Let there be darkness! 🌚 Maybe…

Dark Theme Developer Survey Results

Thomas Steiner
Apr 4 · 9 min read

Dark Theme in Chrome

In Chrome, we’re trying to go one step further and to come up with an intelligent way to automatically darken pages that haven’t specified tailored Dark Theme CSS rules—building on what some other Android browsers and Chrome extensions are doing, but also inspired by features like Smart Invert on iOS. The astute reader may be aware of a feature flag #enable-android-web-contents-dark-mode, that was added to Chromium. It allows for an early preview of this feature in Canary builds on Android (not on desktop for the time being). The screenshots below give an impression of an early version.

Developer survey design

Automatically darkening web pages may or may not be what end users want. In order to get a feeling for some of the opinions on the matter, a couple of days ago I started collecting developer feedback in a survey that was shared on Twitter. The survey announcement tweet (embedded below) gained 41,836 impressions and 461 clicks on the included link to the survey, resulting in 243 survey responses, which means 0.58% of people who saw the tweet responded, and 52.71% of people who clicked through to the survey.

Survey results

macOS Mojave and Windows 10 Dark Mode settings

Question № 1: Do you use your operating system’s Dark Mode?

The opening question was whether the participants use their operating system’s Dark Mode at all. A surprising majority of 82.7% said they used it, but again, there is bias in the data toward people who feel passionate about the topic. Presumably the general public’s Dark Mode activation rate is way lower. More interesting are thus the free form answers, where people could express why they use or don’t use Dark Mode.

Question № 2: Would you expect Dark Mode to affect web pages, e.g., by automatically applying a dark theme for them?

The focus of the second question was on the automatic darkening of web pages that don’t ship CSS rules specific for Dark Mode. 64.6% of participants said they would expect Dark Mode to affect web pages automatically, and 35.4% said they wouldn’t expect this to happen. It’s eye-opening to look at the reasons they mentioned.

Drill Down Question: Do you toggle your Dark Mode setting depending on the environment you’re in (dark, light) or based on the time of day (night time, day time)?

The final question was only visible to users who said in the first question that they use Dark Mode (201 persons in total). Of these participants, 25.4% said they toggled Dark Mode based on environmental factors or time of day, and 74.6% said they don’t. Let’s have a look at the mentioned reasons.

Conclusions

Getting Dark Mode right for everyone is tricky. Some people say they absolutely need it and they are fine with web pages to not look like their designers created them, and others say it’s an elegant feature, but at best they want web pages to be darkened on an opt-in basis, or maybe not even that. Apple in their Dark Mode developer documentation explicitly write the following: “The choice of whether to enable a light or dark appearance is an aesthetic one for most users, and might not relate to ambient lighting conditions.” In the Chrome team, too, there are people with different opinions, and other teams within Google that leverage Chrome as a surface for web content through Android Web Views or Chrome Custom Tabs add another level of complexity. The present survey is thus one factor in the equation, but definitely not the only one.

Related Links

Acknowledgements

Thanks to Lukasz Zbylut, Adam Read, Mark Chang, Dominic Mazzoni, Paul Irish, and Chirag Desai for their helpful feedback and for reviewing this article.

Dev Channel

Developers Channel - the thoughts, opinions and musings from members of the Chrome team.

Thomas Steiner

Written by

Web Developer Advocate at Google

Dev Channel

Developers Channel - the thoughts, opinions and musings from members of the Chrome team.