"Is dark-mode really important for my website?" This is a question I hear quite often. Some people poise dark-mode as only a gimmick or as misleading (since it's original pitch was of improved eye health). While I don't necessarily think that dark-mode has any real health benefits, I don't think it should be brushed off as "just a gimmick". I believe it is a real tool that can increase the usability and enjoyment of your website. Allow me to explain.
A Brief History of Dark-Mode
I think we all remember (or have seen in movies like the matrix) the old black screen, green text displays of the early cathode-ray tube era, first introduced in the mid '40s. These displays were the first displays of their kind and, this "dark-mode" look was a necessity due to the limitations of the technology.
As technology progressed however, and the GUI (graphical user interface) was introduced, companies wanted more and more to emulate "everyday life" with digital representations of daily objects connected to actions and points of interest within their UI. An action to delete something might be associated with a trash-can, a "save" action became a floppy disk, and bits of content became files, documents, and folders. Likewise, there was a push to make the backdrops of these interfaces more like paper, envelopes, and notepads, making them white and (at the time) more appealing to users. I really like this quote by Bert Keely:
"Our expectations for viewing information, basically, were established by paper."
"We're beyond paper."
- Bert Keely
With the invention of LCD and LED screens, more freedom was given to designers as more clarity could be easily achieved within an image thanks to a higher resolution. And with the introduction of OLED screen technology (where each pixel is individually lit and there is no need for a backlight) dark-mode could actually save power and provide a deeper, richer color.
With all of these advancements in technology, companies started testing the waters once again with dark-mode and in recent years, really started pushing it as a viable option.
What Are The Benefits?
Well, as previously stated, dark-mode can be really beneficial on OLED screens as they use less power. OLEDs have absolutely rocketed in popularity in recent years and nowadays most people have one on their phones.
But beyond this, I believe it can really benefit you as a website owner. Thanks to updates to CSS, websites can now shift to and from dark-mode automatically, based on the users system preferences. When browsing the web, some users tend to expect websites to be obnoxious and bright, even when they have dark-mode switched on for their device. For these users, a company or individual who has taken the time to implement dark-mode can be a breath of fresh air and it encourages the users to take a second look at your site. I myself have my devices set up to flip over to dark-mode at certain times of the day so the bright screen is less overpowering, and I have experienced just this. For companies that use their website to sell a product or service, these little touches can provide a subconscious sense that the owner of the site cares about their users and that the same attention to detail will be carried out throughout the entirety of their business. And for people with blogs and articles on their website, dark-mode can make reading the content they have much easier on the eyes and thus, more inviting.
Are There Any Drawbacks?
If implemented well, no. A well designed, modern website should easily be able to boast both light and dark themes and do either exceptionally well. The implementation does not add draw to the users memory or the websites load-times thanks to recent updates to CSS
@media queries. The user ideally won't even know the website has made a switch or a change as it will happen seamlessly and automatically (although providing options to switch manually is good too).
On some websites however, whether they are poorly designed or have outdated design layouts and elements, dark-mode can be a bit draining as it can feel easier to get lost. As with all things, fundamental design is the first step, dark-mode should be viewed as a feature to be added later once you have a solid foundation to work with.
Whether you are a website owner, user, or designer, dark-mode should not simply be pushed aside as a gimmick anymore. It's wide implementation across major websites like Google and Facebook and it's growing popularity isn't (in my opinion) just a trend that will die off. Dark-mode is here to stay, and websites that do not offer it will likely soon be less attractive to users than the competition's website which does.