How Does OkCupid Work: A Beginner’s Guide

If you’ve dated online for any amount time, or even just have stable internet access, you’ve probably heard of OkCupid. At 14 years of age, the company is one of the older online dating services available and boasts a large membership. Unlike other apps and services on the market, OkCupid is all inclusive and isn’t targeted at a specific subset of the dating population, so the odds of your type of people being on the app are pretty good. And OkCupid claims that because of their matching algorithm, the odds of you finding that person in the millions of profiles on the service aren’t bad either.

This step-by-step guide will help you build an attractive OkCupid profile and teach you the ins and outs of the dating app, so you can find what you’re looking for. Let’s get started!

Step 1: Set up your account.

Two screenshots of the OkCupid sign up funnel that show how OkCupid works.

OkCupid is available on both mobile and desktop, so you have a little bit of flexibility on how you want to play. Go ahead and download the app on your mobile device or go to okcupid.com to get started. Like most other online dating services, you have the option to link your Facebook or sign up with an email address. Select either option to move forward.

After signing up, OkCupid will ask for some basic information including your gender (there are lots of options!), your gender of interest (lots of options here too!), your birthday, zip code, ideal relationship length, and a few other basic tidbits. 

When you finish up with these, you’ll be able to customize your profile and start getting noticed.

Step 2: Pick your photos, write your bio.

Two screenshots of the OkCupid profile and questions that show how OkCupid works.

Like most other apps, OkCupid has six photo slots and a short little bio section. There are enough tips to write an article for each, so I’ll spare the nitty gritty points and keep this portion more big picture.

For the photos, you’re going to want to make sure that you have six photos, and most, if not all, should prominently feature you smiling. The first photo should be a headshot in an interesting location like a forest, arcade or well-lit bar. Make sure to include at least one to two full-body shots. Keep the sunglasses and group photos to a minimum.

Photos are also a good opportunity to show off your hobbies and interests. If you’re into active sports of any kind (hiking, skateboarding, skydiving) this is a good way to share it. Active shots can give your profile an extra layer of personality that will help other daters find common ground and get a feel for you.

As for the bio, keep it short and sweet. Four or five sentences should do it. If you’re funny, this is a good place to crack a joke or two. If you’re not, that’s OK. Just write a bit about yourself, your passions, your hobbies, and anything else you think people might want to know. Use a bit of personal flare and keep it honest. The key here is to make readers feel like they’re meeting you for a casual chat.

Once you’re finished with the initial profile setup, you’ll have the option to answer additional prompts to spice up your profile. Look at these as fun bio supplements to touch on anything your bio might not have covered. It’s recommended to fill at least a few of these out.

Step 3: Answer the questions.

Two screenshots of OkCupid questions that help show how OkCupid works.

If you’ve made it this far, you’re in the final stretch! The last step to completing your profile are the basic questions. Each profile on OkCupid displays an estimated compatibility rate. These percentages are based on your answers to these questions, so be as thorough as possible. The basic questionnaire is 15 questions long and ranges from topics like politics to the tidiness of your room to the length of your last relationship. For each question, there’s an option to skip and there are options to select an answer preference for the person you’re interested in too.

If you’re doubting the accuracy of a compatibility rate calculated from 15 questions, that’s fair. Once the initial account setup is complete, you can answer more questions from your profile settings to increase the supposed accuracy of your match percentage. (And OkCupid will often ask you to answer more.) I’ve answered over 100 questions personally and new ones keep showing up in my profile section, so don’t worry about any shortage of these.

Step 4: Send out your likes.

Two screenshots of how liking on OkCupid that helps show how OkCupid works.

I’ll say it again: you can answer more questions and fill out more profile prompts once you finish the initial account setup. OkCupid recommends completing as many of these as possible to maximize your matches. Once that’s done, you can go ahead and start liking other daters and see who you match with.

Like most other apps, OkCupid’s runs on a mutual-like system, meaning two singles have to  like each other before they can talk. (Or you can pay to see who likes you before you match.) There are also two different ways to go through matches. Using OkCupid’s DoubleTake format, you can swipe left or right like Tinder or Bumble for a breezy, low-investment level matching experience.

Alternatively, you can browse matches by scrolling through multiple profiles. In this option, you can open profiles and like and comment on specific prompts to reach out directly with a message. Even though the other person will only see your message if they like you first, this may be a better way to get noticed and can make you stand out from other daters who just like every person in their queue.

Step 5: It’s a match!

Two screenshots of chatting on OkCupid that help show how OkCupid works.

Once you get your first match, go ahead and start chatting. If the conversation goes well, don’t hesitate to ask your match on a date and see where it goes.

If you’re having trouble making matches, try answering a few more questions and tweaking the different profile elements to find a formula that works for you. OkCupid also keeps a list of all of the profiles you’ve liked in the past, so you can always go back and send messages after the initial like if they’ve liked you back. Don’t be afraid to ask your friends what they think of your profile for feedback. Soon, you’ll be on your way.

Step 6: Should you buy?

Two screenshots of OkCupid's store that help show how OkCupid works.

As always, the paid subscription route is a totally viable way to increase your chances at success if you choose to take it. Just keep in mind there are no limits to messaging or liking in the free version like on other similar services.

So, if you choose to go for the subscription, what are you getting yourself into? First, there are two different types of subscriptions: A-List Basic and A-List Premium. The A-List Basic let’s you access a list of daters who like you, use advanced search filters, search based on profile attractiveness, access message read receipts, and remove ads. The pricing plans begin at $9.95 for one month, $7,95 per month for three months, or $4.95 per month for six months.

A-List Premium offers all the same perks as the basic subscription with the addition of a daily Autoboost, which boosts you to the top of the match queue, increased attractiveness, which allows you to see and be seen by more attractive matches, the ability to see other profiles’ answers, and increased message priority. A Premium A-List subscription runs at $24.90 for one month, $22.90 per month for three months, and $19.90 per month for six months.

Well, that’s it. You’re now officially a master of OkCupid, one of the the most popular online dating sites. All that’s left is for you to get in there and start firing off those likes. Let Cupid do the rest.

Alex Bocknek

Alex Bocknek is the senior editor of The Date Mix and works at Zoosk, the online dating service. He’s also a recovering music critic and an aspiring fiction writer (probably lost) on the way to an independent bookstore near you. He can be found occasionally musing about politics, philosophy, and love in the modern world.

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