You may have seen the recent trend of dark mode. If you weren’t aware, this is where you set the text to be a light colour and the background to be a dark colour on apps or websites (whereas the conventional way of dark text on a light background is called light mode). You can either set up your website/app so that it is always in dark mode, always in light mode or you have the option of selecting dark mode when it’s nighttime. There is a setting for this on your smartphone. It is getting more common to find big players like Spotify have their app permanently set up in dark mode – it’s safe to say dark mode is here to stay.
Dark mode might be gaining momentum, but it isn’t actually new. When the first computers were made they had a dark background, but to encourage users to try computers they wanted to make them more familiar. This is when they were switched to a white background so that typing more closely resembled using pen and paper.
Dark mode isn’t just the latest gimmick, it also has its uses. If your phone has an OLED screen (many of the major manufacturers – Apple, Samsung, Google etc have this type of screen) then having a dark background saves on the phone’s battery life, who doesn’t want that? This is because black pixels on OLED screens draw no power. Unfortunately the same can’t be said for LCD screens as no matter the colour each pixel draws the same amount of power.
I think we all know the pain of using a bright mobile screen at night, it is hard on the eyes and makes them tire more easily. In contrast, having the majority of the pixels dark makes the eyes less tired at night so you can take in more content for a longer period of time, great for people who love to do a bit of reading before bedtime! Another benefit is that dark mode emits less blue light, so fewer nights tossing and turning. One more sleep benefit is that you are less likely to keep your partner awake with your bright screen, a win for both of you.
Along with benefits to users’ eyes and sleep, dark mode also looks great. It allows colours to really pop. In contrast to light mode, black provides a great contrast to almost all colours (except grey and brown), whereas white can struggle with yellow, orange and some shades of green.
Now is this new trend something that you should be doing? Well, it depends on a few things, such as your target audience and your brand guidelines. As with all the latest trends, younger audiences are more likely to use it. So before you invest money in dark mode ask yourself, are my target audience going to be using this?
Dark mode might not be right for all target audiences, especially if your target audience has any sort of visual impairment. Dark mode uses the minimum amount of colour contrast required for readability, this is great for many things, but not so great for users with visual issues as they need much higher contrasts in colours.
Light mode is more conventional, so if you are aiming at older target audiences and want your site to feel familiar I would recommend light mode. If you go down the route of having your site in a permanent mode rather than being able to switch modes, then light mode is your best option if your users will primarily be using the site in the daytime. This is because it has more contrast, especially if using the site outside on really sunny days as the text can appear washed out and be harder to read in dark mode.
If, on the other hand, you really want to make your website stand out and you have a younger target audience, then dark-mode is a great option. This is especially the best choice if your target audience will mainly be using your site at night time, it should lead to them spending more time on your site and taking in more of your content.
Some organisations have strict brand guidelines to follow to make sure their company image is consistent. A company’s logo will typically be designed on a white background, so to make it work in dark mode could require some changes to the colour scheme, not all companies will want to do this. Often companies only have a JPG version of their logo on a white background, in this case, you would either need to stick to light mode, or have your logo re-made.
If your site is currently in light mode and you want to enable dark mode capabilities it requires some design time. Different colour schemes will need to be tested to make sure the contrast is right, and font sizes may need to be altered. Because of this, it isn’t as easy as just enabling dark mode, there will be some additional costs to it.
So dark mode isn’t just the latest gimmick, it is here to stay. It won’t be for all audience types but it is gaining momentum with younger users. When it comes to adding dark mode to your site you could either have a site that is constantly in dark mode, which is the most cost-effective option, or have a site that can automatically switch between dark and light mode during different times of day. The latter will give users the best experience by using light mode in the daytime when higher contrast is needed, and dark mode at night to reduce eye strain.
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