The real story behind Tinder’s most famous gesture.
Ever since Tinder was first launched in 2012, Tinder-inspired Swiping Left and Swiping Right gestures have become mainstream. Its dead-simple user interface helped propel the app — and its interface — into the realm of pop culture artifacts.
Tinder’s creators knew they had to make online dating fast, delightful, and intuitive. Before launching the app, Jonathan Badeen, one of its co-founders, was looking for more fluidity in navigating from one profile to another.
One day I was wiping my foggy mirror after getting out of the shower and found my inspiration. — Jonathan Badeen
One user wouldn’t have to click to decide the fate of another, but would instead swipe with their finger, one way or the other.
Swipe left. Swipe right. It’s such a small gesture that packs such a big punch. They are essential phrases in online dating. As a result, they’ve been making their way to all corners of the internet — and beyond.
So let’s rewind…
Swipe right means to like or accept someone, while swipe left means to reject them. The meaning of these two phrases is basically Tinder’s core mechanics. If both people swipe right on each other, they’ll be matched up.
However, it is quite common for two people not to match even if one of them swipes right. Creating a match requires mutual interest from both parties. If you don’t end up matching with someone you swiped right on, you can just assume that they swiped left on you.
To further understand the mechanics of Tinder, I strongly recommend the “Breaking down the brilliant and simple design of Tinder” story by Richard Fang.
The practice of hopping around online via our fingertips quickly spread outside the framework of the Tinder app and has become virtually unavoidable.
The swipe-yes-or-no design apps have exploded ever since Tinder was first launched. One only has to type the Tinder of… into Google to realize that the online dating giant’s model has become the standard over the last 10 years.
Today we can swipe to find our new home with Pinql or MoveStreets, play video games like Reigns, find our new job in SwipeJob, or find our beloved pet with GetPet. Not to talk about the hundreds of dating apps alternative to Tinder… which follow the very same Tinder’s simple interface to find true love.
Tinder’s swipe and match system is ubiquitous and is rapidly becoming as familiar a part of the mobile ecosystem as the checkbox is to the web.
However, all of this begs the question…
According to Karen Chernick, that’s a cultural association. If you’re left-handed, you may rightly feel that the Western world is stacked against you. From the ancient Greeks to contemporary product designers, both sides have always presented different meanings.
- The right side has been always associated with righteousness.
- The left side is associated with anything that is flawed.
Sadok Cervantes Rabadán, a Design Lead for the Wikimedia Foundation, explains that Tinder’s core mechanic works because of the linear association we have with time. If we draw a line on a whiteboard, we can almost instinctively tell that the past is on the far left, the present is in the center, and the future is on the far right.
We want the things we like in our future, thus you swipe right. We want the things we don’t like in our past, thus you swipe left.
Furthermore, Boaz Bechar, an entrepreneur with more than a decade of experience, states that Tinder’s use of right and left is no exception. It is commonly observed in contemporary design. Many mobile apps which use gestures as part of their interface usually associate left with going backward, or dismissal, and right as forward, or progress.
For instance, swiping emails left to clear them from your inbox, or swiping photos left to scroll and view new ones — the left-to-right and back-to-forward motif can be found almost everywhere.
By swiping on Tinder, we make a quick and simple decision: yes or no. At the cognitive level, this simple gesture produces a form of excitement for the user, who eagerly awaits what is behind the next profile in line. However, according to Södertön University studies by Lundmark and Poikolainen, this mechanism activates our reward circuit, which seeks speedy gratification. With each swipe or match, our brain delivers shots of dopamine, the happiness hormone.
Tinder seems to have created one of the most simple and powerful gestures in today’s digital environment. The whole world has fallen for its charms — and still seems to want more of it.
Whatever the reason behind Tinder’s big success, sure is that without the swipe, there would be no Tinder. And without this very same swipe system, we might all be going home alone tonight too.
Just feel free to share your thoughts and experiences in the comments! ✨