I recently helped a client move an existing dating site from a custom ASP/MS-SQL system to an off the shelf PHP/mysql platform.
The off the shelf software we ended up choosing was SkaDate. I haven’t really found a good review of SkaDate out there, so I asked Max Chadwick to collaborate with me on a review. (Max provided some design, system configuration and project management, and I focused on back end system setup and data migration.) Updated 4/2: We used SkaDate 7.5, versions 1485 and 1550.
Note that we had a challenge not present for a typical SkaDate installation: migrating ~1100 user accounts (and mail messages) from one unknown system to another. I had to learn two very different data models and map from one to the other. On a fixed bid project. Whoops.
Oh well, live and learn.
- Price: this is a big one. You get a lot of features for only $350.
- Technology: it is built on the LAMP stack, so there are a lot of developers out there who can help you extend the platform.
- Support: they have a client site with some useful PDF documentation.
- Had a defined and documented upgrade procedure (even though it was a hassle).
- Changing look and feel was relatively easy; we went with one of the many predefined templates and only had to hack a little bit of CSS and a couple of images.
- Caching: SkaDate caches of php files and css. Performance was reasonably snappy on a shared hosting account.
- You get the source code.
- Version control support: it wasn’t hard to find out which files/directories to pull into version control.
- Support for 5-6 languages out of the box. We didn’t use this, though.
- Geographic features: SkaDate knows a lot about cities and where they are located, around the world.
- Support: they charged $90/hour $95/month for support; I didn’t end up asking them for much help, but the times I did, they immediately wanted ssh access to the server (which tweaked me out). I’m guessing that SkaDate might be a loss leader for ‘support services’.
- In general the administrative interface was unintuitive and could use some work.
- Intricate object and data model: lots of indirection, and because it is PHP, no IDE to help you unravel it. I discovered this when asked to turn off a particular feature (that didn’t have an admin setting)–I’d have to hunt through 3-4 files to find out where a UI element was set up.
- Secretive nature: they don’t really give you any documentation until you pay for it; however, they do provide a demo and when I emailed them and explained the situation (“I’m a developer and want enough information to do a bid for a project”) they responded with some of the documentation.
- They had a new release midway through the project, and then a user found several of the php files had been hacked. Not exactly confidence inspiring.
- Initial configuration of the site was complicated: all the site features were turned on and the site was pre-configured with specific payment/membership options. The tricky part was not just turning off features, but figuring out that not only did the feature need to be turned off, but that the navigation needed to be disabled for that same feature on another section of the admin area.
- Setting up custom dating fields was cumbersome partly because of the poor interface but also because there were a number of dating fields already set up that needed to be removed.
- The software uses dollar signs ($) in some of the automated directories. This caused an issue with mod_security on one of the hosts we tried to use; go with one of their suggested hosting providers.
I think SkaDate is a good choice for a basic dating site; if you need just the features in the demo and you’re willing to spend some time unraveling the administration UI and you are on a tight budget. Expect some bugs and frustrations, but hey, you only paid $350!
I would hesitate to use it as a platform for a more fully featured dating site until I’d reviewed the alternatives.
Final grade: B-