COLAB13 - Web App


A web application to help users feel calm, confident, and ready to converse on a first date.

Problem Background  

Jitters. Butterflies. What-ifs. All of these are common parts of the pre-date experience and we at Firstly want to help daters feel less nervous before meeting someone new. Some reports estimate that more than 300 million people worldwide use web and/or mobile applications for dating, including nearly 50% of American adults under 50.

Although online dating is essentially ubiquitous and meant to be fun, many daters worry about meeting expectations, making a good impression, and finding things to talk about. We know it’s normal and natural for daters to feel nervous before a first date, but we want to provide concrete ways for daters to feel more prepared and less nervous heading into the date. 

Research and Validation

Using email-based surveys and in-depth interviews, we validated the existence and extent of our problem space and identified root causes of pre-date anxiety. During our interviews, 100% of participants reported feeling nervous before a first date.

They all reported feeling particularly nervous about the quality of conversation on the date and said that enjoyable conversation was a key indicator of a good date. Specific pain points they had experienced during first dates included awkward silences, stilted conversation, having difficulty thinking of conversation topics, and concern that their date did not find them interesting.

All participants described a strong desire for high-quality conversation that feels more meaningful than small talk and more natural than an interview. Furthermore, 100% of interviewees identified worrying about meeting their dates’ expectations as an additional source of nerves. They all reported hoping to feel more confident heading into the date. Nerves heading into the date were another key pain point, with 67% of participants reporting feeling most nervous right before the date. 

Solution Explanation

The goal of Firstly is to address the root causes of pre-date anxiety and help daters feel less nervous heading into a first date. Based on the specific pain points identified during our research, we hypothesize that users will feel less nervous before a date if they feel more confident and well-prepared to have high-quality conversation. Therefore, we decided to focus on the following features for launch in August 2022: 

  • Generation of different conversation starters in the format of fun, open-ended questions that are curated to specific interests of the daters
  • A questionnaire that allows users to provide information about themselves and their date through multiple choice questions to help identify relevant conversation starters 
  • Words of encouragement and confidence-boosting experiences visible throughout the user journey

Design Journey

Iterative Design Learnings

Throughout our design and development processes, we sought user feedback and adapted our execution in several ways during our one-week sprints. Users reported wanting to select multiple options for questions on the questionnaire, so we pivoted to use a multi-select format. This allows for more personalization and also gives users more end results since each selection is associated with at least one conversation starter. 

Users also told us they would like to have opportunities to provide real-time feedback about the conversation starters. In response, users now see a clickable heart button that adds a conversation starter to a “favorites” list that is accessible from the home page and can be referenced for future dates. They also see a “refresh” button with each conversation starter that generates a new conversation topic. 

A feedback modal asks for input about why the initial conversation starter didn’t meet their needs. We were happy to hear that 100% of our users reported that the journey through Firstly is intuitive and that the small confidence-boosters and music provide a delightful experience. All of our users provided positive feedback about the creativity of the conversation starters and the simplicity-driven aesthetic of the product, as well as constructive feedback to consider for future iterations. 

Implementation Details 

Technical Implementation

Our application is hosted on Netlify. We used React.js, CSS, Less, Node.js, Express, and PostgreSQL. The user interface is built with React.js and the rendered data is received from the request-response cycle using our Express server and an integrated PostgreSQL database.

Technical Challenges

The hardest part in the backend was writing the middleware for authorizing a user who is already logged into our application to use our platform and persisting that data in the frontend. The most difficult part of development in the front-end was connecting the code with the backend and making it work as it should.

We would expect scaling issues in the future with increased volume of questions in the questionnaire because the questionnaire persisted in the front-end and was rendered locally. Additionally, there is a high copywriting burden for creating new questions and conversation starters, which would also need to be entered by the developers and stored.

What’s Next?

While we limited our scope during the eight week Co.Lab journey, we have discussed adaptations that could be incorporated into future iterations of Firstly. We would like to include analytics that provide data on the favorite and refresh rates of each conversation starter. We also would like to obtain information about daters’ anxiety levels before and after using Firstly to test our hypothesis that the curated conversation topics will help reduce date-related nerves. Users have already reported a desire for increased personalization with our product.

To address that, future iterations could incorporate machine learning capabilities for free response options in the questionnaire, adjustments related to users’ goals for their dating experience (e.g. serious relationship, casual interactions), and suggestions based specifically on their favorite and refreshed conversation topics. More simple adaptations that we would prioritize include increasing the number of questions in the questionnaire, increasing the volume of banked conversation starters, and enhanced profile management features. 


Product Manager Learnings:

Ashley Ahmed

  • I grew in my leadership and communication skills by collaborating to apply Agile principles and guide my team through our one-week sprints. 
  • It’s important to keep the scope simple and focus on executing priority features well. 
  • I learned to be comfortable with the unknown and to balance having an organized vision with being ready to pivot based on user and team feedback.

Designer Learnings:

Christine Amistad

  • I’m so thankful for my experience with Co.Lab! I've learned the importance of having an open line of communication when it comes to project timelines, design decisions, and feasibility of designs with the PM and devs. 
  • I'm all about advocating for the user, and being able to communicate decisions with the team makes for better collaboration, unique perspective, and ideations. 
  • Overall, Co.Lab taught me to have an open mind during product development, and I'm leaving a lot more confident in my abilities and skills as a Product Designer--I don't know if I could have said the same if it wasn't for this experience. 

Developer Learnings:

Gurupriyan Jayakaran

  • Co.Lab was an amazing opportunity to learn about the initial phases of product development, like user research, user persona creation, user testing, and understanding how hand-offs work within a team. 
  • I learnt how to properly navigate through Jira and create and move tickets according to the work we are doing. 

Developers Learnings:

Gigi Poon


  • Working in a team of product managers, designers, and another developer in an Agile environment. 
  • Keeping our MVP simple, it is better to promise less than to overpromise. 
  • Communication is very important in a team, going the extra step to ensure progress. Always checking in with my team members regularly and making sure our productivity is high. 
  • Further my knowledge in various React .js concepts.

Full Team Learning

As a team, we saw the value of communicating clearly and frequently, which served us well through the entire E2E process. We learned the importance of starting with a narrow scope and building upon that solid foundation. We gained firsthand experience with tools for roadmapping, designing, and developing to better understand each person’s role in working toward our common goal.