Ember is a dating app meant to reduce the instant gratification of speed matching by slowing down the process with more thoughtful action.


Phase 1:
January 2021–February 2021
Phase 2:
October 2022-December 2022


Phase 1:
Phase 2:
Independent Project

My Role

User Interview
Persona/Journey Mapping


"Internet dating is symptomatic of social and technological change that transforms modern courtship into a type of commodified game*"

With the overwhelming amount of people using dating apps, the access to finding a match increased as people can find multiple potential partners easily just at the tip of their fingertips.​ But along with the ease of access, it has become more difficult to take these applications seriously as all they call for is a swipe or tap of the finger.

*Hobbs, Mitchell, et al. “Liquid Love? Dating Apps, Sex, Relationships and the Digital Transformation of Intimacy.” Journal of Sociology, vol. 53, no. 2, June 2017, pp. 271–284


Does matching with someone on an online dating app mean you really match with them?

The current dating app market in the U.S. is big enough to have almost one out of three people have ever used a dating app, yet not even half of that 33% have ever married or been in a committed relationship.

The ease of swiping and liking actions foster an environment of mindless interactions that overcrowd potential matches which undermines how users would interact.

Main Features 1.0


You can complete the challenges at your own interest and time schedule. Completing a challenge will heighten the interest on the receiving end because of the extra effort made by you. The challenges can be your icebreaker or a creative outlet.

Main Features 1.1


The challenge feature offers different ways to shine one's individuality: drawing, voice memo, quiz, and more! Choose one or as many challenges you would like to have on your profile, but remember they can complete only one challenge before matching.

Main Features 2.0

Light a Match

All photos of the people will be blurred out until both of you agree to light a match and defrost the pictures. There's no limitation on the number of people you can light a match or time before doing so, so go ahead and light a match when you feel comfortable.

Initial hypothesis

Before talking to the users

We found the main root of the problem to be the number of matches the users get in one sitting as an overwhelming number of matches undermines their ability to make good decisions* and transforms modern courtship into a type of commodified game**.

With that being said, we had an initial hypothesis that reducing the number of matches would result in more intentional and thoughtful user interactions.

* 2012 Eli J Finkel, Paul W Eastwick, Benjamin R. Karney, Harry T. Reis and Susan Sprecher “Online Dating—A Critical Analysis From the Perspective of Psychological Science”
**Hobbs, Mitchell, et al. “Liquid Love? Dating Apps, Sex, Relationships and the Digital Transformation of Intimacy.” Journal of Sociology, vol. 53, no. 2, June 2017, pp. 271–284

Market validation

Why and how do people use dating apps?

survey (58 responses)

Issue 1: There is a stigma behind users' intentions

What do you think dating apps primarily used for?

from both dating app users and non dating app users

What do you use dating apps primarily for?

from current and ex-dating app users

In summary, although the majority of the survey participants were active dating app users that were looking for a significant other(63.3%), there were still such assumptions that dating apps are used for superficial reasons(e.g. hookups and peer validation) meaning that the users' intentions were not clearly aligned. We later conducted user research in order to understand why such misalignment exists.

survey (34 responses)

Issue 2: Finding a s/o isn't the priority for everyone

As you can see, as the age group gets older, the percentage of the users that use dating apps for boredom decreases, as for finding a s/o increase. In other words, for the age group of 18-25, our target demographic, most people use dating apps to kill their boredom/ and finding a lover wasn’t their urgent priority. We were quite confused because does that mean that we are creating a dating app for the people that are not necessarily looking to date. However we wanted to still unravel this a little bit and find the opportunity space.

User interview (23 survey participants / 5 interviewees)

Talking to the users


"I'm usually very fast-paced on dating apps and it easily creates muscle memory of swiping."


"Everything starts on a superficial level because you have to swipe on their picture first to match."


"I tend to be hesitant but only until when I see the other person puts effort to engage in a conversation."

key insights

  1. “Small talk” is repetitive, but there aren’t really other methods of initiating conversations

  2. Users are often afraid to appear desperate first, making them hesitant to be honest

  3. The expectation for a user to present the most physically attractive versions of themselves pressures them to give the impression of a certain image that deviates from who they really are.

Age group 18-25 are the users that find joy in random encounters. The way they turn online dating organic, is to get to know the other person authentically and organically with no set expectations and purposes.

→ How could we solidifies this idea into features?

competitive analysis

How is the current marketing utilize different features?



Our goals

Because we were tacking a problem with quite amount of ambiguity, it was crucial to open up a creative outlet for us to brainstorm for most successful solution. By having clear HMW's, we were able to broaden our range of possibilities, which later turned into next actionable steps.

Redefining our hypothesis


How can we make blind connections intimate?

Video call model designed by Izzy

At this point, we knew we really wanted to minimize the physical attraction aspect of our app. We were thinking of various options, like using premade faces, blurring out the images, or customizing their own avatar.

One challenge we had with this was that it lacked identity. It made it really hard for users to keep track of different conversations they had as they had to rely solely on the names and blurred images. We might have successfully removed physical attraction from this app, and so were the individuality and intimacy. We took this as a challenge with the hope to make the trade-off worthy.

trials and errors

Individuality through experience, not physicality

Idea 1: Coupons

Hypothesis: Having to reach certain milestones will incentivize users to spend time with one another.

Idea 2: Missions

Hypothesis: Users will bond as they experience more tasks together creating a more genuine relationship and providing a foundation to build relationships upon.

designed by Izzy

Idea 3: challenges

Hypothesis: Optional challenges that allow users to complete at their own interest and time schedule will highten the interests of users on the receiving end.

This can be a both thoughtful and personal approach which will be a win-win on both giving and receiving ends from the extra effort made by their potential matches..


Introducing Ember v.1

2.2 Profile

3.3 complete a challenge

5.4 light a match

usability testing

The first version of Ember was made in early 2021. One thing I wished when we finished off the project was to learn what can come AFTER the first set of designs was made. Fast forward to the end of 2022, I wanted to come back to this project for the second version.

With our first version of the product, I led an open conversation with 5 active dating app users from our initial survey on how our product is doing well and how I could improve.

user pain points

  • Users were frustrated when creating their profiles because of too much freedom

  • Navigation around common flows and new features were often misunderstood

  • Users took longer time building trust with the challenge feature because of lack of expectation

what success looks like

  • User are encouraged to complete their profile

  • Users discover new features easily

  • Users are engaging with the features

  • Users feel confident in using the features

  • Users feel more comfortable matching with users


Revisiting user flows

target results

final screens

1.3 preferences

1.4 highlighted profile

2.4.2 tutorials

2.4.3 tutorials

3.1 new profile

3.4 complete challenge

4.1 new like

5.1 profile

5.1 profile

5.2 chat

5.2.1 menu

5.3.1 light a match requested

5.3.2 push notification

5.3.3 light a match

5.4 reveal profile


Behind the scenes

For this project, we went on a 'virtual ethnographic study' to get more informal conversations on real dating app users' experiences. All three of us went on to three most popular dating apps(Tinder, Hinge, Bumble) and had some amazing opportunities to meet and connect with the interviewees! Also a quick shoutout to Terry.


Our Key Takeaways

Version 1:

As we were in charge of this project end-to-end(even outside of the design!), it was such a fun exercise for the three of us to virtually collaborate. We became more creative about how to utilize the digital space more efficiently, better showcase our ideas and proposals to our supervisors, and communicate with limited resources. Designing with no business constraints allowed us to fully explore and get fully adventurous as well, and I was able to find what it's like to design with joy.

Version 2:

After taking internships and getting a glimpse of what it's like to design for an actual consumer-facing product, I wanted to use this project as an opportunity to adapt those learnings. This past few months revisiting my favorite project after 2 years has been refreshing, and I learned that the design process is always iterative and never linear.

Thank you!

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