The Light vs The Dark UI

Color tone selection is one of the most critical aspects of interface design. It can significantly impact a digital product’s usability and attractiveness for either a mobile application or a website. Every UI/UX design project is a practical work specializing to a specific purpose with a thorough understanding approach weighing all the considerations.

With the rising trend of the dark background, the first question today designers would have is what kind of majority color scheme to choose: should it be in the dark, light, or both?

This article will firstly discuss the benefits and drawbacks of each option from a general point of view. Upon deciding which tone to use, it is essential to have thoughtful consideration. Eventually, there are lists of steps you should take before really choosing which one.

Why is Dark Background Worth Considered?

The dark background can be a powerful and appealing visual choice to provide a positive user experience. The effectively maximized dark background can lead to a stylish, elegant, and prestigious look. It can also support the broad field of contrast while making visual hierarchy works at its best. The dark background creates depth in the reflection of the content and objects.

The Contrast Complementary Theory

Research by Richard H.Hall and Patrick Hanna about visual perception of background color and its performance found that the greater the contrast between color combinations, the better execution digital display could be. In other words, an excellent digital display is always performed by a polarity between the object and the background. Hence, a dark background can be as useful as a light one. This principle is validated by the UIUX expert, Jacob Nielsen, who recommends using colors with high contrast between the object and the background.

Nielsen mentioned that optimal legibility could be achieved in the text readability aspect by putting black text on a white background, which so-called positive text. Meanwhile, white text on a black background (negative) is almost as good. This theory is strengthened by ProBlogger’s survey in 2009 that found light background is preferable when they are reading text-driven content. However, there is still 10 percent of respondents who answered that they prefer dark backgrounds. Meanwhile, almost half of the respondents argued that the choice should depend on the website’s nature and content. The latter is dependable, based on several aspects that will further explain below.

Aspects of Consideration

Apart from Readability, some other aspects need to be considered before choosing your digital product’s color scheme.

  • Clarity

This aspect includes the user’s ability to perceive all the necessary details on the screen or page. The combination of color schemes should help the user to easily navigate through and make fundamental components stand out effectively. When the website’s clarity is not assessed correctly, a mess will emerge as the users can not see what they really should.

  • Accessibility

Accessibility is the ability of the digital product to reach as many users as possible. Whether to use an app or not is mainly based on users’ needs and wishes, not to mention the user’s physical abilities. Color scheme issue is one of the influential factors of accessibility. A designer must also consider demographical aspects such as age difference and users with special needs when creating a color scheme in a digital product — the latter, including vision disabilities and color blindness. For example, some colors are prone to be mistaken by people with color blindness that should be prevented when designing a universal product.

  • Environment

Another essential point to consider is the potential situation or environment in which users will use it. Suppose the digital product seems to be more frequently used under the sunlight or outdoor setting. The dark background is not recommended as it can create the effect of reflection, especially on devices with a glossy screen. On the other hand, using a bright background in a dimmed environment could hurt eyes and create the unpleasant illusion of shadow as when we see sunlight directly right before entering a dark room. Not to mention the significant amount of blue light entering our eyes that automatically makes our eyes tired.

  • Nature of content

As the light background is highly recommended for text-driven pages, the dark background undoubtedly performs better for interface design when the content majority is a picture or graphic-driven element. The light background behind the text will create a more airy and spacious feeling that makes it easier for the reader to concentrate on the text. Meanwhile, the dark background scheme would create a deeper feeling for the visual-driven layout. Moreover, well-curated hierarchical-based content would further support a stylish and luxury look.

The to-do list

Finally, some steps need to be taken before you finally decide which color scheme works best for your project. The first thing to do is to determine the product’s aim*,* whether it is text-driven or visually-driven. Secondly, you need to analyze your target audience and the competition. This step includes theoretical investigations, practical surveys, and experiments about users’ needs and expectations. The data collected from the users can be a good start to choose a good and attractive design scheme. Additionally, competition or market research is needed to map competitors better while ensuring that the product you are creating is distinguishable.

The last — but not least — thing to do is to **test as many times as possible. The color scheme is perhaps the most crucial tool impacting the product’s usability and attractiveness. Every design should be adequately tested because it might not look as good as it is prepared in different resolutions, screens, and under other conditions. Testing helps you sort things out while proving the strong and minimizing the weak sides of your color choice. These steps are needed, so when your product goes out on the market, it would not loses the chance of a stunning first impression in case of ineffective design solutions.


If you had any interest in these whole software industries or had a mindful project ahead, let us know. We can collaborate and help businesses in their digital transformation. Visit Glovory.com or just send us an email at info@glovory.com!

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Glovory Design

A global brand and experience digital product design agency that builds digital products to move at the speed of culture.