The Benefits of Dark Mode: Why “turn off the lights”?

It has been close to 10 years since Weekdone started providing teams like yours with world-leading OKR software along with goal-setting and planning features.

With Weekdone being free for small teams and offering a two-week free trial for everyone, we strive to make OKRs & goal-setting easy for our clients.

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.

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

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

It has recently been launched on many popular apps, as well as an optional theme on your smartphone. We can safely say: dark mode is here to stay. Here we’ll go over why should you turn it on and what are the benefits of dark mode.

The Benefits of Dark Mode

1. 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 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. 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

Most of us use our mobile devices throughout the entire day and night. According to the Nielsen research group In 2018 Q1, we spent more than 11 hours per day on our devices. It’s not surprising why many of us deal with eyes that feel — dry or itchy and is sometimes accompanied by insomnia, headaches, or neck pain. And even worse, lower melatonin levels have been linked to an increased risk of obesity and some cancers.

Bright Screens cause digital eye strain
Bright Screens cause digital eye strain. Data Source

2. Battery efficiency

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 phone’s battery life.

3. Appealing to the eye

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.

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

Colors seem to just pop up better on dark backgrounds. 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. If you are like me, who loves to read before going to bed, then having a dark mode really makes it easier on your eyes.

When to Avoid 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 the only reason not to implement a dark mode is when you’re certain your app is exclusively being used during bright daylight, but this is rather exceptional.

This is why an automatic switch from sunset until sunrise is a must-have feature. Users don’t even have to keep switching several times a day, which is truly great usability.

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Popular Services Supporting Dark Mode

Operating systems
Windows 10
Mac OS Mojave
IOS 13

Google Chrome
Mozilla Firefox

Chat services
Facebook Messenger

Social media

Productivity tools