The screens of electronic devices have become part of our day-to-day lives — present from the moment we deactivate the alarm in our cellphone in the morning to when we send a good night text to a loved one.
We spend a lot of time focused on our devices, whether Web or Mobile. But, have you ever considered that most of them have one feature in common: a light background with dark text as default?
This is changing with the coming of Dark Mode and its benefits, which aim to lessen users’ eye fatigue from multiple hours of screen use and to extend battery life. In this article, we will list the main benefits of using Dark Mode in your product.
After all, how did Dark Mode come about?
It may seem that he is something modern or recent, but what we call Dark Mode has been around since the 1970s and 1980s. The first programmable display, the Manchester Baby, was powered by cathode ray, a technology called CRT (Cathode Ray Tubes). These rays emit electrons that illuminated luminescent elements behind a glass screen.
However, CRT technology was not so powerful as to illuminate the entire screen. Therefore, only a few characters were lit. That’s why the first computer screens of the 70s and 80s had this color scheme: a black screen with green or white characters illuminated — much different from what we see today in most machines on the market.
CRT technology was widely used in several computers of the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, such as the first iMac, released in 1998. However, the appearance of the colorful Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) was a turning point in for monitors and displays.
Initially, LCD did not have graphics as sharp as those of CRT, nor as much trust from companies. For these reasons, it did not dominate the market right away. It was only in the mid-2000s, when the image quality of LCD finally surpassed that of CRT, that it gained space in the computer industry.
Therefore, the move from black screens with green or white characters happened because of the technological advancement of the time, through the arrival of colored LCD, bringing life and color to the screens. But, What about Dark Mode?
The dark screens of the past decade have again appeared on the market with greater force after the arrival of OLED (Organic Light-Emitting Diode) technology, which, unlike LCD, is not backlit, as the diodes emit their own light.
That is, OLED has its own light emission. When there is a need to produce the black color, OLED simply turns off, which saves battery. For this reason, Dark Mode has been gaining space and study.
Instagram, Facebook and Google, for example, have started offering Dark Mode options in their applications. Since the introduction of OLED on the market, other large tech companies have also started to look more into Dark Mode, which has been adopted by many other applications and websites.
With such a strong presence in the products of technology giants, we can see that Dark Mode is gaining more and more space and becoming many users’ main preference. This takes us to reflections about what makes people opt for this type of interface, its benefits and how we can work with it in a product.
(Instagram in Dark Mode)
(Wokplace in Dark Mode)
What are the benefits that Dark Mode brings to the user?
Decreases eye strain and helps sleep.
We spend much of our day looking at computer or mobile screens and do not realize how this can affect our vision and quality of life. According to a survey conducted in February 2021 by the Statista Research Department, users spend about 5 to 6 hours on their devices performing daily activities.
The hours we spend focused on screens can bring harm to our sleep, and vision, as well as headaches. This is because in Light Mode, screens emit a very large amount of brightness, which causes eye strain. With Dark Mode, the amount of brightness emanating from the screen decreases, since a large portion of the screen is actually “off”.
In addition to eye strain, Dark Mode helps you get a much better night’s sleep. According to a research conducted by Harvard, blue light, which is emitted from the white screens, disrupts the secretion of melatonin, a hormone much needed for sleep.
The university also recommends that smartphones and devices not be used three hours before bedtime. However, if the device is in Dark Mode, sleep will not be as impaired as if it were being used in Light Mode — as it will emit less blue light.
Increases battery life of devices
One of the most universal happiness of the modern world is to get to the end of the day with a nice percentage of smartphone battery leftover. Yes, with Dark Mode This can occur more often, since most of the screen is not being illuminated and, consequently, is not consuming as much battery.
According to searches made by Google, it has been confirmed that using Dark Mode on OLED screens is a great help for longer battery life in smartphones.
They conducted an experiment using the YouTube app with 50% of the brightness in Dark Mode and the battery saving compared to Light Mode was 15%. Compared to the screen with 100% active brightness, the Darkness interface saved 60% of the screen power.
In the graph below, we can see that the white color consumes much more energy than the other colors, leading Google to see that the prominence of white in its apps and in the Android style guide is not good for the battery of devices. These results strengthened the spotlight for a Dark Mode option of the company’s applications, which offer dark mode in all of their tools and apps.
Better contrast with light colors, helping accessibility
A black screen offers possibilities for colors to stand out, different from the possibilities of screens with a white background, because some colors look even more impressive when contrasted with a darker background.
An example are light colors, which, on a light background, require a greater effort to be read by the user — what does not happen with a dark background. Let’s look below for a comparison of lighter colors in contrast to light and dark backgrounds:
This contrast benefits users. According to Liz Ferral-Nunge, director of research with Twitter users, there are several benefits of using Dark Mode, especially in the case of accessibility.
During an accessibility audit of existing features in the app, the company found that the Night Mode palette can improve the color contrast ratio for people with low vision.
It helps you stay focused, increases attention on what really matters, and keeps users engaged longer
Dark Mode is also being linked to an increase in our ability to focus in tasks performed on smartphones and computers. Apple, during the launch of MacOS Mojave with Dark Mode, stated that users would have a “distraction-free working environment that’s easy on the eyes — in every way.”
According to Nilli Lavie, Professor of Psychology and specialist in Attention and Cognitive Control at UCL, the oscillation generated by the refresh rate of the computer screen may affect concentration. In addition, a black background eliminates the presence of flickering (light pulses) and, thus, eliminates this source of subconscious static.
A popular app, Twitter, has released information (link: https://www.wired.com/story/twitter-dark-mode/) that reveal its users spend more time browsing the app when it is used in Dark Mode. This is due both to personal preferences and the fact that many users use the app at night — when it is more comfortable for the eyes to navigate with a Dark interface than a Light one, as we have seen previously.
(Twitter Interface with Dark Mode enabled)
Another place where the use of Dark Mode is very common are IDEs (Integrated Development Environments) used by software developers to code. According to a survey conducted by Tigran Bayburtsyan, 70% of programmers use the Dark Mode in their IDEs. This is due to historical factors, personal preference, increased focus in the face of the many lines of code, and eye comfort in the many hours spent in front of computer screens.
Another very interesting research that aligns with the data we have explored in this article so far is an interview with users conducted by SalesForce. The company was developing a dashboard and wanted to identify which mode was best for users, Light or Dark.
The survey found that users make faster and more accurate decisions with graphics in Dark Mode, although it is not the most visually pleasing theme. This is due to Dark Mode helping users focus on the data that is being presented and eliminating what is not relevant, as if it were a kind of visual filter.
(Sales Force experiment)
Users want to opt for Dark Mode in applications
Understanding users’ preference for an interface to Dark Mode is very important to understand when this color scheme should be used. According to a survey carried out by Android Authority with 2,500 Android users, 81.9% use Dark Mode on their phones, in apps and anywhere else available. 9,9% said they switch between Dark and Light Mode.
Thus, a total of 91.8% of respondents use some form of Dark Mode on their devices. Only 8.2% said they do not use Dark Mode.
We can see that most users are adopting the Dark Mode feature . For this reason, technology giants already allow users to choose which look they prefer in quick and simple ways. Apple, for instance, in the release of iOS 13, made available the option for users to choose which option they want to use on their device.
After the release of iOS 13, Apple, in its Human Interface Guideline, provided several guidelines and tips, so that developers/designers could be certain their product would be accessible in both Modes (Light and Dark).
“Test your designs in both light and dark appearances. See how your interface looks in both appearances, and adjust your designs as needed to accommodate each one.” — Apple
We can see, by the amount of research, studies, data and by the adherence of technology giants on top of Dark Mode, that applications already have a need to adapt and bring not only one interface look, but two: Dark Mode and Light Mode.
The benefits we’ve listed in this article show the potential Dark Mode has, with a focus on battery savings, improved accessibility for low-contrast colors with a lighter background, improved focus and attention, decreased eye strain, and even improved sleep. Considering these points, Dark Mode, if applied in the right way, has the potential to make products better and more accessible.