Credit: Rex

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 embarrassing or, God forbid, cringe-worthy, half of all single people now use online dating sites to find love. (or at least easy no strings sex – 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 to find the 12 best online dating sites making the rounds.

Oh, and we also talked to eharmony UK’s relationship expert Verity Hogan on how to online date safely. 

Online dating tips

Avoid social media stalking

‘It’s always tempting to ‘accidentally’ check out a date’s social media accounts before meeting up. In fact, our research shows that over a third (38%) of us admit to a pre-date Google. Try to avoid it, if possible. In-depth social media stalking will make you form judgments before you’ve even sat down together so prioritise getting to know the real person, rather than their online persona.’

Choose comfort

‘A first date is your opportunity to get to know your date – and for them to get to know you. While we all want to present the best version of ourselves, dressing in a way that feels unnatural is guaranteed to make you feel uncomfortable and is likely to put a damper on your date. Wear something that you’re comfortable in and that reflects the real you.’

Try a confidence exercise

‘First date nerves are natural, but you can tackle them by employing a few confidence tricks. Visualise a great date – one where the conversation flows easily – and hold on to the positive feelings that the thought encourages. Affirmations are a useful tool too. Stand in front of the mirror, put your shoulders back, and say out loud ‘I can do this’. It may sound strange but it really works.’

Have a laugh

‘When we laugh we release endorphins, which can help us to relax. Sharing a laugh on a first date is a great way to break the ice as well as an effective bonding tool. You don’t need to start telling knock-knock jokes, but if you have a funny anecdote or two in your arsenal, don’t be afraid to share.’

Use open body language

‘Most of what we communicate is through our body language rather than words. Folded arms and legs creates a physical barrier that implies you’re closed off. Try to adopt open body language instead. And don’t be afraid to make eye contact – it’s a great way to show your date that you’re interested.’

Pay attention

‘There are few things more attractive than someone who gives us their undivided attention. And there’s nothing worse than spending time with someone who’s constantly looking over our shoulder at something or someone else. Make an effort to be engaged and present on your date and save checking your phone until they go to the bathroom!’

Ask questions

‘Asking your date questions not only shows that you’re interested in what they have to say but it also allows you to get to know them, which is what a first date is all about! Don’t stick to small talk. More intimate questions about your date’s hopes, dreams and passions will help you forge a closer connection – and it’s a lot more interesting than talking about the weather.’

Be positive

‘Nothing is as reassuring as a genuine smile. If you go into your date with a positive attitude, you’re much more likely to have a good time – and make your date feel good too.’

Split the bill

‘Who should pay the bill is one the most hotly debated aspects of first date etiquette. Traditionally, whoever initiated the date would pick up the bill but, these days, it’s much more common to split the bill. But if your date does insist on paying, it’s more polite to graciously accept than argue about it!’

Follow up

‘If you’ve had a great date, let them know. Trying to act aloof by waiting three days after a date to get in touch doesn’t work in today’s age of instant communication. In fact, only 4% of people think you should purposely wait before replying to a message from a date. If you enjoyed the date, don’t be afraid to send them a quick message and let them know that you’d like to see them again.’

How to stay safe when online dating

Be cautious with your personal information

‘When dating online or in person, be wary of anyone who seems to be asking for a lot of your personal informal early on. Don’t share any details such as your address, birth date or financial information. If a match is asking a lot of questions of this type, let them know that you’re not comfortable sharing that information and report them if you have any suspicions about their true motives.’

Arrange to meet in a public place

‘Even if they claim to make the best pasta in town, never meet someone for the first time at their home and don’t invite them to yours. Arrange to meet somewhere that’s busy and in public such as a restaurant or coffee shop that you’re comfortable in.’

Tell a friend

‘If you’re planning to meet an online date for the first time, be sure to tell a friend or family member who you’re meeting, when and where.  If you have an iPhone you could also share you location on the app Find My Friends. Check in with a friend during the date or ask them to call you at a specific time to check on you.’

Don’t be afraid to leave

‘If your date is making you feel uncomfortable, leave. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve just sat down or enjoyed a three-course dinner with them. If they do or say anything which makes you feel uneasy, walk away. This person is a stranger and you need to protect yourself, first and foremost.’

Travel there and back by yourself

‘If your date offers to pick you up at home, politely decline. Plan your own route to and from your date so that you remain completely in control at all times. This also means you’re not relying on someone else to dictate how long the date lasts if you need to make an early escape’

online dating

For over 40s

1. eHarmony

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.

Try now: eHarmony from £9.95 per month

For over 50s

2. match.com

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.

Try now: Match.com from £12.99 per month

online dating

3. Lovestruck

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.

Try now: Lovestruck from £16 per month

4. DatingDirect.com

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.

Try now: DatingDirect from £12.99 per month

online dating

5. PARSHIP.co.uk

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.

Try now: PARSHIP from £14.90 per month

6. Muddymatches

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.

Try now: Muddymatches from £6.00 per month

7. PlentyofFish

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.

Try now: PlentyofFish for Free

online dating

8. Mysinglefriend.com

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.

Try now: Mysinglefriend from £13 per month

9. BeautifulPeople.com

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.

Try now: BeautifulPeople from £7.50 per month (6 month membership)

online dating

10. Tastebuds

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.

Try now: Tastebuds from £8.00 per month for new members

11. Doingsomething

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.

Try now: Doingsomething from £10 per month

Sloan Sheridan-Williams is a Relationship Coach and dating expert. Find out more at www.sloansw.com or follow her on Twitter @SloanSW_London

Oh, and here’s one extra for you – as it’s new, so…

12. Pitchit

How does it work? Ok, so technically an app but it requires way more work than a simple swipe. Pitchit is a dating app that focuses on getting a date rather than just a swipe. Subscribers use the app to pitch an idea for a perfect date. This could be anything from going to a major sporting event together, to gig tickets, to simply taking the dog for a walk together —users can be as traditional or as creative as they like. Once they hit the pitch button, they wait for the date requests to come in. Users then have the option to select up to three applicants who they wish to chat to before making the final decision and agreeing to the date. Because Pitchit involves going out on a real date at a specific time, people can be sure they are going to end up with a date rather than waiting ages for someone to make the first move and ask someone out.

How much is it?

The iOS app is free. All people need to do is buy the date – although it could be as cheap as a walk in the park!

The founders say: 

Created by best friends Chrissy Rigby (a personal trainer and serial dater) and Danni Menzies (TV presenter and recently back in the dating game), they say ‘dating should be fun – it should be about meeting people and doing something you enjoy rather than messaging lots of people but never getting around to meeting. Pitchit gives people the chance to spend time getting to know someone new in an environment that you will enjoy – be it a gig, an exercise class or a parachute jump. Up to now dating apps are either endless messaging before getting to a date or based on strange compatibility ‘criteria’ that never seem to work out. Pitchit puts the romance back into old fashioned dating. Too often first dates are drinks or dinner – hardly creative – and the pressure is intense. With Pitchit, romance seekers can ensure they are meeting someone that wants to do the same activity – be it bikram yoga, go karting or even axe throwing.  There is a shared connection from the start, meaning that, whatever happens on the date or afterwards, the experience will be memorable and shared.  Pitchit is the future of dating.’

Try now: Pitchit for Free

 

Reading now

Popular Life stories