Dark mode design is the latest technology design trend and it appears as though it's here to stay. Many of the latest mobile and web applications are either offering both light and dark mode VUI and others are seeing it as the only way forward. Is this a fad or is it here to stay? What does it mean for users and their experiences, both physical and mental, and is it better for the environment?
The origins of dark mode design can be argued endlessly, including one comment I heard that the Star Wars intro started it all. Early computers started in dark mode out of necessity, long before many app designers were even born. However, there are definitely some sources which have influenced this latest design approach. Most developers today prefer to work with dark screen backgrounds as it is easier to work with less strain on their eyes. If you are looking at code for 8 to 10 hours a day, every little helps. Other advantages include saving mobile phone battery, sharpening what you see on screen, improving legibility and even reducing your carbon footprint!
This design approach is not just a fad as all the major tech companies are in this space. Web browsers like Google Chrome, Safari and MS Edge all have dark themes. Applications like Twitter, Reddit and Gmail have dark themes also. The recent hype around this dark mode theme has come from Apple, as they will introduce it as one of the new features in iOS13, calling it 'dark mode'. At Apple's WDC in June this year, this feature received the loudest applause, so it is clearly welcomed by the Apple communities.
As designers, we now have to think 'will dark mode work for our app, platform, website?' Will the users appreciate this new approach, but more importantly will it result in a better user experience? Will be it more effective, efficient and satisfying for users to work and play in dark mode? Well, the simple answer is give users the choice of both. Traditionalists will resist and explorers will welcome new design approaches, so let's try to keep them all happy!
There have been several studies published regarding the cognitive effects which showed that users detected more errors, more easily in dark mode. However, comprehension tests showed more positive on reversed polarity (black text on white).
At everis, our clients are asking more for this dark mode design approach as it is seen as trendy and futuristic. However, we must examine if it will be a positive or negative experience for the user, considering the type of content, branding, colour themes, navigation, interactivity and much more. Often though (if budget allows), we are designing both options for the user to give them a choice.
With one global insurance company, we designed a dashboard in light and dark mode options. The users did not just love light over dark, but the most interesting results from our user testing was that they loved the option to choose! Whichever approach you take, think of all the users and remember there are do's and don'ts. Read below on some of these.
Dark UIs are dramatic, stylish, and elegant. Nevertheless, designers should tread carefully if they choose to walk on the “dark side.”