Dark Mode Basics for Marketers

Picture of digital symbols

While my Gen Z daughter caught up on texts, snaps and instalikes on our way to school last week, it caught my eye that she was using dark mode. Out of curiosity, I asked her why, and she said, “Because it looks cool.”

So dark mode has cool factor for the kids these days, but diving deeper into the subject of light or dark mode, dark mode has a couple of dark sides.

What is dark mode?

Dark mode is a setting supported by most smartphones and browsers to shift the screen from a white background to a dark background.

Picture of iOS light vs dark mode

Advantages of dark mode

The biggest advantage for dark mode is that it saves battery life, because an all-white background, where all pixels are firing, demands more power on most displays.

Numerous studies show that light mode and light screens can impact normal sleep patterns. This is mainly due to blue light, which is a high-energy light spectrum with a short wavelength present in natural sunlight. This type of light can suppress the secretion of melatonin – the hormone behind a good night’s sleep. This is why it is suggested to minimize staring at light screens before going to bed.

From a design perspective, many designers are highlighting specific content with dark backgrounds because eyes are naturally drawn to what stands out or pops in a way that light mode can’t do. Because of this, many apps and screens design with dark mode in mind.

Disadvantages of dark mode

Long-form text is more difficult to read in dark mode due to the iris not widening to absorb more light. This impacts your eyes’ ability to focus on text. Shorter form text or quick reads are OK, but anything longer than a few short words will require greater focus by the reader. Even readers with 20/20 vision experience this, but for 33% of the population with some degree of astigmatism, dark mode is more difficult to read.

Picture of text on light vs dark background

There is also a reduction in information retention and reading comprehension when reading longer form text in dark mode.

Jenny Lassi • February 7, 2020

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