The dark and the light

by Dan Wheeldon, Lead Visual and Interaction Designer at Tobias & Tobias

One of the major decisions when embarking on the visual design of an application is whether the overall look-and-feel (theme) should be dark or light.

It could be that the decision has been mandated by the client’s brand guidelines (though those tend to be notoriously short on details for application design). If not, there are several aspects that can inform the decision.

Online research

A good starting point is an online research. Are there any research papers around the subject of usability and colour? Is there any consensus in the comments section accompanying relevant articles?

Though many of the studies available can be considered fairly old in internet-years (Hall & Hanna, Web Text-Background Color, 2009), or very old (Dr. Lauren Scharff and student Alyson Hill, 1996), the overall consensus is that while dark text on a white background seems to be the optimal setting for readability, the main aspect to consider is that there be sufficient contrast between the text and background (at Tobias & Tobias we follow the W3C guidelines to get at least an AA rating for accessibility, where possible).

Online commentary seems to support the point of view that personal preference has a lot to do with choosing one over the other. Where many prefer dark text on a light background, there are also those who prefer darker interfaces and find they suffer less eye strain from them.

Read the full story here: The dark and the light.