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7.7.2020

8 min read

Designing for dark mode is more than a black background

To be effective, dark mode should go beyond an inverted color palette. Here’s how to enhance your interface using darker tones.

Dark mode design example on mobile

Illustration by Vered Bloch

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A website or app featuring dark mode might have a black background, but this design feature alone isn’t enough to constitute this interface.

There’s a big difference in designs that use dark mode in a way that’s visually appealing and highly usable, compared to websites that simply feature a dark aesthetic.

True dark mode is so much more than using a reverse color scheme, with the potential to delight users, impact usability, and even provide a more accessible option for your website or app.



Dark mode 101


Facebook has it. Gmail has it. So do many apps on your phone and computer, regardless of whether you use an iOS, Windows, or Android device.

But what is dark mode?

Simply put, dark mode is a predominately dark color palette. Darker colors are used for the background, large elements, cards and other accents, with lighter colored text elements.

However, it is not as simple as a black background and white text. Although in a truly minimal design scheme, it probably could be.


Dark mode isn’t particularly new – designers have been creating in “reverse” as long as printers and websites could handle it. But it is trending, thanks to options in popular user interfaces and a seemingly high preference among users.



Dark mode and regular interface designs


Users like dark mode


Website designers and developers might be a little biased, but do seem to have an affinity for dark mode. The general public seems to agree.

From two informal surveys (there’s no authoritative source on a phenomenon this new yet):

Discord, a chatting app, is mostly based in dark mode after testing it with users and finding great success.

“The percentage of Discord users on light theme is in the single digits — and not even the higher ones,” according to the Discord Blog. It is worth noting that app developers found that it was important to support both color schemes, even with such a high preference for dark