I personally like dark mode during night time, but almost always prefer light mode by default. There's just something about dark mode that is... gloomy and depressing. It feels like an overcast day, whereas light mode feels like a bright sunny day. I've noticed that most techies do prefer dark mode, and I also recall reading that techies are disproportionately night owls - I wonder if there's a correlation there. I suspect though that this preference is reversed for the general population.
If I may be mildly unflattering for a moment, I think it's just a trendiness thing. Dark Mode looks more like a terminal and signals "I'm a real big-boy hackerman" or something.
If someone has real data showing it actually causes less eyestrain or something, I'm willing to change that opinion.
- It makes my eye floaters much harder to notice
- Light backgrounds on screens, especially white, tend to hurt my eyes more than darker ones
It was (and still is, but read on) for me until I realised that it was not light mode but backlight that was too strong. It was actually initially better with dark modes, low contrast stuff like zenburn, or (solarize light or dark) but only got worse later.
The moment I realised that was a backlight (and ambient light, including temperature) issue I moved back to light mode.
The above mentioned solutions have the nasty side effect that people usually increase backlight, which just makes things even worse!
I also use f.lux/nightmode on all devices.
I hate that there's no way to acess more fine-grained levels below the arbitrarily imposed minimum. I realize most people would think their phone is broken if they could get it into a state where it doesn't produce any perceivable output despite not being explicitly off. I just wish there were some secret handshake I could use to confirm that I'm okay with having to find the brightness control while not being able to see anything; I already do that when I'm outside in the bright sun.
I have been wondering for a long time what determines the backlight minimum, why can't we go darker? Surely phones can be expected to be used in pitch black?
1. It can block "Install" button when installing apks from outside of Play Store. Disable it
2. Latest commit is 4 years ago. But I've still chosen it over Red Moon because it's more than 10x smaller (336kB but still very configurable).
My phone is currently set to 10%
For me it's nice when I can use a pure black background on an OLED screen and just have that much less light being produced beyond just turning down the brightness on a screen.
in truth, I don't think I'd be able to do my job at all without dark-mode text editors / terminals
Even older research supports the claim that black on white is easier on the eyes, this is why we switched away from white on black (DOS and UNIX). This applies to screens in well lit environments though, which would explain the rise of the dark mode in recent years: Smartphones in bed. But there it's more about the "less bad" solution.
The key part is having a well lit environment, so that the white background of the screen roughly matches the overall brightness of the surroundings. This way the pupils don't have to adjust all the time when looking around your room and then back at your screen, or when looking at code where the screen is mostly black with some text, and then some article with images.
Other applications, like spreadsheets, ended up with a lot of the the same printer-oriented design. It showed up in things like font sizes in points (which are nominally length units, but were usually based on some fixed notional dpi rather than matching the size on the physical screen).
There was also an intermediate period where backgrounds were usually _blue_.
I also work through the dark hours the night. Switching between bright white terminal/app/ide to pitch black, as I do every night, is jarring and, again, gives me headaches. Dark mode should be an option just like every site should be accessible to any assistive technology.
In fact the single greatest thing that computer manufacturers could do to improve the lives of night-time workers and people who use their computers with the lights off would be to switch to OLED screens, where the black pixels do not use backlight. As someone who studies human vision, I took special note of the improvement when I switched to a phone that uses an OLED screen in dark mode. There, with white on black text, the white text is the only thing in the room giving off light and it’s a drastic improvement.
However if the colors do not matter (you can deal with monochrome text and images), then using a true “red mode” will produce the least eye strain. Check out F.Lux’s “darkroom” color effect. You’ll feel the difference instantly. You’ll be able to comfortably see what’s on the screen in the dark with the screen as the only light source, as well as be able to quickly scan around the room without your eyes needing to adjust! You can even turn up the brightness much higher than you can without it.
If you are talking about research based on modern oled devices then I'd love to read it. Maybe I'm weird.
Can you substantiate this?
There are studies linking the high blue light content of LEDs to health issues regarding eyesight and sleep. AFAIK the eyesight thing has only be tested with mice, but conduct your own research.
I use dark wallpapers for years now, and just yesterday when I wanted to try a brighter one for a change I instantly changed it back because the bright shine was so annoying.
Dark mode is "cool" right now because it's still a relatively new thing. In five years when everything is dark mode by default this same poll would yield a totally different, maybe even inverse, result.
It's cool to be comfortable, and now easier. OLED screens invert the default behavior of a screen from light to dark. It'd be absurd to fight the comfort that this can provide.
So, I agree, it's cool to be comfortable.
I suspect this is a big part of it. The interesting thing is, terminal emulators flipped to light backgrounds when it became practical (for instance, see the Solaris X11 one, or, later, Apple's one). The reversion to white on dark was a later thing.
I'm inclined to blame Microsoft; their Windows terminal emulator never went dark on light (though, interestingly, their bundled telnet and modem clients did). I think they were afraid of breaking DOS software that made assumptions about the black background.
go into dark room. read black text on white background. observe how you are squinting and its hard to read. enable dark mode. (you can use something like night mode for firefox: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/night-light-m... if you arent sure how). profit.
Most work areas are not lit well enough. For my own home office I have about 19,000 lumens of light in a relatively modest space. Same brightness as a cloudy day outside. In that environment, a white background is very pleasing to the eye, especially with crisp displays.
One advantage of dark backgrounds is that it's easier to distinguish many colors against something dark, so for code that uses heavy syntax highlighting, it looks nicer. But the edges of characters render better against white backgrounds, so it's a tradeoff...
One area where dark mode shines is if the environment doesn't allow for ambient light, such as checking the phone or laptop when someone is sleeping in the room.
If you have a computer, you probably have electric lighting. Just use that.
I’m talking 27 inch, 4K resolution, color (even just 4096 colors might be enough for a lot of software development work) monitors running at 60Hz or higher, with eInk technology and backlight that can be dialed all the way from full brightness to no backlight at all, which should be sold at a price somewhere between the same and 2x to 3x or 4x the price of what LED displays of similar size and specs currently cost today.
I hope we may see that on the market one day.
E-ink screens can make dark mode irrelevant. But the market for them hasn't been built, and the tech isn't effective at fast refresh. Yet.
I used dark mode in IDEA for YEARS and I can't believe I didn't push harder to have a dark mode in Polar earlier.
This is why it's good to listen to your users!
I stare at a screen for more than 12 hours most days, but I strongly prefer light mode over dark, so I'm not sure the amount of screen time is what makes the difference.
As one of the former, I find I am also very sensitive to light at night. Seeing a bright light within an hour or two of bedtime will push the point when I fall asleep back significantly.
A "night owl" is someone who enjoys being awake and active at night more than the average person, but most people who describe themselves as "night owls" still spend most of their waking hours during the day, especially when they are working, especially if they work in software development at a normal 9-5 job.
I'm a programmer so spend a ton of time in my IDE. Polar is designed for people that read a LOT so dark mode really matters to them.
When you're reading 100s of PDFs having a dark mode is kind of important!
In retrospect I'm kicking myself not working on this sooner.
There's a lot of pushback I've seen when studies like that get cited: they're old, they weren't about programmers, etc. And, maybe, but even though we're staring at LCD panels now rather than CRTs, light is light light and vision is vision. It's not about how much light is "shining into your eyes" as much as it is about visual acuity, and it's at least worth trying light mode and just... turning down the brightness on your monitor a little. Also, turning up the ambient light in the room. If your environment is so dark that the backlighting on your keyboard is visible, then you've tacitly designed your environment to make light mode blinding and uncomfortable, so you're not really giving it a fair shake.
I'd like to see studies about whether alternating between dark and light mode occasionally will help prevent your eyes from getting tired as quickly; my suspicion is yes, because it certainly does feel that way to me. But a lot of things that seem intuitively true don't stand up to scrutiny.
Dark themes/backgrounds have far worse issues with screen glare from badly configured room lighting than light ones do in my experience.
I'm also curious why another area of design that is extremely concerned with legibility seems to have reached the opposite conclusion, pretty much worldwide.
Even though signs themselves can vary widely, the standard color scheme for road signs in every developed country I can think of, is a darker background with lighter text. I certainly don't have the studies in front of me, but I know a great deal of research has gone into fonts and legibility for road signs, and I presume what we see on the roads in the world is the result.
The road signs are an interesting question. I know there's a lot of work, and occasional controversy, over the typefaces used. If I had to hazard a guess for the color choices, though, it might be the signs have to be very visible in the dark, too -- that's now generally done by using reflective paint for the light part of the sign, but older highway signs, at least in America, used reflective dots in the letters. So that might be a tradition born less out of legibility studies than practicality.
... It definitely would be great to get more apps to release their data. I reached out to IntelliJ about IDEA data but I didn't hear anything back.
I was playing around with a virtualized copy of Snow Leopard last weekend. Coming from modern macOS, what I find most visually striking is always the range of tones. The beautifully deep gray window chrome fades into the background, and pushes white content to the forefront without rendering it blindingly bright. Colored accents on interactable elements make the interface easy to scan. When I squint, I can still see everything.
You'd never consider adding a dark mode to this interface—or at least, I personally can't imagine what one would look like, because the interface is neither light nor dark to begin with. The result is far easier on my eyes.
I understand and sympathize with the philosophy behind flat design -- that it intentionally puts the interface in the background (low contrast, less variation), so whatever content you're consuming (photos, videos, book text) is the focus.
But I also sympathize with your point -- that when you want to use the interface to do stuff rather than merely scroll through content, it's simply harder now.
However, research shows that dark-on-light (positive polarity) displays are better for most people most of the time, with some exceptions.
For those who want to go deeper, several studies and papers are cited in the article The Dark Side of Dark Mode: https://tidbits.com/2019/05/31/the-dark-side-of-dark-mode/
Does anyone else have this?
Is it brain cancer?!
edit: Thanks, I'm pretty sure it's not cancer.
Question: But why me? Age? Staring too long at monitors? Drugs? It doesn't seem to effect too many others.
Similarly, this is why your eyes can hurt while reading in dimmer settings. It's not because low light itself is somehow harmful while reading, but because your eyes have a harder time staying focused as you naturally move while reading.
edit: I adopted light themes everywhere after reading this, probably https://ux.stackexchange.com/a/53268 . Knowing depth of field from photography helped this make sense, as well as understanding (from conversations with a doctor in my family) that the generic feeling "strain" is most likely associated with muscle activity than anything else.
It was easy for me many years ago. I looked at command lines all day and no problem.
Now I see blurry lines for 10 minutes all around me if I have to spend any length of time in a command line interface, or look at an article in dark mode.
This is, unfortunately, an accessibility issue, not a design issue.
It's perfectly reasonable to use dark-on-light in a terminal emulator; Apple's one defaults to it, for instance.
I usually find light modes too harsh, but I think that's because the background is often pure white or close to it, as opposed to something softer.
I think dark modes look cooler and I like the aesthetic from an artsy perspective, but they're not something I enjoy working in all day. I like the lower contrast ones to an extent, but they're still not ideal.
My preferred Visual Studio theme has been Humane, which is one of the rare ones that fall somewhere in between. I tweaked it to make it a tad darker, but was fairly happy with it out of the box. In any case, I feel like these kinds of themes are underrepresented; there is an overwhelming number of dark and light themes out there (mostly tweaks of other themes, or just plain bad) and I really wish more would aim for the middle ground. Largely because I'm actually not a fan of the color brown and would like to see a semi-light theme based on something else, haha.
My own belief is that when a sea of white is removed the need for 'crisp black' to stand out against it is also reduced; this might relate to a different perceived contrast due to the lowered noise floor (far less photons being rejected, so it's easier to pick out the desired ones).
As with almost all aesthetic preferences, your mileage and your hardware may vary.
Which of course contrasts with the “dark mode” for OLED devices, which do use black.
“Good” implementations I’ve seen allow a couple of choices.
It's also great when you're doing image or video editing and need to be able to see full contrast in the dark areas, without being overwhemlmed by bright light surrounding.
But it's objectively far worse if you're reading significant amounts of text, for the simple optical reason that light bleeds inside of lenses, including in your eyes -- that white "pollutes" black but not vice-versa.
Thus with black-on-white text, letterforms stay separate, clear, and legible. Any light spreading simply makes the letterforms appear, say, at 10% brightness instead of 0% brightness. Zero problems with legibility, still plenty of contrast.
But with white-on-black, letterforms glow with blurry edges and connect into each other. Not on the screen, but on your retina. The same way streetlamps at night appear to have a halo. Words take more effort to read. Now granted, if you're 15 years old with perfect vision, it may not be particularly noticeable or objectionable. But the older you get or worse eyesight you have, the more it becomes a big problem.
So dark mode is nice to have, but for most apps going dark-only is objectively bad for accessibility, and legibility generally.
I, uh, don't see a halo. Never have. I see streaks/starbursts, kinda like this quora post , except I've seen streetlights like that my whole life (so I don't think it's an eye problem like they suggest). Maybe that influences why I find dark mode easier on the eyes? No blurring, but it's also not sharp enough to cause the starburst.
I think that several other comment threads get closer to the truth of the matter. Your experience will be quite different depending on the dilation of your pupils. Most people have better acuity in bright environments where their eyes behave more like pinhole cameras. Not only does the pinhole have better depth of field than a larger opening, but most people will have more higher order aberrations in the periphery of their cornea. That is why they will see artifacts at night more than in broad daylight.
With a properly balanced viewing environment, you will have the same acuity for light on dark or dark on light, because the ambient lighting should dominate your field of view and set your pupil dilation. The screen should then be bright enough to fit comfortably in the same dynamic range as this environment.
Another factor is screen surfaces, and what people perceive in the dark/black areas. If you use glossy screens, you are more likely to notice distracting and non-uniform reflections in the darker areas. With a matte screen, you will mostly just have reduced dynamic range with the environment affecting the whole screen as a more uniform noise floor. Smudges on touch screens may also affect someone's perception of solid colored screen areas.
White on dark with fuzzy fonts on non hidpi screens is terrible indeed.
More of a click-bait title than necessary. 95% of discord users prefer dark would be more accurate.
I'd love to see more data though.
Native widgets play significantly better with all accessibility tools, in part because native widgets are so customizable. You didn't need bespoke "Dark Mode" that was some designer's wet dream of what an interface should look like, you could just customize your widgets for what you needed: https://66.media.tumblr.com/19cb7fe3e0eef36debbd0167d6e6e0ea...
I'd say users expect things to look like what they are used to, whatever that user-specific preference is.
Anecdotes not data etc.
These both are likely also available for Chrome.
Also reducing the backlight saves battery.
But I still think that a little bit more low-contrast would be nice.
I have my monitors set fairly dim, about 120cd/m^2. This is what most colorspaces expect the whitepoint to be, but it is very dim compared to the maximum amount of light a monitor can put out. It is about 12/100 on my monitor.
Anyway, my point here is that #ffffff is not any sort of color you can see, merely a number that represents the maximum possible amount of red, green, and blue. If that's too much light, you can turn it down. You can also play with gamma curves to change the relative intensities down to pure black. Some people use 2.2 in dark rooms and 2.4 for "normal" indoor illumination.
JetBrains compatible version: https://github.com/chriskempson/tomorrow-theme/tree/master/J...
That being said, I have pretty good luck with browser plugins that auto dark mode websites reasonably well. I'm not sure I'd go redesigning the entire web with darkmodes in mind when plugins can do a good enough job.
. Why do people keep making these general statements. Every time they do counter-examples immediately appear in replies. Why can't we all agree that we're all different and it's largely a matter of preference.
For some people, yes. For others, no. That's why this should be a configurable option.
There's no need to stare at cold blue light all day long.
Fun fact, there is actually a CSS media query for selecting dark/light themes:
If it is really impossible to support more than one theme in the long run, this seems like a perfect use-case for an A/B test: randomize half your users into dark-mode and half into light-mode, and track total attrition and activity over the next few months (and not some proxy variable, switching to dark mode is too important to use some unreliable intermediate measurement).
Do I have diplopia or do people with diplopia see more of the effect?
I don't like it at all. Makes me wonder if it's because I'm getting old and my vision isn't aa sharp as it used to be.
My main monitor has a "low blue light" setting that I do like though. It took me a bit to get used to it but I can really feel the difference if I turn it off now. I've since adjusted my two peripheral monitors to lower the blue light settings and that's helped reduce eye strain a lot for me.
"To summarize, a dark-on-light (positive polarity) display like a Mac in 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 benefits apply to both the young and the old, as that paper concludes"
For websites that don't have good dark themes or user styles, you can use the Dark Reader browser extension to toggle it on any website - https://darkreader.org/
Another reason I don’t want it on all the time is because a lot of things still have really terrible Dark themes, to the point of being eyesores. It is amazing how much more the choice of colors matters in dark themes, and if this is wrong it is almost unusable.
Some web sites had long used primarily-light or primarily-dark themes, and it is now weird that some of them try to “adapt” to your dark/light “mode”. Frankly, it usually looks worse when they switch to their less-refined alternative and I would rather they either put a lot more effort in to both themes or just keep the original look in all cases.
I usually prefer light themes, and I keep my computer room pretty well lit and I never use my phone in bed, so I never find light themes to be blinding. The brightness of the screen matches my environment.
It's even worse with laptops where screens are angled slightly towards the ceiling.
Same goes with IDEs - I use dark in the evening, when there's low light, and light schemes in offices - just to reduce contrast between screen and rest of world, and to eliminate mirror effects on the display.
Mobile apps however, light mode all the way! I just turn the brightness down. Glowing text is painful on small screens.
This has exactly zero usefulness as an measure of what any group (even Discord users) prefers.
Personally I prefer dark modes.
Currently I use light modes.
Why? Because when there is a possibility of glare, light mode dominates. By far. At work there is a high probability of glare. My quality of life improved drastically when I switched to light mode for everything. Even my terminal.
When the room is dark, dark mode is way easier on the eyes.
So really what we need isn't one preference, but a variation based on lighting conditions of the room. A color sensor on the monitor could easily determine which of the two to use.
Not practical ATM. Oh well.
I currently use both light and dark themes on Emacs, with a shortcut to toggle between them. Solarised is a great theme for this, as the text colours are the same for both modes. I originally started using a light theme during the day, as so many other apps already do and I disliked the sudden change in brightness when for example switching between Emacs and a web browser.
I don't know if my own change in preference is due to underlying change in screen technology, or something else. Screen time might affect it too -- maybe people prefer light mode when they're only on-screen a few hours a day, but dark mode is better when using it all day?
Dark UIs likely made ghosting more prominent on CRTs, either because of crosstalk on a D-SUB cable or because of "spillover" of bright elements of a UI into a nearby dark field. I agree with your sentiment that technological change has made this possible.
Tangentially, I wanted to mention a hue shift that I've noticed that that all UIs seem to flow through. I will take the evolution of Aqua for example. UIs seem to start off with some variant of lighter blue or green (10.0) that eventually iterates into a darker but more saturated form of itself (10.4). Eventually, we start getting hints of purple (10.5, 10.6). When purple starts to come through, there are really no colours to introduce and designers usually decide it's time for a UI overhaul. I would love to hear others' takes on this.
I think you got it backwards. I remember using black backgrounds and things like "mc -b" specifically because CRTs I used sucked at light colors, trinitron displays later were nicer though and using white backgrounds was pleasant. Nowadays led backlit displays suck again on light and bright colors and don't seem to improve, hence "dark mode" became a solution.
I don't know about you guys, but Night Shift at max setting is still too blue for me. I end up turning the brightness down. I just need to switch to dark.
Black looks much better on mobile IMO ...
The material team at Google made a blog post about it which I recommend going through: https://material.io/design/color/dark-theme.html
The quote around the OLED: "On OLED screens, turning pixels on and off can cause a delay when the screen is scrolled, making the pixels blur."
As an example, the facebook messenger app uses a true black background and the delay is _very_ noticeable.
With the bright mode I can reduce the brightness of my screens and I can still read everything. I also never have the urge to put dark-mode code on presentation slides that are unreadable in all but perfect condition.
You're right that without LCDs , especially OLED, dark mode wouldn't really be a thing.
And light text on dark background looks better on these too.
And yes there is a certain level of fashion between dark and light mode which seems to move back and forwards every now and then. This reminds me somehow of the moves between Terminal(thin) -> Server(thick) to Workstation(thick) -> Tablet(Thin) -> Cloud(Thick) -> Client side(Thick).
IMHO "Hot Dog Stand" on Windows 3.1 was the best it could ever be. Dear god don't let Hot Dog Stand be the default.
If only I could work out how to stop it from inverting the images too....
But you might be interested in these browser extensions:
- Dark Reader
- Dark Background and Light Text
I wonder why white backgrounds hurt your eyes...
The only time dark mode is bad is when you're doing a product demo in a darkened room, like at a conference. It's really hard to make out text in dark mode in a dark room.
I've been doing that for years.
Just putting it out there: Fuck Callum Booth's opinion.