– How Social and Dating Websites Should Work (or at least a step in the right direction)

I usually talk about internet tools for business, but they also should be made and used for pleasure and personal fun. And by analyzing these types of tools, we can learn more about what works and what doesn’t for online business as well.

This time, let’s talk about the most popular of personal pleasure tools: dating websites. Whether it’s because we don’t need them, don’t want to be seen as needing them, or are just horribly annoyed by them, they have become one of the mysterious creatures of the internet. eHarmony for those looking for a serious relationship. OkCupid for those looking for something simple and free. Adult FriendFinder for the horny guys who can’t get any the traditional way.

Okay, okay, I’m getting off topic. Let’s talk about Youniverse now.

Youniverse is a bare-bones dating/social meeting service. I say bare-bones because some of the major functionality of a dating service (like the inability to select sexual preference) is missing.

Despite that, however, Youniverse gets several things right. First of all, it creates an interesting and engaging quiz and personality profiling system. Instead of answering dreary and dreadfully similar personality and love quizzes, youniverse spices it up with image surveys, which allow you to choose images to represent your thoughts and feelings.

I don’t know about you, but I’m a very visual person, and it was actually fun to go through some of the great images they have for their quizzes.

The rest of youniverse you can imagine: match you up with people similar to you, browse other profiles, ask people you don’t know out on dates and seem creepy in the process. But imagini, which built youniverse, has taken a step in the right direction.

But hell, they have a ton to do. OkCupid works as a system because there’s a neverending series of quizzes and questions made by users that narrows down the choices of “potential” dates little by little. Youniverse simply doesn’t have enough questions to do that. Allowing for user-created quizzes and for more of the general features of a dating and social meeting website will do youniverse good.

Youniverse received mostly unnoticed coverage on Mashable and Techcrunch today. I think Jason Kincaid of TechCrunch does get it right when he says that imagini hasn’t launched a true dating site. But the potential is there and I think the “imageDNA” model may very well be copied by other dating services and even other businesses. When you ask your audience to participate with your website, it has to be engaging. Visuals (so long as they load fast) are central to that march.

In the meantime, you’re welcome to visit my Youniverse profile, though I have this feeling I’m going to regret ever posting a link to it on my blog.

– Ben

Your thoughts? Is Youniverse really any different than other dating site?