Summer Liao, WooPlus: “online dating can be convenient but can also be filled with pitfalls”

Many parts of our lives have become fully digital. We not only work and shop online, but we also meet new people and even date.

Online dating platforms have become superior when it comes to finding your other half, as they allow you to chat with new people from the privacy of your home rather than having to meet up with a stranger in real life. Due to recent events worldwide, online dating has become even more popular, resulting in a variety of new apps popping up on mobile marketplaces.

WooPlus is one of the more specific dating apps – it is an application for curvy people to enjoy dating and be free of body shaming. To find out more about the reality of online dating, Cybernews team sat down with Summer Liao, Marketing and PR Specialist of WooPlus.

What has your journey been like? How did the idea of WooPlus come about?

The Founder of WooPlus, Neil Raman, witnessed his sister's dating life for a number of years and saw first-hand the difficulties that curvy and plus-size people face. At that time, his sister felt like there was no place for a plus-size girl like her in the dating world. So in 2015, Neil thought it was time to create a dating app exclusively for curvy and plus-size people, where they could feel attractive, confident, and loved for who they are.

Our company Dating Oasis was established and registered in Hong Kong. Now it is our head office location. Neil built out an agile team around the world in order to better reach and operate in major markets.

The timeline:

  • At the end of 2015, WooPlus had its debut launch
  • In early 2016, there was massive coverage and exposure from the press
  • Later in 2016, WooPlus received an Asian angel investment
  • In 2017, Neil formed a Hong Kong-based team
  • Since 2018, WooPlus has been growing substantially, reaching a milestone of 2 million users milestone in 2018
  • In 2019, 3 million users milestone, we had brand refreshing and redesign
  • In 2020, WooPlus launched a significant 5.0 version and revamped the brand
  • In 2022, the new 7.0 version came out, and in the middle of this year, we had a brand new feature update named Flash Chat.

Can you introduce us to your app? What are its main features?

WooPlus, founded in 2015, is a dating app for curvy people to enjoy dating and be free of body shaming. Beyond that, also an inclusive lifestyle choice for them to feel attractive, confident, and loved for who they are. Today with over 7,500,000 members globally.

The main features include "For You," "Likes You," "Moments" and "Flash Chat." "For you" is one way that users can check other users' profiles based on our algorithm considering multiple factors, including but not only gender and age preference, how active other users are, their popularity, and distance. "Likes You" is the feature that users can check who liked them.

In our app, we provide an online community named "Moments," so it's basically a combination of Instagram and Facebook, which would allow users to post pictures they want and others can interact. We also have a section called "Personal Ads" that allows users who want to be seen by everyone to post their intro and selfies, and our official account will select the most popular profiles every week and give them good exposure (normally women).

What's more, our official account initiates a discussion every week. The subjects are mostly about dating, sex, and relationships. We encourage all users to participate in our Weekly Talk by taking a poll and leaving comments saying their opinions. We also constantly post WooPlus Love Stories and Dating Tips to build a healthy and lively atmosphere for dating.

WooPlus also had a major update in 2022, a brand new feature named Flash Chat. The slogan for Flash chat is “Break the ice, faster than the Flash.” That indicates this feature helps users to skip swiping and taking chances to match with someone. It allows users to chat with like-minded people quickly. They don't even need to know what to ask because Flash Chat will do all the work for them with a daily updated question pool.

What do you think are the main challenges plus-size people face when dating?

Body shaming is a severe problem for plus-size people, especially plus-size women, on dating apps and in real life. A lot of plus-size women, no matter whether they are influencers or not, post on TikTok and Instagram, saying when they are on major dating apps like Tinder, Bumble, and Hinge, they get body-shamed a lot. Apparently, men on those apps are expecting to see women with body types that are largely the preferred beauty standard. But WooPlus thinks it's absolutely normal and undoubtedly that human beings naturally have various body sizes, and all sizes are beautiful.

Secondly, being fetishized on a plus-size dating app is what we want to avoid. If we can't predict, we'll punish every fetishistic behavior that offends our users. We have a zero-tolerance policy for rude and disrespectful behaviors in order to create a comfortable and inclusive platform.

How did the recent global events affect the way people approach dating?

I think the pandemic has changed the online dating ecosystem forever. Now people are used to virtual dating, like video dates and phone dates, which are the dating types they wouldn't consider before COVID-19.

Maybe after the pandemic, young people just want to relax. According to Tinder's Swipe 2022, they tend to have light and more creative dates instead of traditional and stressful dinner dates. They are owning the situationship (more than a hookup, less than a relationship) as a valid relationship status, Tinder saw a 49% increase in members adding the phrase to their bios, with young singles saying they prefer situationships as a way to develop a relationship with less pressure.

But as for the users on WooPlus, we still think they are looking for connections of any sort. Singles are now becoming far more transparent and intent-focused about what they want, but it doesn't necessarily have to be formal partners. Many users sent feedback to us that they'd like to highlight the option of "What I am looking for: casual sex, friends with benefits, relationship, marriage, or don't know yet." So, I think online dating is still a significant approach for people to make a connection, whether it's a friendly one, a sexual one, or a romantic one, as long as both parties are honest and genuine with each other.

What are some of the best practices organizations should follow when developing mobile applications?

Although we do need to learn from major players in the industry, we also need to develop a set of best practice processes on our own.

  1. Always consider the needs of the target users, build a user-friendly platform, and convert user feedback into product improvements.
  2. Research the market, understand the strengths and weaknesses of various similar applications, and learn from our competitors.
  3. Continuously improve the technical architecture of the front and back end of the application.
  4. Invest in user experience and focus on intuitional and user-friendly mobile applications.
  5. Leverage cloud development platforms to reduce costs.
  6. Ensure your mobile app is secure.

In your opinion, what are the key things everyone should know before they start online dating?

Online dating can be convenient but can also be filled with pitfalls. Protecting yourself and your assets is the first priority of dating online.

Don't respond to requests for financial help. No matter how convincing and compelling someone's reason may seem, never respond to a request to send money, especially overseas or via wire transfer. If you do get such a request, report it to the app or site you’re using immediately.

When meeting in person, please remember to video chat before you meet up in person. Also, tell a friend where you're going and meet in a public place.

As the world gets more connected, what safety tools do you think everyone should have in place to keep themselves and their devices safe?

First of all, use more complex passwords and consider using multi-factor authentication, such as security questions, security tokens, etc. Also, don't click on random links from unknown sources. Thirdly, make purchases from secure and trusted sites. And above all, always be vigilant.

What other aspects of our daily lives do you hope to see improved by mobile apps and other advancements in technology?

Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) is a very important concept in our daily lives. It aims to support people with disabilities, remove digital barriers and provide equal opportunities and access rights for them.

Undoubtedly, disabilities influence how people use the web. Some can't perceive audio or video content, others are not able to use a mouse or a keyboard to navigate, etc. So the tools and techniques that enable WAI are supposed to be improved.

For example, audio descriptions for visual details and notifications to alert users by blinking, sounds, vibration, etc. Also, captions and transcripts to describe auditory information with a verbatim recording, the TextTrack API can be used to provide captions dynamically. Of course, braille — a system of reading by using the fingertips, refreshable braille displays are widely implemented. Lastly, speech synthesis to convert text into voice (e.g. screen readers and voice browsers) and screen magnification to enlarge or reduce text and image sizes to better see the content

WooPlus is also considering adding WAI support to our app and letting disabled users have better experiences.

What does the future hold for WooPlus?

WooPlus will continue to optimize the efficiency and quality of establishing connections and maintaining inclusivity. We are designing new features like in-app live events not only based on text but also based on audio or video.

Apart from the WAI features mentioned before, we are also doing some R&D work for a whole new dating experience for the next generation. In the future, people can get a taste of a more real dating scene in Metaverse with Virtual reality and Mixed Reality tech tools.

WooPlus is also doing the internal testing of integrating ChatGPT, it has shown that the use of ChatGPT leads to a 200% increase in match interaction and helps users to break the ice more effectively.

In our official press release article, you can find out more information.

WooPlus might be the first dating app to provide the AI dating coach service in the dating app industry, so stay tuned!

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