As the name suggests, these involve adjusting the color scheme of the software to prioritise blacks and dark greys, rather than whites and light greys.
University of Cambridge academic Silas Brown has highlighted the advantages of using dark backgrounds on computer displays, and provided insight into why companies use them.
Perhaps the biggest benefit of dark modes is that they emit less blue light, which means your sleep cycle is less likely to be disrupted.
As a result, people who use dark mode often do so because it offers them a better experience when using their devices at night.
Eye fatigue caused by glare is also reduced by a darker background, while people with medical conditions affected by light, such as those with photophobia, tend to benefit from reduced eye aggravation when using dark modes.
Brown explained that the benefits of dark modes don’t just extend to the health of the user.
Dark colours also have the ability to use less power, and since darker displays work better in low-light settings, your electricity costs could be reduced.
Additionally, if your device has faulty pixels these are often less noticeable when using a dark display – reducing the urgency with which a device needs to be fixed.
While dark backgrounds are unsuitable for long periods of reading, Brown said there are certain times when dark backgrounds are a net positive from a design perspective.
Some colours stand out more on a black background than on a white one, which is particularly valuable when you are trying to highlight certain pieces of information on a page.
Additionally, a dark border can allow for light text to need less margin space than in the opposite scenario – making it easier for designers to use the entire page.
Negatives of dark backgrounds
Not everything about dark backgrounds is inherently beneficial, however.
Brown highlighted that dark backgrounds are particularly poor when used in tandem with a non-backlit screen – but since backlit screens are popular these days, this is something of a non-factor.
Situations where there is lots of external light, such as when you are using a device in a well-lit room, can also cause text positioned on dark backgrounds to be difficult to read.
Reading small fonts on a dark background is also a bigger challenge than it is on lighter backgrounds, meaning those who are reading long-form content are unlikely to find dark mode particularly valuable.
The aforementioned pros and cons of dark mode make it clear that both dark and traditional modes offer benefits over each other.
Ultimately, however, the largest benefit of software developers offering users a dark mode is that it provides them with a choice based upon their needs.
The difference between the dark and default modes of macOS can be seen below, proving an example of what users can expect.