Do you find the idea of online dating daunting? We've picked out the 12 best dating sites for you to try – and there really is something for everyone.No longer embarassing or, God forbid, cringe, half of all single people now use online dating sites to find love (or at least an easy hook-up... hello, Tinder).
There are literally hundreds of dating sites out there. So, to make it a little less overwhelming, we've trawled the Internet for you and sought the advice of online dating expert Sloan Sheridan-Williams.
With no further ado, here are our 12 of the best online dating sites:
How does it work? If you are serious about looking for that special thing called love, then this is the site for you. eHarmony take this online dating lark very seriously. They've even patented The eHarmony Compatibility Matching System. That's right. They've taken 35 years of research to come up with a Relationship Questionnaire and pride themselves on matching users with people who are actually compatible with them.
How much does it cost? £9.95 per month.
The experts say: This is a great site for those who are looking for personality matching. eHarmony takes the hard work out of trolling through 100s of photos and delivers compatible dates directly to your inbox. This site provides quality over quantity and is great for those looking for a long term relationship.
How does it work? match is the most widely-used online dating site in the world and has nearly 1.8 million subscribers. It works in the most traditional way: Simply create a profile, check out your potential matches, send them a few messages and then arrange to meet for a date. There are also various off-shoots of match.com with microsites for gay and lesbian dating, Asian dating, Christian dating and Polish dating. The love-gods at match also arrange singles events and provide online dating advice.
How much does it cost? £12.99 per month for a 6-month membership.
The experts say: For those nervous about dating, this site puts the control in your fingertips allowing you access to thousands of profiles and the ability to chat to potential dates at the rate which works for you. It is well known and therefore attracts a wide demographic, allowing you to widen your dating pool or limit it with their advanced matching facility.
How does it work? Lovestruck helps you target potential partners according to location and it covers many of the major cities across the world. It's aimed at time-starved professionals, who due to busy work and social lives simply don't have the time to date. Lovestruck helps put you in touch with people who are near you – be it where you work or live – to save you precious minutes or hours travelling to and from a date. The site also hosts regular events which are a fun, relaxed way to meet people.
How much does it cost? A minimum of £16 per month.
The experts say: Perfect if you are looking for love in the city and want to approach dating with an informal first meet in your lunch break or after work. It takes the travel out of dating especially with its tube station search parameter.
4. Marie Claire Dating
How does it work? Choose a username (a screen name or alias) and set up a profile describing yourself and the type of person and relationship you are looking for. View other people's profiles by searching the site and when you find someone that interests you, you can send a message via the site to their username. The message is sent to their email address from your username - your real name and email address are never shown. Similarly you can receive messages from other members. These messages will be from their username and not their real email address, protecting both your and their privacy. Everyone who sets up a profile is a member on the site, but if you want to contact someone you need to be a paying subscriber.
How much does it cost? It's free to join and browse matches but for a year's full access, it costs £10.50 a month.
How does it work? There are no gimmicks or USPs with DatingDirect. In fact, it's fairly similar to our old friends Match, mentioned above. You can start looking at potential dates for free, then when you like the look of someone and fancy striking up a conversation, you need to subscribe. It also has a handy instant messenger service which makes chatting to your matches easy and breezy.
How much does it cost? £12.99 per month for a 6 month membership.
The experts say: This site is owned by the dating giant MEETIC and gives you access to 20 million members across Europe and it also merged with Match.com in 2009. A daily email suggests six members you might be interested in, which is a useful feature that doesn’t feel like you’re being bombarded but provides you enough choice to find a compatible date.
How does it work? This is sold as a serious online dating site for 'discerning singles.' A bit like eHarmony, PARSHIP uses a patented test, this time called The PARSHIP principle®, which analyzes 32 personality traits and is based on an algorithm of 136 rules. It sounds complicated, but that's not for you to worry about. Just sign up, do the test and get chatting to all those love-compatible people out there.
How much does it cost? Minimum of £14.90 per month.
The experts say: Great for those looking for long-term relationships with professional people, users complete a personality test to measure compatibility with potential dates using psychometric analysis. Functionality is limited as the site is more geared up to helping you find a long term partner rather than flirting randomly with people you like the look of. Members have similar incomes and education. There is also a specific gay version of the site for those looking for a serious committed relationship with a same sex partner.
How does it work? Set up by two friends, Emma and Lucy, in 2006, Muddy Matches is aimed at 'muddies', who by the girls' definition is 'any person who loves the countryside and is not afraid of a bit of mud'. The criteria is pretty relaxed and the site uses a Muddy-Townie ratio to match potential dates accordingly. So, someone who lives and breathes country air and despises all things concrete jungle would have a ratio of 100:0, but someone who lives in the city but loves to don their Hunters at the weekend might be a 30:70.
How much does it cost? £18 for one month, £36 for three months, £54 for six months and £72 for 12 months.
The experts say: If going on a clay pigeon shoot or country pub meal is your idea of a fun way of meeting new people then this is the site for you. It takes dating out of the city and into a more relaxed environment bringing the fun back into dating.
How does it work? Plenty of Fish works by asking users to take a special POF Relationship Chemistry Predictor test, which measures self-confidence, family-orientation, self-control, social dependency and easygoingness. You're then matched to those most compatible to you.
How much does it cost? It's free!
The experts say: This is great if you want free access to a large database of single people. It has a compatibility matching system that includes areas such as self-confidence, openness and family. A great starting point for people who have not tried online dating before and want to try it for free.
How does it work? Mysinglefriend.com is the brainchild of TV presenter Sarah Beeny and it works by each member on the site being put forward and described by a friend. The site aims to get rid of the 'cringe factor' associated with having to big yourself up through your online profile and makes it more of a fun community, where like-minded people can chat, meet and potentially fall in lurve.
How much does it cost? £13 per month.
The experts say: For those who are at a loss as how to sell themselves in 500 words or less, this site offers the opportunity to be described by your friend. It works on the premise your friend can sell you better than you can but they can also embarrass you too. MSF has a more chatty style in the profile and gives you a greater insight into your potential date’s world.
How does it work? This online dating site does exactly what it says on the tin and only people deemed beautiful enough will be allowed to join. To become a member, applicants are required to be voted in by existing members of the opposite sex. Members rate new applicants over a 48-hour period based on whether or not they find the applicant ‘beautiful’. It sounds harsh, but the site claims that by admitting people based on their looks they're removing the first hurdle of dating, saying that because everyone on the site is a fitty, members can concentrate on getting to know people's character and personalities. Beautiful People also promises access to exclusive parties and top guest lists around the globe. Now for that brutal 48-hour wait...
How much does cost? If you buy a 6-month membership, you'll get a reduced price of £7.50 per month.
The experts say: This infamous dating site claims to have no unattractive members and is known for deleting members who gained weight. Aspiring members have to pass a 48-hour peer vote to be accepted as one of the 'beautiful people'. They regularly host members’ events where allegedly you have to look as attractive as your profile photo otherwise entry to the venue is refused. This is the ideal site for those who want to bypass the usual filtering of profiles based on looks and focus on getting to know people they know they will be attracted to.
How does it work? A similar taste in music can be a great indicator as to whether you're compatible with someone, so the fine folks behind Tastebuds have struck gold with their music-based online datingsite. Getting started is dead simple: pick three artists or bands that you're interested in, the gender you're looking to date and press 'go'. It's a fun and relaxed site, which can introduce you to new music, concert buddies and potentially even your own real-life Caleb Followill.
How much does it cost? It's free for exisiting members, but £8 per month for new members.
The experts say: This site is perfect for those looking for love who also love music. It makes sense that if a potential partner shares your taste in music then you're off to a good start and a favourite artist/band is a great ice breaker when approaching someone online for the first time.
How does it work? Let's face it, meeting up with a complete stranger for a first date can be awkward and hideously cringeworthy. But it's less so when the date itself is a total riot. This is where Doingsomething.co.uk comes in. The site is all about the actual dating experience and let's you pick a match based on the date idea they've suggested. And the more fun and unique the date the better. So, rather than nervously meeting someone for a luke warm coffee in a crowded chain, you could be trying out your culinary skills at a sushi-making masterclass or bonding over super-strong cocktails at a hipster speakeasy. It's basically about finding someone who wants to do the same things as you at the end of the day, isn't it?
How much is it? £10 per month.
The experts say: It's a simple and unique approach to online dating which is great for those looking for fun and interesting ideas for first dates. Sign up is quick and easy without the usual numerous questions and sections to fill in, the hardest part is thinking what you would like to do on a date that might attract like-minded people.
Sloan Sheridan-Williams is a Relationship Coach and dating expert. Find out more at www.sloansw.com or followe her on Twitter @SloanSW_London
Want something easier than these online dating sites? Then the Tinder dating app could be for you...