Looking for Health in All the Wrong Places: What Can Health Website Design Learn from Online Dating?

January 12, 2011 at 11:23 pm 1 comment

Online dating is one of the most successful online businesses. They even have an ideal pricing model: people often pay more expensive monthly fees because they optimistically expect not to need the less expensive longer term charges. Since any online trend or success has implications for sites for other purposes, I was curious about the implications of the success of online dating websites for health website design. I contacted Mark Brooks, an analyst and consultant to the internet dating industry who runs the industry news blog, OnlinePersonalsWatch.com.

Lisa: What is the newest trend in online dating? Is there an online health parallel?

Mark: Niche dating sites are springing up for every imaginable niche. Support groups, similarly: whatever the illness, there’s a support group online, which can be of tremendous comfort and provide sharing of useful, life-saving information.

Lisa: Online dating is trying new approaches to matching people. What works best, in your opinion?

Mark: Personality profiling sites aim to go one step further than typical dating sites. Typical dating sites allow search. So you can find people who meet your wants and needs. But people don’t really know what they want, until they see it. Personality profiling sites like eHarmony allow people to ‘not fall in love with the wrong person.’  They do the hard work of fixing people up, and use the best information available today, on psychology, sociology, anthropology, a la matchmaking.

Lisa: Do you personally try out online dating sites?

Mark: I prefer meeting people in real life, at parties and through friends of friends. I love speed dating, parties, and meeting people in real life. I’m not so keen on internet dating. But I’m married, so I’m off the market.

Lisa: Which features do you like best in sites?

Mark: Personality profiling and webcam based dating, along with location-based services that help people find matches to people nearby them.

Lisa: Do you go online when you need health information? Can you recount a recent time – why you went online, what you found, and if you sought professional care?

Mark: I’ve not been ill, ever, really.  But when I am, I’m heading online to check what my doctor tells me.

Lisa: What can online health learn from online dating?

Mark: I’d love to see a search engine that matches people with other people in support groups, like them.  Same illness, same geographic area.

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Murray Jones  |  January 14, 2011 at 3:35 am

    The need for matching people with health concerns is certainly great. Whether someone has just been diagnosed or just dealing with day to day activities, there is an incredible amount of anxiety and they need to connect with others similar to them for advice and to know that they are not alone.

    At TalkAboutHealth (http://talkabouthealth.com) we match people with similar health concerns for answers, live chats, and support. Many of the concepts (matching algorithms and user experience) we are implementing are similar to dating sites, but of course, customizing the features for health. For example, matching patients with similar disease states, stage of disease, etc. We believe that patients, caregivers, and family all need this support.


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Lisa Gualtieri, PhD, ScM

Lisa GualtieriLisa Gualtieri is Assistant Professor at Tufts University School of Medicine in the Department of Public Health and Community Medicine. She is Director of the Certificate Program in Digital Health Communication. Lisa teaches Designing Health Campaigns using Social Media, Social Media and Health, Mobile Health Design, and Digital Strategies for Health Communication. Contact Lisa: lisa.gualtieri@tufts.edu

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