OPW INTERVIEW - Feb 28 - If you're considering starting a dating site, you can create your own custom software using a programming outfit and get maximum flexibility, or buy software off the shelf, like SkaDate 9, or if you want to focus on marketing and not touch coding or deal with servers, go with a white label dating service (see list). Here's our interview with Emil Sargonoev, the CEO/Founder of Skalfa Software. - Mark Brooks
SkaDate 9 is now out, and its worth a look-in.
What improvements have you made with the new SkaDate?
We found out that giants like Facebook have significantly changed the way people interact online. Were we surprised? Not really. Users don't want pure matchmaking sites with limited to no social features these days. What they really want is a hybrid website where they could have fun chatting, playing games and sharing media AND look for a spouse. A social aspect keeps a member engaged and entertained even if 'that model-looking chick' never returns a message. Besides, it creates a more casual and relaxed atmosphere for making new acquaintances.
What makes Facebook equally attractive for a company executive, a college student, and a housewife is the social graph. Besides the social graph, it features the most convenient tool to keep track of on-site activity ever - the newsfeed. So we took another step towards 'socializing' our dating software, and developed a Facebook-style newsfeed that is now available in SkaDate 9.
We also developed a native iPhone/iPad SkaDate application in close cooperation with our partners - SOD Technologies. Currently we are also putting finishing touches on an Android app (both for smartphones and tablets). All that goes along with the SkaDate mobile browser version that works with Opera mini, Safari and Internet Explorer. We aim to cover all the popular mobile devices by the end of February.
SkaDate 9 side improvements include adding a classifieds module, coupon codes and tools for automatic search engine optimization, and two new templates (adult-themed 'Fab', and social-networking content-based 'Rainbow'), created with direct input from visitors of SkaDate's website.
How is SkaDate different and better than other dating software providers?
I could make it a long talk, but I'll list our three main advantages instead:
- SkaDate has unencrypted source code. Which means there are no licensed files that can turn site customization into a nightmare. That also means the customer owns each and every part of their website, and is technically independent from the software vendor. Sounds great, doesn't it?
- SkaDate is basically a what-you-see-is-what-you-get solution. It comes packed with the features available on the demo at a fixed one-time cost. So, no headache comparing the product packages, prices, options and such. We do offer a few paid add-ons, but skipping them won't turn your site into an under-featured 'core'.
- We strive for quality and innovation. We are always looking for ways to integrate seemingly simple and obvious features that later become fundamental parts of dating-specific software and industry staple. For example, our Points system? If they User Points boosts member activity and encourage users to come back to the site more often - then why not? This was also the case with the Speed-Dating module, and with the Advanced Newsfeed. Our customers appreciate this approach, they love to see their ideas brought to life in new software builds and versions. In return we get loyalty, as is evidenced by our runner-up spot in the Best Dating Software Provider category at the 2012 iDate Awards.
Why would someone want to use SkaDate over a white label hosted provider?
White label solutions are effectively affiliate systems. Technically they are not software but I'll leave this question to purists.
From business perspective white label solutions are good for marketers who have the budget and know how to use it most efficiently for lead generation. Those leads are then converted using the existing online dating paradigms. But there's one important thing to remember: you don't own a site, you don't own content, you don't own revenue. You only get a share from someone who converts your traffic. That's the definition of affiliate systems.
On the other hand, owning software (like SkaDate) is a cheap and fast way to try out your own ideas. This is how PlentyofFish, OKCupid, Mingle2 and others started. You can tweak your site, you can maximize conversion by various optimization techniques, finally you can pivot and experiment with business models. In the end of the day, you own the site, content, and all revenue. This is the best platform for innovation.
A lot of people were skeptical about selling software and support to online dating startups. If the past 7 years of SkaDate are any indication, our business gets more and more and more resilient. Lately we are getting a lot of white label systems refugees.
Could you point to a list of preferred programmers who can customize SkaDate?
For a while now we have been providing customization and support services in-house. However, we do understand that customers need alternative options. This could be due to a number of reasons, like more flexible schedules, cheaper freelance fees, etc. To create this alternative we have set up a specialized freelance resource, SkaDateCS, where third-party developers provide customization services for SkaDate clients. In addition we have partnered with the aforementioned third-party development company SOD Technologies, who work on modifications and support services at competitive prices.
Who do you recommend for hosting?
Basically, any software provider, whose servers are configured to meet our system requirements, is a good candidate for hosting a SkaDate-powered site. Also, 24/7 support and server status monitoring are highly preferred, as someone should always be around to get the site up and running in case of server downtime. We have listed a few recommended software providers on our website to ease the choice for SkaDate customers.