The dark mode is one of the fastest-growing web design trends in recent years. The popularisation of dark mode in mobile and web applications sparked many conversations. It’s easy to find arguments embracing the “dark side”. But it’s not all black and white – or in this case, light and dark. Dark mode doesn’t work for some businesses and we’ll tell you why – from the basics, all the way to the reasons why some companies should avoid it.
There are many claims circling the Internet when it comes to dark mode user interfaces. Unfortunately, many of them are myths. We’ll look at the few most popular ones:
It depends, but generally, it doesn’t.
We don’t have a conclusive answer at the moment. However, there are studies that show light mode is better across the board. The methodology included both visual performance, as well as the perception of text and readability. Even though many articles about dark mode argue it’s beneficial in low-light conditions, the study found that the benefits of a light interface were more obvious in simulated nighttime conditions.
What about the long-term effects of reading dark text on a white background? The studies are again inconclusive, as there are still some medical unknowns. However, it’s possible that using dark mode could reduce the risk of myopia. So the next time you read about the health benefits of dark mode, take them with a pinch of salt. And as you will learn later in the article, there are other health considerations of dark mode which don’t work in its favour.
No, it isn’t.
While the dark mode is “hip” in the eyes of modern businesses targeting a younger audience, the same study concluded that young adults benefit from light mode much more than older adults. Reading dark text on a white background is more efficient for the general population. Depending on the purpose of your website or app, you might want to keep that in mind before settling for a dark-themed brand.
Using dark mode might be confusing for your visitors.
In colour psychology, black is often a symbol of elegance and sophistication. It’s perfect for premium brands, but if we sum up the shortcomings of dark mode, it might be a mistake to use it for some businesses.
Considering light mode is easier to read and it doesn’t cause more eye strain than the dark mode in most cases, casual, content-heavy websites might want to stay away from black and grey backgrounds. Visually, the same layout with a white background will appear more spacious compared to the dark mode.
There is a purpose behind each colour. They affect us subconsciously and getting it wrong in branding or on a website can be quite costly. Learn how the colours of different website elements impact your visitors.
Yes, dark mode saves battery on devices with AMOLED screens.
But on devices with LCD display, it won’t make a difference. The older screens are fully backlit regardless of the colour they are displaying – unlike AMOLEDs, which have individually backlit pixels. Because of that difference, dark pixels on an AMOLED display need less light, or they are completely turned off for the true black colour.
Various studies have shown that dark mode consumes roughly 40% less energy on AMOLED screens.
In short, transitioning into dark mode usually isn’t straightforward.
Light interfaces have been through years and years of evolution. Dark mode, to this day, is still often an experiment. That’s why it’s so easy to get it wrong.
Websites need to adhere to accessibility and design standards. This means that your typical colours will have a different contrast ratio on a dark background. A brand designed for light mode requires toned down colours to transition to dark mode.
A common approach is to expand the brand by introducing pastel colours while keeping the light mode brand untouched.
There are a number of questions to answer:
Does the dark mode align with your business?
Are the shortcomings an issue for your users?
Will you give visitors a choice, or is dark mode going to be the only option?
What is the main goal of your website?
If you can answer these after reading the article and you don’t see any issues, giving users the choice to switch to dark mode can be a good idea. Even better if you can test it with your audience and get their feedback.
But if you’re more casual and vibrant, and if the website has a clearly defined function (i.e. processing payments), you might want to stay away from the dark side. We’ve cited that studies found people to be more efficient using the light mode, so time-sensitive tasks could accidentally become less streamlined on a dark interface.