— 7 min read

Lately, there has been a lot of hype surrounding dark mode, a simple toggle that lets you change the background color of an app window to black. It has become available on a bunch of popular apps, from the workplace collaboration chat app Slack and Microsoft's Outlook email client to Google Chrome and Facebook Messenger. Apple launched dark mode last year on Mac OS Mojave and it should become available on the new Android Q and IOS 13 launched later this year. Here we'll go over why should you turn it on and what are the benefits of dark mode.

Dark mode

"Dark mode" interest over time according to Google Trends (2019)

The benefits of dark mode

Health & well-being

"Everyone can relate to being in a room where the lights are turned down and you've got this white screen blinding you," said Sameer Samat, Google's VP of product management for Android and Play, during an interview last week at Google I/O. One Reddit user did well to conclude this point with a brilliant comment about the benefits of dark mode:

Reddit user's response on the benefits of dark mode

But it is not just dry and painful eyes we get from looking at bright blue screens all day long. Exposure to light also suppresses the secretion of melatonin, a hormone needed for sleep. There is evidence that the blue light from our screens suppresses melatonin for about twice as long as the green light. That is also the reason why many of our car dashboards are now blue – to keep us up and alert.

Tesla Model X interior in the dark
Tesla Model X interior

That is good for situations where you need to be alert, but it is not so good when you are exposed to it all the time. According to Nielsen research group In 2018 Q1, we spent more than 11 hours per day on our devices. It's not surprising why many, if not most, of us deal with eyes that feel — dry or itchy, and is sometimes accompanied by a insomnia, headaches, or neck pain. And even worse, lower melatonin levels have been linked to an increased risk of obesity and some cancers. So switching to dark mode not only saves your eyes but can also make you feel less tired and more healthy in general.

Bright Screens cause digital eye strain
Bright Screens cause digital eye strain. Data used form:
https://www.thevisioncouncil.org/content/digital-eye-strain
https://www.marketwatch.com/story/people-are-spending-most-of-their-waking-hours-staring-at-screens-2018-08-01

Battery saving

Dark mode apps can prolong the battery life of your smartphone. Google has confirmed that using dark mode on OLED screens has been a huge help for battery life. For example, at 50% brightness, the Dark Mode interface in the YouTube app saves about 15% screen energy compared to a flat white background. At 100% screen brightness, the dark interface is saving a whopping 60% of screen energy. While OLED screens are mainly used by Android devices, lately there has been some good news for iPhone users also. Apple has promised to drop all LCD screens by 2020 and deliver all future generation devices with OLED screens. As both IOS and Android should get the native dark mode later in the year, it seems to be a promising upgrade to our phones battery life.

It looks amazing

Let's be honest, dark mode just looks super amazing. While most products are going for that similar bland white look, the dark mode does offer something different that feels mysterious and new. As colors pop up better on dark backgrounds, it also provides great opportunities for presenting graphic content such as graphs, dashboards, pictures, and photos. For example, in Weekdone we use the RAG coloring system to provide a quick visual overview of goals progress. Here's how it looks in dark mode vs light mode.

Weekdone Goals Dashboard in Dark Mode
Weekdone's Dashboard in Dark Mode
Weekdone Goals Dashboard in Light Mode
Weekdone's Dashboard in Light Mode

In the aspect of readability, contrast is also one of the factors able to make the content more recognizable and legible. The table demonstrating levels of contrast and performance of different color combinations highlight an interesting fact: the black part of the table is the only one that provides good contrast for practically all the colors.

Levels of contrast and performance of different color combinations
Levels of contrast and performance of different color combinations

The color of items in an interface may also completely change how we are interacting with the content. There is some research that explores the correlation between the retention of users and using dark mode, which makes it an interesting opportunity for app developers. Eyes get less tired at night, so basically you are able to consume the content for longer periods. That was not our main goal when we added the Dark Mode to Weekdone, but we do want our users to feel good when they use our system.

When you shouldn't use dark mode?

However, not everything about dark backgrounds is good. For example, when you are using a device in a well-lit room or in direct sunlight, text positioned on dark backgrounds can be difficult to read. So, it is good for night time and not so good for day time. That is why at we also added an extra feature that switches dark on from sunset till sunrise.

Dark Mode configuration in Weekdone
Dark Mode configuration in Weekdone

As you can see there are positives and negatives to dark mode. Now that you understand the trend I am sure you are tempted to try it out yourself to get the benefits of dark mode. Here are some services that currently support dark mode.

List of popular services that support dark mode

Operating systems
Windows 10
Mac OS Mojave
Android Q (Beta)

Browsers
Google Chrome

Chat services
Facebook Messenger
Whatsapp
Viber
Skype
Slack

Social media
Twitter

Productivity tools
Todoist
Weekdone
Notion
Trello