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The Dark and Light Sides of UI:

How to Choose Between the Two




Not Everything’s Black or White… Or So the Say

It’s easy to think that the default UI design should be black text on a white background. It’s a safe choice, yes, but not necessarily the right one. At least, it’s not the choice that’ll maximize your ratings and attract the largest audience.


In reality, it’s not just a simple matter of picking a dark or white background for your website or app; there are a lot of factors to consider. Therefore, it’s important to know if and how each of these color schemes will create the aesthetic you desire for your website or app.


Factors to Bear in Mind When Choosing Light or Dark UI

Your Target Audience


This factor is one of the most important aspects to consider and should also be the first thing you think about when choosing the color scheme of your website. Getting to know your users is an invaluable first step, because once you have that information, it’ll make the decision process a whole lot easier.


OK, you know who your potential users are—now what? Find out what’s most trending among that particular demographic. For example, if you’re targeting a more ‘traditional audience’ (i.e., older people), they may find black text on a white background more appealing as it offers the most clarity, familiarity, and readability. Conversely, younger audiences, like teenagers and young adults, may prefer darker UI since it’s more stylish and trendy.  Young children, on the other hand, may be captivated by a lighter background, which they perceive as fun and eye-catching.


Familiarizing yourself with your users will help you recognize their wants and needs, which is foundational to creating a user-centered product.  


The Function of Your Interface


What works for a news platform may not be suitable for a movie streaming website. Furthermore, knowing the purpose of your interface and how it will be utilized is part and parcel of creating usable products for your target audience.


If your audience will most likely use your app at night, such as people do with movie streaming websites like Netflix, then a dark UI will make the website more navigable and easier on the eyes. However, if it’s an online newspaper, then a lighter UI is a wiser pick; dark text on a light background makes the page look and feel more spacious and easier to read.


The Design Elements


As is by now obvious, both dark and light UI have different functions. One of the areas where their functions differ is emphasis. Whether you use dark or light UI also depends on the design elements you want your users to pay more attention to.  


For instance, if you have a single image you want to display on every page, you obviously want only that image to be salient. In that case, a darker UI will help your image stick out and dominate the page. On the other hand, if there’s text accompanying the image—text that’s more important than the image itself—then a lighter UI will enhance the text without the image distracting your users.


Dark and light UI help your users focus on different things or elements on the page, so when choosing between the two, it’s imperative that you take into account design elements on the page and what you want to emphasize.


And Above All… Test!


Although it seems that once you get all these factors sorted out you can finally execute the design, there’s always room for errors and improvement. This is why running your design through different usability tests is crucial to figuring out hidden weaknesses in the design and the color scheme. A test run will give you the chance to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of different color schemes with your team, which will ensure that your design will make a great first impression once it hits the market.


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