successful. It's just a matter of finding them and connecting with them. Check out our top ten reviews of the best UK dating sites to see which site is right for you!