One of the most popular trends of 2020 is the addition of ‘dark mode’ functionality to browsers, apps, operating systems and more. How ‘new’ this feature actually is we will let you decide, think back to the early monochrome home computers with green text on a dark background for example, but there is a definite resurgence in its use.
Dark mode can be set up as an alternative way of viewing specific websites, or it can be scheduled on a timer basis on a lot of devices. At a device or app level, it is usually a good idea to have a ‘sunset to sunrise’ option to get the full benefits, similar to the blue light filter option we are recommended to use to wind down before bed.
As well as this, there are some more general benefits to having a dark mode option, as it can reduce eye-strain in low lighting conditions whilst also preserving battery power (depending on your type of screen). Generally, our eyes get less tired at night, so there is the chance that users will linger on your website for longer.
More publishers are updating their output to support dark mode as we go, with Android and IOS adding this feature to their new devices, whilst the number of browsers, chat services and websites supporting it also increases.
What are the design implications?
In a lot of cases, dark mode designs are used as an aesthetic boost, allowing some specific elements to appear more prominently on your website. It is considered to be ultra-modern and can increase the contrast within key features and text colours on your webpages. Indeed, a black / dark grey background provides good contrast for the majority of colours tested, certainly more so than the white background does.
A lot of the decision on whether you use dark mode in your principal website design will be led by your existing brand colours and logo – the aesthetic should always fit with what you already have and forcing a darker design on a light and airy brand is unlikely to work. Some industries are naturally more suited to a dark mode design too, websites focussed on nightlife and entertainment are likely to have a darker range of imagery in existence so a dark theme website would suit this.
With the control often being left in the hands of the user, dark mode can be activated at browser level leaving your website at the whim of these. Often, they will just look to invert colours on a site which can have a negative effect on your images and videos. At a minimum therefore, we would advise that you have a way of detecting whether dark mode has been activated within the browser and have a method for handling your media content appropriately from this.
When shouldn’t you use dark mode?
When being used in a well-lit room or in direct sunlight, text that is positioned on a darker background becomes difficult to read. This is why a schedule such as the ‘sunset to sunrise’ option is ideal because they ensure optimal visibility for the average user at all times. There are those out there who suggest that dark mode might actually be bad for productivity, as we are more used to naturally reading black text on a white background so our processing time when this is reversed increases.
Opinion is split on the subject of dark mode, but we have definitely seen the uptake of this feature grow in 2020 with the advocates outweighing those warning against. Where the decision is usually left at the fingertips of the individual user to select dark mode or not, if you can have a dark mode compatible version of your website or app then we would certainly recommend doing so.
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