Back in March, few could have conceived of the earth-shattering impact coronavirus (or rather the government response to it) would have on our everyday lives.
We all found ourselves adjusting to a lifestyle in lockdown and losses of personal liberty that would have been unimaginable just a few short weeks prior to the start of the pandemic.
At the outset, Original Dating as business was firmly in COVID’s sights. After all, we are a people business and one that exists solely to facilitate face-to-face personal interactions.
Whatever the opposite of social distancing is (perhaps social togetherness) is what we promote. If we were to come through this pandemic we had to adapt quickly.
Virtual speed dating via video platforms came along as an obvious solution. Our wonderful hosts became Zoom meeting supremos as we reluctantly wrestled our live programme into the virtual world.
Technical tweaks were hurriedly made, and we soon had a solution we could work with. In the midst as such uncertainty, we were happy to have a stop gap solution that allowed us to keep trading where certain competitors did not.
Our customer base consists of the type of people that generally prefer real life interactions over online - we still faced an obvious challenge. Fortunately, however (and no doubt encouraged by the lockdown) clients were willing to try meeting people virtually from home.
As time went on our virtual speed dating events because slicker and more effective for our guests. Feedback was consistent – most people enjoyed the virtual speed dating experience. Some have said they now prefer it.
It because clear that COVID measures were here to stay and we set about making our virtual event offering ever more integrated into our website.
Pre-pandemic, we had already planned a new-look website but COVID made us think harder about how to serve clients in a post pandemic world. It was clear we needed to make some changes to our technology.
We’re a small business so commissioning a big chunk of expensive software development here in the UK – in the middle of our worst trading period since we started business – seemed slightly crazy, perhaps borderline suicidal. But that’s 2020 for you.
We looked carefully at important parts of our software and rebuilt many areas from the ground up.
We have simplified access and enhanced security to the site by doing away with usernames and passwords, favouring magic link login allowing users to access the site with a simple click from their email account.
You will notice lots of visual changes too and we hope you like what you see. Any feedback will be very much appreciated. Our service came online in 2003 and since them we have continually improved our technology, and this will be our fourth major redesign.
At time of writing, society remains at least partially locked down and it is unlikely we will be able to organise in-person, live events for the foreseeable future. We are optimistic about the spring but only time will tell. Rest assured as soon as we get a sniff that live events can come back – we will be the first to bring them to market.
In the meantime, we have committed to building on our success in the virtual dating space. Our developers have several new features in the pipeline which we look forward to bringing you over the coming weeks. We now have an exciting technical roadmap ahead and we are optimistic about the future.
One thing is for sure, has the pandemic not come along, we’d never have taken the business in this direction.
For us at least, the pandemic has shown us that businesses must be willing to fundamentally adapt their offerings to stay relevant and we have made a commitment to doing just that.
So, what does that mean to you as our customer? In a nutshell, our goal remains the same. Lots of quality dates, lots of added value and lots of opportunities to meet real people, face to face - even if it is virtually for the time being.
In a crowed dating market where free services dominate the space, we seek to offer a quality, localised and paid-for service that delivers what it promises.