The dark mode is ubiquitous these days and the reaction has begun. As Adam Engst points out to TidBITSdark backgrounds on the light are better for readability. But "The dark way can hurt your productivity" is not the last word. The dark mode is great.
The case against the dark mode
Windows 10 and macOS have already adopted the dark mode, and it is in the process of iOS 13 and Android Q. Chromium and Firefox have their own dark modes. same File Explorer under Windows now supports dark mode. Once a niche feature beloved by geeks, the dark mode is becoming an integrated option to all major operating systems. It's incredible.
But critics are right: some dark mode promotions are ridiculous. Apple's website says dark mode on macOS is "easy to look at – in every way." This is not entirely true.
Engst highlights research on vision that shows that dark colored objects on clear backgrounds are easy to see. In other words, a black text on a white background is preferable to a white text on a black background.
He underlines the studies that have shown that black-on-white text ("positive polarity") is more readable:
To summarize, a dark screen (positive light) as a Mac in Light mode offers better performance in terms of eye focus, letter identification, letter transcription, text comprehension, speed of reading and replay performance, and at least some older versions. Studies suggest that using a positive polarity display results in less eye fatigue and increased visual comfort.
Engst highlights the problems with the dark mode and explains why it's not a good option for everyone. Despite the hype, the dark mode will not necessarily help you reduce eye strain if you spend the whole day watching a screen. Dark mode is not a unique improvement for everyone. That's why it's an option that is not enabled by default.
But do not give up for the moment the dark mode: we love the dark mode and we love it since before the big tech companies have adopted it. Dark mode also has real practical benefits.
Dark mode is great in a dimly lit environment
Dark mode is ideal in dimly lit environments. If you're in bed reading something on the phone at night, it's a lot nicer to read white text on a black background rather than light up your face with a lot of bright white light. A dark black screen is a lot less disturbing for those who sleep next to you.
Of course, you can simply reduce the brightness of your screen in dark environments, but then you squint at a dark screen that tries to read the text. Our own experience has shown us how much better it is to watch an almost black screen in a dark room. Of course, it can be faster to read dark text on a white background, but that's not always what matters.
Similarly, you can use dark mode when using your laptop in a dark room at night. If you prefer, then do not hesitate anymore!
And of course, you probably should not stay in bed at night watching your phone. It's not good for your sleep, and have a good night's sleep is essential for your overall health. But chances are you'll do it anyway – we do it too.
Dark mode is better for some people
Although the dark text on a bright background is undoubtedly the ideal for most people, especially in clear environments, this is not universally true. As Google points out in its explanation of the new dark theme of Android for developers, the dark mode "enhances the visibility of visually impaired users and sensitive to bright light".
For example, some people have "photophobia, "Which can cause a migraine caused by bright light. Dark mode could help these people.
Other people may have vision problems that make it easier to read plain text on a dark background. That's why the "Invert Colors" option is part of operating systems such as the Windows, Android, and Apple iOS even before the dark mode becomes fashionable.
But the dark mode is better than these accessibility options: it just looks nicer. For many people in need of dark interfaces, the dark mode will be an easy upgrade compared to clumsy solutions like the old Windows. High contrast theme.
Dark mode saves battery on OLED screens
From the point of view of battery power, the dark mode is superior to the clear mode on devices with an OLED display. This is how OLED displays work: when a pixel displays true black, this pixel is disabled and does not consume energy. This saves battery. (On a traditional screen, the backlight is on all the time and the same amount of energy is used, as a pixel displays black, white, or any other color.)
In other words, with an OLED screen, displaying a black screen with white text requires less power than a blank screen with black text. Google has already said that the dark mode of YouTube could save between 15% and 60% of battery life– depending on the brightness of the screen.
There are traps here. First of all, most devices do not have OLED screens. Apple iPhone XS, XS Max and X use OLED panels. Apple's other iPhone and iPad, not even the iPhone XR. Samsung's flagship Pixel and Samsung phones use OLED screens, unlike many Android phones.
As for laptops, few laptops have an OLED display. No MacBook, but some manufacturers have announced OLED laptops at CES 2019.
Here's another puzzle: there is energy saving only if the pixel is completely black. In other words, it's color # 000000. If a pixel is just very dark gray or almost but not quite black, you will not see any energy saving. Many dark modes adopt dark grays for aesthetic reasons rather than true blacks required for real energy savings on OLEDs.
If you use dark mode? Only if you like it!
Is the dark mode good or bad? Should everyone use it or nobody? We do not have a universal answer to this question – sorry!
If you do not like dark mode, do not use it. Yes, it's trendy, but it's not necessarily easier for the eyes. In bright environments, the light mode can be more enjoyable for your eyes and make you more productive.
If you like dark mode, use it! Even in a bright environment, if you prefer this look and you have no difficulty reading your screen, continue and use the dark mode. There is not only the search for small incremental improvements in theoretical productivity.
Or better yet, be sensitive to the context. Enable dark mode at night or in dark environments and use daylight mode. You can automatically activate the dark theme of Windows 10 at night via Task Scheduler or activate dark mode at sunset macOS with Night Owl. Apple's iOS 13 will allow you to automatically activate dark mode at sunset.