Meaningful Data: Learnings From OKCupid


Love is a difficult concept to grasp in general, but perhaps even more confusing once the internet becomes a factor. We search for meaning in signals or cues and try our hardest to gain insight into another person’s perspective. Is there a logical way to interpret someone else’s behavior in order to make smarter, more informed decisions moving forward? OK Cupid thinks so.

Sean Henry is a Front-End Developer for OK Cupid. Last week, he presented on “Meaningful Data” at the Extra Credit Meet Up. In his presentation, we learned that his team doesn’t take data points at face value, they dig one level deeper to find meaning behind them. Sean’s presentation demonstrated through specific examples how his team collects data which is then interpreted to make changes and improve the experience of their love-seeking users.

An important data point for Sean and his team is a “three-way message.” This raised a few eyebrows in the audience until Sean explained that it consists of a conversation between two people going back and forth three times. Sure, the number of messages going out in general is an important metric to track, but more meaningful is the amount of quality conversations taking place. The goal of the platform is to make connections, and a “three-way conversation” is the first step in doing so.

When OKC redesigned their match search results page, some goals were to increase overall messaging, active users and clicks. Search results originally included a thumbnail image of your match along with a few descriptive lines from their profile.


With the redesign, much larger, high quality photos are shown with just a username, location, age and match percentage.


The user data that came through let the team know that their redesign was a success with 22% more clicks, 23% more messages and 21.7% more fourway messages. Of course these numbers signal a positive impact to the team, but it was important for them to examine exactly why users reacted the way that they they did.

Just like love, interpreting meaning behind actions isn’t an absolute science, but the team at OKC is determined to figure out reason hidden in their numbers. When the site originally launched in 2004, not many people were walking around with smartphones affording them the opportunity to snap high-quality selfies and editing apps to boot. This was also long before Instagram filters began helping people look more attractive. Could this increase in clicks be due to a magnification of more visually-appealing images being uploaded?

Finding meaning behind the data you collect can help you better understand actions and behaviors. As you collect data to analyze your efforts (in work and love), take these learnings from OKC and bring your evaluation one step further. It takes a lot of interpretation and analyzation, but look close enough, and you’ll start to find answers..