Gazing at the bright white light of mobile apps isn’t exactly zen. In fact, it may even lead to retinal damage, the largest cause of central blindness. Ultra-bright LEDs emit light with short wavelengths – a type of visible radiation that can damage eyes. The degree of damage can vary depending on closeness, duration and brightness.
And of course, there’s the whole battery drain side of things. Brighter screens demand more battery resources than darker ones, bringing on that “power saving mode” faster.
No wonder that mobile app users are clamoring for “dark” versions of their favorite mobile apps.
Wait, what’s Dark Mode?
Dark Mode is where colors are flipped so that you get white text on a black/gray background instead of black text on a white background. It’s nothing new – you’ve probably seen it in Word, Vim or even as an option on OS X or Windows.
There are also programs like Flux that “dim” the lights on your device to mimic the light outside. These don’t deliver the extreme color flip of Dark Mode, but they do away with that blindingly bright background.
Dark Mode and mobile apps
While Dark Mode is an option on desktop, it’s harder to find on mobile. The major mobile platforms have been hesitant to roll out Dark Mode throughout their whole ecosystems. Android Nougat toyed with the idea, but ultimately stepped aside.
It’s been up to individual apps to deliver on the demand for Dark Mode. Browse-heavy mobile apps Twitter, Instapaper, Kindle, Reddit, WhatsApp and Pocket are a handful that offer the option.
But now YouTube is stepping up to the plate. Following the popularity of its desktop Dark Mode, it’s launching a mobile version.
Why? Because Dark Mode is ideal for watching film and video. It creates a cinematic vibe, and it puts videos back in the center of the viewing experience. Less glare also makes the colors in a video show through the way they’re meant to. And as we mentioned above, it’s easier on your eyes – and your battery.
Does your app need Dark Mode?
It depends. If your mobile app is text- or media-heavy, then it’s worth considering. Dark Mode can help improve readability and focus in these instances. Likewise, if your app invites long sessions, Dark Mode can help with eye strain and battery drain.
But don’t do it just because. Because adding a Dark Mode creates its own set of challenges. How will your “flipped” color scheme work? Will you need to commission all-new videos and images? What will you do with your keyboard, settings and subpages? How will your regular users respond?
Before commissioning a Dark Mode, consider its true value – and if there are easier alternatives. Optimizing for Smart Invert is one. Text size control and adjustable typeface settings are another.
Dark Mode definitely has its place – but like anything, make sure that you have real, data-backed reasons for implementing it in your app.