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The Dark Side of Dark Mode (tidbits.com)
131 points by notlukesky 7 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 112 comments



>There’s an obvious caveat to the comment about the human eye preferring dark objects against a light background. Apart from a few exceptions like fire, lightning, and bioluminescent fireflies, almost nothing in the natural world emits light. In our modern world, however, screens do emit light, and quite a lot of it.

This for me is the crux of dark mode and is where this post falls flat: devices are just simply a different beast. They aren't newspapers or photographs, they are lamps with a color profile hotter than the Sun, and we should treat them differently. That's especially true of mobile devices, where being used before sunrise/after sunset is typical.

It's not the same, but it reminds me of how we think and talk about color (additive versus subtractive). Finger painting as a kid you learn that mixing the three colors — Red, Yellow, and Blue — makes black, but play with a computer and you'll learn that the three colors — Red, Green, and Blue — make white. It's a different system because, simply put, it's an entirely different system.


Agreed. This article is frustrating because, while yes I do in general like black text on white background, I definitely do not when the background emits hot white light into my eyes.

Strangely, the same can be true for plain old fashioned paper. The other day I was outside and had to look at a paper. Plain, white printed paper with black text. The bright hot sun reflected off of the paper and I couldn't see anything. A darker shaded advertisement however was easy to read.

So it's all relative. In my case I just prefer not to feel bright light blinding me, so I spend most of my time in dark mode editors/etc. My biggest complaint is that websites don't let me choose. I really wish OSs would start enforcing full dark or light modes as an accessibility feature. As I wright this, my HN screen is quite bright. I frequently flip between my dark editor and my bright Slack work screen. Those bright flips kill me.


A lot of properly old fashioned paper is a very long way from white, and much more friendly for reading in the sun. Brilliant white bleached paper in even paperbacks seems quite recent, requiring use of sunglasses. Most of the books I remember from 70s and 80s - and I still have many - were much lower contrast, even in expensive hardbacks or heavy glossy art papers.

On desktop I prefer black on white, on phone white on black - but I would generally prefer tuning both down to lower contrast than either OS or websites want to let me. On my laptop I have the darkreader addon that lets me turn contrast down. My phone gets to stick in inverted accessibility mode as a part measure that is the nearest I can get. :( I've never yet had a smartphone that let me set display as I'd like - either on Android or Apple.


Has book paper actually tended more white recently than in the past? I have a lot of older paperbacks that are quite yellow these days, but I always assumed they started out that same brilliant white and yellowed over the years to their current state. Interesting to hear that they might have started out more yellow in the first place!


Like ajross mentions the cheapest paperbacks started out quite tan or greyish, had quite a rough texture, then faded to even more yellow quite quickly.

The nicer hardbacks and art stock were often more a milky or creamy white, occasionally a more neutral hint of grey. Definitely much whiter than paperbacks, but I think most would be a few steps from the hard brilliant white most often seen now.


Paperbacks have traditionally been published on unbleached, cheaper paper. That's where the term "pulp" fiction comes from. It starts as tan and yellows over time.

But broadly yes, until the advent of chemical bleaching in the 19th century basically all paper products were a light tan. Ditto for animal hide writing media


In Apple iBooks you might like the sepia paper option.


Have you tried turning down the brightness on your screen? If it's blinding you you've probably got it set way too high.


Yup. Though I still prefer dark mode.

But you touch on something that makes this worse; I prefer a brighter screen when in dark mode, and a darker screen when in light mode. Again, a relative thing. This is why I want consistency, above all else.


I think you hit the nail on the head. I prefer the look of dark mode, but because many UI elements don't support it, I stick to light mode across the board and lower brightness. There is no brightness level that is appropriate for a random mix of bright and dark mode, and trying to find one is worse than going all in on either.


Download Dark Reader. It's a god send for me. It's a browser plugin that turns everything into a dark pallet and doesn't look like hot garbage.


Check DarkReader add-on for your browser. It can force dark mode on any website.


> I really wish OSs would start enforcing full dark or light modes as an accessibility feature

Windows has had high contrast modes which do exactly this for decades. It permeates even web pages, though is no perfect there because--surprise!--few companies test with it.


There are browser extensions like Stylus which allow you to force dark mode on websites


On Firefox you can use the Dark background Light Text addon to tweak colors and contrast to Tour liking, i use it sich solarized.


the article tries to use scientific findings to promote preference. the facts stated are not to be denied, but the fact forgotten is that a lot of this kind of thing is personal experience and thus personal preference. which science can say nothing about.


for websites I can't recommend the browser add on stylus enough.

Slack not having a dark mode is also a thing I don't understand.


I feel like this is worth mentioning.

https://robertheaton.com/2018/07/02/stylish-browser-extensio...

If I go looking for an extension called "Stylish", will I find the original? Is it trustworthy?


AFAIK, you should use Stylus (opensource clone) instead of Stylish (history-stealing original), like mentioned in GP.


Oh. The names are close so I accidentally conflated the two. Thanks!


There is a dark mode setting on the Android app. I'm looking at it right now.

Otherwise, you can customize the color profile to your liking.


If you can read something from paper, light got reflected from that paper. To the eye, it doesn't really make a difference if the paper was the original emitter of the light or not. With a newspaper or a photograph, you still see the light from a lamp, just reflected.


This is loose reasoning - it is true that photons are the same, but completely over simplifies the problem

Some addition things worth considering

Effective intensity of observed object (last I checked, paper isn't a mirror and doesn't reflect very well)

Frequency profile of the light being observed (cf light from the sun being imperfectly reflected vs lamp being reflected vs direct light source)

Ambient light around observed object which affects both stimulation profile of receptor region of eye AND pupil dilation

So yeah original emitter source isn't the only piece of this puzzle


You see light that comes from a lamp and is partly reflected, partly absorbed, and a bit scattered along the way to your retina. With screens, you're looking at the lamp.


Doesn't matter where you're looking at, only the intensity matters (and you can control that).

Whether you're looking "at the lamp" or at a newspaper that reflects light, the end result is the same: photons hit your eyes.


you can stare at the sun to be more productive when viewing the sun as well. /s

No, I don't buy the green screen argument, any more than the randomness of paper being somewhat white and ink being in contrast to that. Certainly white on black is useful in astronomy, the stuff you are interested in is lit. This article was such a wall of text, I don't know if it ever supported its conclusion very well, which is ironic for an article promoting "productivity".


>you can stare at the sun to be more productive when viewing the sun as well. /s

Not sure what this even means, sarcasm or not.

If the sun could be set in "low brightness", like a screen can (and ignoring infrared), then yes, you _could_ stare in the sun.


The light is very different in intensity and colour, though. Reading on a phone is more like reading a newspaper that's being held directly under a very bright light.


Every time I try to use a screen outside on a sunny day, the "intensity and colour" of the outside world seems to massively overpower it.


Agreed. I spend a lot of time working outdoors. Even in the shade in the summertime, I have a shell profile with larger fonts and a dark-on-light color scheme to make it easier.


Simply turn down the brightness. The intensity can't be the issue because you can adjust it. The colour could be though - even at the same perceived colour temperature, the white light of the screen is going to have a different spectrum to a piece of paper under a tungsten lamp.


Right, but then you're ignoring ambient light. Your statement isn't true in a dark room, where the very much does care.


But that's still not a fundamental property of screens, that's a property of a specific working environment.

Screens should not be brighter than ambient light as a rule of thumb, i.e. if you hold a piece of paper next to your screen, the screen should not brighten up the paper. If it does, reduce brightness of your screen and/or turn up the light in your room.

So, a dark room is not an ideal working environment anyway.


> it doesn't really make a difference if the paper was the original emitter of the light or not

I think it makes all the difference in the world.

Aside from power consumption, e-books and e-paper displays exist for this reason.


It's debatable whether the article falls flat because of the light source or because of its limited assessment of humans:

> Humans evolved outside, and we are generally active during the daytime and asleep when it’s dark.

The article is probably mostly right for some people.


> they are lamps with a color profile hotter than the Sun, and we should treat them differently. That's especially true of mobile devices, where being used before sunrise/after sunset is typical.

Well said! VLC (at least on Android) has a day-night theme that switches between dark/light modes at sunrise / sunset. I wish more applications did the same.


Lol. its the difference between pigments and light aka 6th grade science.

It doesnt mean "screens are an entirely different system"


Every article like this ignores the fact that Dark Mode is a fantastic accessibility feature if you have a vision impairment that results in ghosting/blurring/light-sensitivity. Features like "Dark Mode" are not about brightness, but contrast.

I'm all for giving people the option. Assuming everyone is able is a crux of UI/UX design.


> Features like "Dark Mode" are not about brightness, but contrast.

Exactly.

Something that the article doesn’t seem to pick up on is how we read and dark modes effect on that depends on what we’re reading. (The musician example doesn’t quite do it justice).

AKAIK We see the shapes of words first, then some of the letters, then we understand the word. Hence why if y-u blank -ut s-me /etters, y-u can sti// read a sentence.

I find light on dark easier to navigate with code because the “shapes” are easier to determine.

Code is highly structured - even different variable names have different shapes.

Having said that...

Reading a full on research paper or something has to be dark on light for me. I’m reading something with less structure, where the words are one after the other.

So... yeah. It’s context and task dependent. So it’s a good thing there’s a choice.


This is a very good point, personally I do not like dark mode (but have used it for many years as a developer, before swapping back). But the OPTION for a user to display a page in dark mode is absolutely not a 'dark side'.

Optional settings are the beauty of software, they shouldn't be shunned but encouraged.


The reason options are often shunned is that they exponentially increase the complexity. Every option needs to work with every other combination of options. Testing this can be very time consuming especially if it doesn't lend itself to automation.

I'm not arguing against options but I am saying options come with a cost so the benefit has to be deemed to be worth the maintenance burden.


Wholeheartedly agreed! We always need to look at stuff from both angles and I forgot just how complicated adding new features can be (even if they are 'simple' changes, Chaos theory comes into mind.)


This is exactly correct. I have an astigmatism which causes chromatic abberation. Specifically, the B in RGB is usually out of focus when the R is in focus, although I can actually force my eyes to focus on the B and cause the opposite to occur.

This has been exacerbated by my recent "graduation" to progressive glasses. For whatever reason these seem to cause their own chromatic abberation issues.

Dark mode actually makes the fringing a bigger problem, but I configure everything not to use blues significantly and so it overall makes things more readable for me.


You might've looked at this already, but you can use a program called f.lux to globally change the color temperature of your screen. It's intended to eliminate blue light to make it easier to sleep, but it's highly configurable and in your case it might help with readability.


f.lux is super helpful. I'd rather look at black text on a configurably-dark red-tinted background than have to invert everything. Especially because I don't only look at a text editor all day. Not every program has dark mode for all its text, and f.lux is a global solution. It's also great that it has a timer built in so you can go darker as evening approaches.


This basic feature is also in most OS's now labeled as "blue light filter" or "night mode".


Is it? Because I’m fairly nearsighted and have astigmatism, which can make text on screens very blurry when there is a low contrast, and it’s a lot worse with dark mode.

Still, I agree that having both a light and a dark mode is better than having just one of them.


For many users high contrast is enhanced when it's dark. See Windows High Contrast Mode as an example.


For me it’s also about decluttering the UI (for want of a better term). Dark mode lets the UI get out of the way, especially if the actual workspace or content remains light. The MacOS mail client is a decent enough example - you can have dark UI but still render the email as light on dark.


You mentioning that reminded me that iOS and macOS don't have a high-contrast mode like what Windows has had literally for decades.


What do you mean by “like what windows has had”? iOS and OS X have an accessibility setting to increase contrast, but maybe that’s different from how you expect it to look.


OSX has an "increase contrast" mode, a contrast slider, and an invert colors option (among others) in the Accessibility preferences, and has for quite some time.


Err, both iOS/macOS have extended accessibility features, including high contrast mode and controls.


Writing code in a dark mode for as long as I can remember, I thought that I'd always prefer light text on dark background when reading text on a screen, but eventually I realized that I prefer dark text on light background for almost everything, except reading code. I like using syntax highlighting and for me colorful text on a light background, no matter the quality of the color theme, is harder to read than the inverse.


I do too — probably because most of my early coding was done over telnet / ssh and those almost always have white on black text.

Agree that colored text contrasts better on a black background too.


The reverse is probably why I have always preferred light-mode color schemes - I got my start with VB6 and then VC++ 6, where everything was black on white or black on light grey.


My first coding was done on paper: printing out the code, hand marking it up. Drafting a few new lines and then inputting them and re-running.

I still miss that way of doing development, probably more out of nostalgia than actual productivity.


This stuff is very subjective but for me if you have to use something like jsx where there is a lot of structure/punctuation then dark mode does make it easier to spot that mismatched bracket. But overall I prefer light mode because I can scan across pages of code much quicker and find what I want. The broader layout is more apparent to me.

For the same reason I definitely prefer to read long form text in light mode. Which means that I would have to switch between dark and light mode anyway (even if most web content was switchable to dark mode). So it's light mode for me with at most #F5F5F5 background for code


Maybe light mode is better for code review and dark for code writing. Subject to personal preference.


Dark mode isn't popular because it's hip, but because it's used. Apple follows tredns here, not set them. The reverse assumption in the article makes me doubt the rest.

I don't trust results that say black on white put less strain on their eyesight and general congnitive stress, because I've personally consistently felt different. At best it depends on surrounding both backgrounds and light sources.


>Apple follows tredns here, not set them

CD Drives and USB Ports beg to differ


OP said "here" => "in this case"


This is silly. Dark mode isn't about marginal differences in speed-of-visual-processing. It's about reducing eye strain, which is a different thing. My eyes physically hurt less when I'm using a dark theme. I really couldn't care less if my brain takes an extra few milliseconds to process what I'm looking at.


It's also about information density. The brain can discern so many different shades of color if they're not all washed out by a blinding white background. Or any lighter-than-the-text background.


We evolved with dark objects on a light background, therefore dark mode is bad for your eyes? Wat?

That argument makes no sense. It's like saying we evolved to walk barefoot, therefore shoes are bad for you.

Just because we evolved a certain way, doesn't mean that's the best way to do things.

My hypothesis is Dark mode is less light, and less light is better for your eyes.

But until there are scientific studies on the topic, who knows.


Shoes are indeed bad for you. They are good for you NOW because all your life you've been walking on shoes.

If you were walking barefoot all your life, you'd have strong feet, as evolution wanted.

Low light condition is actually awful for your eyes. I can use drive without glasses in the morning, but at night I really need them, because our eyes are designed for day light conditions.


Did you read the article? It actually points to numerous scientific studies that show that light mode is better.

And by better I mean (from the article): "Light Mode provides better performance in focusing of the eye, identifying letters, transcribing letters, text comprehension, reading speed, and proofreading performance, and at least some older studies suggest that using a positive polarity display results in less visual fatigue and increased visual comfort."


> The human eyes and brain prefer dark-on-light, and reversing that forces them to work harder to read text, parse controls, and comprehend what you’re seeing.

If you've ever had an eye injury or been visually impaired and had to use a computer screen, you'll know the author is just plain wrong here. Absolutely amazing the author cites zero studies dealing with visual impairment.

My anecdote: injured my epithilium in both eyes, almost went blind; looking at a computer screen produced unbearable pain that was only marginally tolerable in dark mode. Developed new empathy for visually impaired people.


The author lost me as soon as he/she compared dark mode to green screen crt. Do you really think the green crt was a design decision?? It was the balance of cost to performance that 1970s tech allowed.

As for the other points, its largely subjective but I have dark mode enabled in every app that will support it. On windows, I run the experimental build so I can have more complete dark mode support, and enabled the half baked dark mode in sql server management studio. All my IDEs are set to dark mode, because eye strain is a thing and for me at least dark mode is much easier on the eyes.


As soon as there were raster CRTs, there wasn't much of a technical reason for light on black. Continuing with this was probably more for tradition and aesthetical expectations ("the gloom of the monitor" and a certain kind of heroism, which goes with it).

Personally, I don't think there is an ideal solution to match all scenarios. There are some applications, where light on black may be superior, and others, where it's the other way round. Empirically, for content-heavy, lengthy text we had a few trends for light on black in the past (e.g. "cool web design" in the late 1990s) and reversed from this soon each time. For an example, I much prefer reading HN comments as-is as compared to a hypothetical dark mode UI.


> As soon as there were raster CRTs, there wasn't much of a technical reason for light on black.

This isn't entirely true; many CRT-based terminals have phosphors that dim slowly. If they used a black-on-light color scheme, the letters would be washed out a for a lot more time than light-on-black. Light-on-black hides other defects more (like a not-quite-centered horizontal and vertical hold) and may possibly use less power (since the electron gun is off for more time).


However, this is true for both modes. It's quite possible to imagine a world in which we had become accustomed to ignoring washed out dark on light, just like we became to ignore ghost images and trails. (Also, early LCDs were terrible at this, but somehow acceptable.)


AFAIK the technical reason for light on black was the refresh rate of early monitors: it's much easier on the eyes to have flickering text on a solid dark background than dark text on a flickering light background. That became less of the problem with better CRTs, but only disappeared completely when LCD screens took over.


As pointed out by a sibling comment, some phosphor sustain would have helped much with flicker (compare the original monitor for the IBM PC 1550) – while, at the same time, presenting the problem of washed out characters with animated or scrolling views.


> Do you really think the green crt was a design decision??

I think the point they are making is, why would we have ever moved away from the technologically simpler option if it also happened to be a better design? What made us get rid of terminal colours in favour of black-on-white, when we could have just improved the design of the white-on-black colours?


I think the switch is easily explained by companies like Xerox and Apple looking to emulate paper documents, which was the preeminent design paradigm they both were chasing at the time.


I used to have perfect vision - I could see an amber LED display the size of an A3 sheet showing the time from 100m away. And remember preferring dark mode then.

Now that my vision has somewhat deteriorated with age and I use glasses for driving during the night, I find dark mode annoying and blurry.

My take is that it boils down to this.


There is a significant physiological advantage to black text on white background. A bright background causes your pupil to constrict, which reduces the active area of your lens focusing light onto your fovea. Using less lens area reduces the affect of any lens imperfections, which results in a sharper image. If your lens is nearly perfect, you likely don't notice a difference. If you have significant imperfections, the difference is probably very noticeable.

Edit: The effect is similar to a pinhole occluder used by an ophthalmologist to test your eyes without the affect of refractive errors from imperfections in your eye lenses. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pinhole_occluder


I don't believe the (recent) move in customers for requesting dark mode in pages, programs and apps allows for that broad statement:

> Vision research has shown that humans prefer dark-on-light.

There are obviously quite many humans who don't. Even if it's scientifically better or god knows what.

I do that. Prefer light-on-dark. Everywhere. I want to paint it black! It's not a hip, style thing. I'm not hip or stylish. I just hate the white and as a day moves on, my hate for that becomes greater. And yes I know about the programs that make your screen brightness lower. I have it on my home PC (and I don't like the yellowish tone...but it's better than nothing I guess). I can't have it on my work PC.


If I look at a white background I get eye strain and headaches. And if I look at a co workers screen while standing I can’t read the text. But with dark background I don’t get eye strain and headaches.


I always hated the bright background on computers. The green or amber old PC screens were better. The first program for inverting the colors I wrote on my first homecomputer, Atari ST. Since then I always look for something handy to switch to dark mode on my computers, even if they don't have a built in way of doing it. The one I'm using now is f.lux, working good enough for me. I can let it run normal colors when I start up some art program so I get correct colors and automatically switch back to red when I go to the darkmode editor. I also make sure I turn down the brightness on the screen as much as possible since that is a bright lamp shining at you for 8 hours per day.

My eyes are deteriorating with age too so this is getting more and more important. That blue light is not good for your retina. There are glasses with filter so you get the blue filtered out everywhere, might be something to look into soon I guess.


I'd suggest trying Dark Reader extension for your browser. It's a life-saver for me.


Wow thank you. I've been fiddling around with Stylus for the pages I use regularly but this is a simpler solution for them all.


first they argue that the MOAD and Xerox' Smalltalk pioneered dark-on-light after years of the reverse, then they argue that actually it's because vision-psychology. Well, which is it? Because there's no way the MOAD and Smalltalk chose dark-on-light because of visual perception research. Smalltalk's choice was probably motivated by a desire to make the UI look like paper (Xerox being in the paper business). Same with Apple's original Mac. At the time everyone's UI was paper so this familiar UI was important to replicate to sell.

It also ignores the fact that we've had light-on-dark mode for ages: blueprints and microfiche, blackboards and granite tablets

I mean, the Rosetta Stone is light-on-dark


I especially love the way you can create a dark-mode CSS stylesheet with something as simple as:

    @media (prefers-color-scheme: dark) {

    }


Well, it's subjective.

For me personally light interfaces make my eyes hurt.

Dark themes are, for me, without questions MUCH easier on the eyes, irrespective of what this article claims or the science says.

Dark mode is a choice. You don't have to use it. I really hope the choice is preserved and extended into as many interfaces as possible.

Just because YOU don't find it easier on the eyes (article author), does not mean that is true for everyone.

If I was using a light theme in Sublime Text, or Office, or Terminal, I wouldn't be able to last very long in the workday....


This is a very narrow argument, it's well know how much eye strain is caused by staring into a full screen LED all day. A darkmode allows concentration and focus over longer periods without strain that completely outweigh any reduced focus due to slightly worse perceived contrast... not to mention how much better rested you will be after using darkmode before bed.


Dark mode has certainly a "cool" vibe to it. It reminds me much of when light text on dark (mostly black) background was the hype for cool internet pages in the late 1990s. Incidentally, this trend ceased to be much of thing over the course of a year or so – for some reason.


"Attention, Axiom shoppers. Try blue! It's the new red!"


Dark Mode looks nice to me at night, but I don’t particularly care for it during the day. I save myself the hassle by having a Launch Agent automatically switch between the two around sunset and sunrise.


Personally I find light-on-dark to be much easier on my eyes over the course of the day, and especially at night. With light-on-dark, I can turn the screen brightness up higher without it hurting my eyes.

Regarding the "dramatic new look" angle, what I find hilarious about this is remembering the vaporware that was MacOS Copland. My family had a Centris 610 and a MacUser magazine subscription. I was so eager to get that HiTech dark mode that I installed Kaleidoscope and Dad was Not Happy.

Apart from the nostalgia of being a kid with a computer customized to the point of dysfunction, there is a sense in which Mojave is a realization of Copland's visual ambition, offering an alternative hi tech theme that takes a step away from the original desktop and paper metaphor.

Interesting article on Kaleidoscope that I found while googling for an example screenshot: http://freshmeat.sourceforge.net/articles/learning-from-kale...

screenshot: http://pcdesktops.emuunlim.com/pictures/ss/hitech.jpg


Am I the only one who would prefer to just use f.lux's "Darkroom" mode (red on black, basically) for coding at night / in the dark? Doesn't kill my night vision. Of course you have to switch all of your apps out of "Dark Mode" or you'll just be starting at giant blobs of red.


I'm pretty sure Light Vertigo has never been trendy.

Tons of folks have used Dark Mode browser extensions for years to stave off the nausea from bright white layouts (and overly-lit rooms!). For us, the widespread adaptation of Dark Mode has been a God-send. Turning down brightness and contrast only works so far.


I have Dyslexia and have always found light on dark background easier to read. I used green screens (amber even) and like everyone I went to the “light” side as GUI’s became a thing. But I always kept my xterm with black backgrounds.

At one point I read an article about dark backgrounds helping dyslexics read better. I tried it on Kindle and in one year read 6x as many books as the year before, it was like someone had transformed me with a magic wand, I could read and enjoy more of what I was reading.

I haven’t figured out a good way to get dark mode on iOS nor css hacks for dark mode HN. I did find a way to hack dark mode into Slack and Jenkins and those were amazing changes for me (and quite a few of my team).

I worry that people think Dark Mode is a fad, to me it’s a gift and I hope the trend continues.


Many of the studies mentioned in the article were made with CRTs. I wonder whether peculiarities of CRT are to blame for these results. Phosphor has non-linear response and limits ability to have sharp, thin white-on-black lines.


Dark mode is not only about reading text, it is also about (the interface around) viewing images or videos. I'll take a performance hit in reading some numbers on my banking app if it means not being flushed with white light in between watching images or videos. I haven't tried (extreme and perfect) adaptive brightness, this may be a solution too. But it should work pretty close to perfect in a very dimly let room if it is to prevent squeezing eyes when suddenly being hit by a completely white interface while keeping things legible.


I really like white-on-black dark modes. They are somehow more pleasing than the other way round. There's a problem with all dark modes, though. If one is using laptop running on battery juice and needs to prolong the battery time, then conserving battery with low screen brightness makes reading the dark modes really hard. Hence I've ended up using multiple crucial apps like IDEs with black-on-white themes as they are more readable on dim laptop display. Annoying but better compromise than writing code without laptop, haha.


This is why OLED displays are so nice. They have much better battery life with a dark background.


One interesting trend I’ve seen is amongst Keratinous (uneven thinning of the cornea, causing bubbles) patients: they overwhelmingly prefer light mode on screens. The reason why is fairly straightforward - the additional light constricts the pupil, making the text sharper, leading to less eye fatigue.

For this reason, I know a few of us tend to get annoyed when only offered dark modes (or half-baked light modes - looking at you, Discord).


Based on my research, light on dark is actually better for you when you're staring at an array of lamps all day. With OLED screens you would also be saving energy.

The one thing I do agree is that contrast is king. You should also always have night mode/redshift enabled and choose palettes that use low energy colors to reduce eye strain.


In a dark environment, I strongly prefer "dark mode"

In a bright environment, I strongly prefer "light mode"

The author here does have a point, but I'm not advocating for a world where we choose one over the other in every case. I appreciate designs that support both, because each has it's own advantages and disadvantages.


I used to prefer dark mode because it reduced all white light. But then I realized that I don't have an issue with white light, just the blue light spectrum in white light.

I have switched to light mode but with a heavy blue light filter and find it much better than dark mode on my eyes.


While I was reading this post, I found the bright background was straining my eyes, so I turned on my dark-mode browser plugin, and then I found I could continue reading more comfortably.


Fully functional e-ink displays with a good refresh rate and color-capable are the solution: lower power consumption and better for our eyes. I'm looking forward to that.


The youtube channel Technology Connections and its #2 channel is doing a series on this right now. The potential is exciting, but the reality of how little development is going into the area is disappointing.


> Vision research has shown that humans prefer dark-on-light

This is what bugs the ever-living shit out of me about this type of research.

A study may well have been done that shows a majority preference by humans for dark-on-light.

But unless the study showed that every human studied had that preference, it doesn't mean that all humans prefer dark-on-light.

Going from "the bell curve is a bit skewed to dark-on-light" to "vision research has shown that humans prefer dark-on-light, therefore light-on-dark is bullshit" is the thing that bad science journalism does, and it's a blight on humanity.


In terms of productivity, I'm probably like the average person. I probably do better with dark-on-light. I do know with certainty that light is much more comfortable if it's not fff white. A light grey or a light beige (f6f6ef) is infinitely more comfortable.


Why can't apps properly separate interface from implementation and let people make the app look however they want? Maybe I don't want dark mode or light mode. Maybe I want the background bright orange and the text florescent green. I'm the one using your app on my device, it should look the way I want.

Seriously, why isn't choosing the text and background color of apps and websites a standard, simple thing?


Because just providing config options for text and background wouldn't be enough. Most apps use more colors than just background/foreground, meaning those other colors should be configurable as well.

Allowing users to configure all colors, would be in conflict with apps that use colors as part of some brand identity and for apps where this wouldn't be an issue, I guess most developers decide providing complete customization of colors is not worth the extra development time.


I have a serious eye pathology and I hate you, guys. Really, dark mode makes it possible for me to work.


Most of the comments here seem to be gripes with the article, claims that dark backgrounds on light-emitting screens are better etc.

I wholeheartedly agree. My first computer was a FreeBSD terminal in my dad’s office closet. Black screen, white text. Glorious.

Now, can we please get a dark theme for HN?!


For me, dark mode is largely a battery-saving measure. Especially with more OLED screens coming out on mobile devices, you can save a lot of energy by having some of your pixels completely turned off




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