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Developing a Dating App: How Much Does It Cost?

Maryna Pasko, Market Researcher at MadAppGang
Maryna Pasko
Market Researcher

The past decade has seen online dating services grow exponentially in terms of both popularity and as an industry. In 2019, Tinder was the leading dating app in the United States, with over 7.86 million users.

It's hard to underestimate the importance of online dating, which, particularly in light of this year’s events, became vital for many people. Experts predict the ongoing growth of online dating, so it's safe to say the trend is here to stay.

If you're reading this, you're probably aware that dating apps can be highly profitable investments — when executed well.

In this article, we look at how to develop your own Tinderific service and examine how much it costs to develop a dating app.

Your first consideration is the type of app you'll make. Let's take a look.

Dating App Types

The dating app market is extremely broad, so before building one, you need to decide which type best suits your project.

First, consider the difference between location-based and algorithm-based applications.

Location-based dating apps (like our beloved Tinder and Bumble) rely on geolocation data and show possible matches based on a user's location, while matching algorithm-based dating apps use a different approach. Services such as OkCupid analyze user surveys to create matches. The algorithm finds similarities in questionnaire answers and forms matches based on expected compatibility.

Fifteen logos of dating apps

The next step is to define whether you will be targeting a wide audience or specific groups.

The majority of people prefer standard dating apps. Such applications are very similar to dating websites where users set their ideal match criteria during registration. Despite the outdated concept, classic dating apps are staying afloat — mostly thanks to their middle-aged audiences. For instance, eHarmony was initially a dating website but is now available as a mobile app.

The apps focused on a particular group of users defined as niche dating apps, as such services have a narrower audience compared to standard dating apps. Niches can run the gamut from age group to special areas of interest and everything in between. The Ourtime app, for example, brings together people in their 50s and older. Another great example is The League, an exclusive dating app aimed at ambitious young people.

After forming the concept of your future app, it is time to define its main features. Below we described the most significant of them.

Main Dating App Features

User demands and expectations keep growing along, as do the number of choices available. To compete, your app needs to satisfy the needs of its potential audience. An intuitive interface and enhanced features attract more users and make your app likelier to make a splash in the market.

Common features in dating apps include:

Profile creation — Allows users to enter and edit data such as their personal bio and photos.

Geolocation function — Uses GPS information to find matches nearby.

Social network integration — Connects the app with social accounts such as Facebook or Instagram. With this feature enabled, users can register directly from a social network.

Swiping and matching — A convenient system that expedites the matching process and makes searching for new matches easy.

Real-time chat — An essential feature as matches want to stay in touch with each other. Tinder has recently taken this a step further and created a video-chat function for its users.

Notification system — Alerts the user of new matches and updates.

Personal security — Should be an utmost priority for any application, especially when it comes to social apps. Users need to trust that their private data is safe within the app and there's no risk of sensitive data being leaked, something that happened recently with the famous 3fun. Imagine, more than 1.5 million users had their personal data exposed because the app wasn't properly secured.

These are just part of the functions available in all popular dating apps. If you want to stand out exceed the user's expectations, you may develop advanced features for your app, but note that expenses will increase accordingly.

From this point, it is reasonable to think of investment return. So let's take a closer look at the monetization methods below.

Sketchy drawn smartphone with a chat and emojis on the screen

How Do Tinder-like Apps Make Money?

As we mentioned before, you can make good money on a dating app. But first, you need to decide on a monetization strategy. It's essential to choose the right business model from the beginning otherwise, your app may finish like Cuddli. The famous geek-oriented dating service failed because of its business strategy and was forced to shut down with 100,000 users.

The easiest way to earn money is by positioning your application as a Pay-to-Download service. But for a dating app, it's not the best option as dating apps need to reach a broad audience. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to generate profit from a dating app.

Here are a few other ways to make money from your dating application:

Premium Accounts

Most dating apps (Tinder is no exception) operate on a “freemium” business model; the free version is widely available but to access enhanced premium features, users must buy a subscription. For example, Bumble’s upgraded version "Boost" offers unlimited swiping, the ability to rematch with expired connections, and many other perks.

But how often do people spend money on these extras? As it turns out, quite often. Tinder’s success is stunning — in five short years, the number of paid subscribers rose from 97 thousand to over 6 million!

In-App Adds

Another popular way to earn on a dating app is in-app advertising. Mobile ad companies pay a decent amount if you agree to broadcast ads in your app, especially if it has an audience in the thousands. For example, the general revenue per impression from the simplest banner ad is $0.10, while a video ad (which is the most expensive type of ad) can bring you around $5-10. For users who don't want to see advertisements, you can offer a paid ad-free version.

No doubt, a high percentage of users will be annoyed by ads popping up all the time. So before integrating advertisements, you should first evaluate the impact on UX.

In-App Purchases

In-app purchasing allows users to buy a particular service within the app. This strategy is mostly used in gaming apps but can work in dating apps too. Some people don't want to pay for a full subscription when they only want to use a premium feature occasionally. In these cases, you can sell little extras, just like Tinder does with its "boost" or "superlike" add-ons. The price for "boosts", by the way, goes from $1.99 to more than $6.00 each.

Developing a Dating App: Expected Costs and Timeframe

As mentioned before, the price of development largely depends on the app's features. For example, you can create something basic with limited functionality and a simple design for $30,000 to $40,000. Or you can pay more than $100,000 for a competitive Tinder-clone app with a full suite of enhanced features.

Just bear in mind that this is a very rough estimation as multiple factors affect the cost of mobile app development, including the developers you hire. Developers fees start at $20 per hour on the low end of the scale if you hire freelancers, and jump much higher if you assign your project to an in-house developer.

Your third option is to hire a mobile app development agency to create a dating app, which is often the most optimal solution. Most offer a flexible, individual approach to their clients.

App development companies are made up of groups of professionals with years of experience. Let’s take a closer look at a team composition.

Several drawn mobile phones with people's images on their screens

Development Team

To build a dating app, you need a team of professionals including:

  • Project manager The person in charge of planning and executing the project.
  • Back-end developer — To work on database storage and create authentication and notification systems for the app.
  • App developers — These guys are responsible for front-end development. Their number may vary depending on the platform you choose and time frames.
  • UI/UX designer — To build user-centric designs and create an intuitive interface for your dating app.
  • QA engineers — Implement testing at each stage of the development process to ensure the app functions properly.

The cost of hiring such a team would depend on the level of experience of professionals as well as their location. Below we took the average hourly rate for the experts located in Australia (as we are an Australian company).

Table with the average hourly rate for Australian experts to develop an iPhone app for dating


Development Timescale

The development process usually takes around four to six months for a mid-complexity application. At MadAppGang, we follow Agile methodology and iterate the process into two-week development cycles – sprints.

At the end of each sprint, the planned amount of work is completed by the team and ready for review. The number of sprints depends on the range and complexity of the app's features. For example, our social network for shopping – Wallbrand, was built in 14 sprints, with essential features included marketplace, social network integration, progressive images, etc. SmartRun, the app that couches for healthy running with real-time high-precision location tracking, BTLE device connection, AI-powered recommendations, and custom animations, required 18 sprints to develop.

With the growing popularity of online dating services, building a dating app can be a great investment opportunity. If you have an original vision for a dating service, with stand-out features and a progressive user-oriented design, go for it!

Who knows, maybe one day your app will rival industry sharks like Tinder, Bumble, and Plenty of Fish.

Ready to dabble in the dating app scene or have an idea in mind? Drop us a message and we'll contact you to discuss the details of your project.

11 December 2020