Dark backgrounds on mobile devices

11 Jul 2011 - 11:14am
3 years ago
6 replies
1276 reads
Ben Woods
2008

Just curious, but does anybody know of any valid reason that dark backgrounds would be preferable to light backgrounds on mobile devices? I've seen passionate  arguments for both, and I am in the process of researching this for myself.
Thanks,
Ben Woods

Comments

11 Jul 2011 - 1:05pm
mcaskey
2008

Hey Ben -

I recently changed a bright-looking app to a darker, more subdued-looking app. This was after visiting a user space where the app was going to be most-used, and seeing how dimly-lit it was. In that context, using a bright-white app would feel like staring at a light bulb, so I re-themed to something darker.

So, I would try and find out more about the context the app will fit in most-often. If that doesn't help, you might have to look at lowest-common demominator.

Another option is to be adaptive. Waze on the iPad, and a few other navigation apps, change their theme from light to dark, depending on the time of day, giving you a bright UI during the day, and a nice dark UI to look at during your night-time drive.

Lastly, it could simply be a user preference.

  • Mike C.

On Jul 11, 2011, at 11:48 AM, Ben Woods wrote:

> Just curious, but does anybody know of any valid reason that dark backgrounds would be preferable to light backgrounds on mobile devices? I've seen passionate arguments for both, and I am in the process of researching this for myself. > Thanks, > Ben Woods > >

11 Jul 2011 - 3:05pm
Tori Breitling
2007

One other difference I've heard, but haven't verified – darker themes use less battery power.

- tori breitling

On Mon, Jul 11, 2011 at 2:31 PM, mcaskey <lists@casadev.com> wrote:

Hey Ben -

I recently changed a bright-looking app to a darker, more subdued-looking app. This was after visiting a user space where the app was going to be most-used, and seeing how dimly-lit it was. In that context, using a bright-white app would feel like staring at a light bulb, so I re-themed to something darker.

So, I would try and find out more about the context the app will fit in most-often. If that doesn't help, you might have to look at lowest-common demominator.

Another option is to be adaptive. Waze on the iPad, and a few other navigation apps, change their theme from light to dark, depending on the time of day, giving you a bright UI during the day, and a nice dark UI to look at during your night-time drive.

Lastly, it could simply be a user preference.

* Mike C.

On Jul 11, 2011, at 11:48 AM, Ben Woods wrote:

> Just curious, but does anybody know of any valid reason that dark backgrounds would be preferable to light backgrounds on mobile devices? I've seen passionate arguments for both, and I am in the process of researching this for myself.
> Thanks,
> Ben Woods
>
>

((
12 Jul 2011 - 6:05am
Danny Hope
2008

On 11 July 2011 21:35, Tori Breitling wrote: > One other difference I've heard, but haven't verified – darker themes use less battery power.

I’m not sure but I think that depends on the screen technology. As I understand it…

OLED screens have no backlight and use more electricity to generate lighter pixels whereas LCD screens are backlit and use more electricity to block the light out, obviously in the situation black requires more power.

Any experts care to put me right on this?

Anybody got stats on OLED Vs LCD usage?

13 Jul 2011 - 1:06pm
James Page
2008

The issue is contrast. The book you will want to read is Information Visualisation by Colin Ware.
From memory if you use a mobile in bright sunlight white text on black will be quite unreadable, compared to black text on a white background. This is very easy to test yourself. Just create two webpages and test them outside.
NASA have also done lots of research in this area. 
All the best
James


On 12 July 2011 12:31, Danny Hope <danny.hope@gmail.com> wrote:

On 11 July 2011 21:35, Tori Breitling wrote:
> One other difference I've heard, but haven't verified – darker themes use less battery power.

I’m not sure but I think that depends on the screen technology. As I
understand it…

OLED screens have no backlight and use more electricity to generate
lighter pixels whereas
LCD screens are backlit and use more electricity to block the light
out, obviously in the situation black requires more power.

Any experts care to put me right on this?

Anybody got stats on OLED Vs LCD usage?

(((Please le
11 Jul 2011 - 3:05pm
ambroselittle
2008

The two reasons I've seen are:
1 - battery life - darker means less battery usage
2 - dark/dim contexts - a movie theater, for example, or at home while watching something, etc.

-ambrose

11 Jul 2011 - 6:18pm
Adi Tedjasaputra
2004

Hi Ben,

If you design for mobile devices with AMOLED, a report has shown that showing white text on a black background consumes a lot less energy than showing black text on a white background [1][2]. On the other hand, if you design for mobile devices with LCD display, such as the one recently developed, showing a black screen consumes more energy than showing a white screen. There is also a couple of interesting discussion threads on using white text on dark backgrounds @ http://www.ixda.org/node/19378 and http://uxmovement.com/color/when-to-use-white-text-on-a-dark-background/

Having said that, the valid reason for your choice should relate to the context of use and user experience. There is no single clear-cut reason why dark backgrounds would be preferable to light backgrounds as both of them have their own purposes in design.

[1] Mian Dong; Choi, Y.-S.K; Lin Zhong (July 2009). "Power modeling of graphical user interfaces on OLED displays". Design Automation Conference, 2009. DAC '09. 46th ACM/IEEE (IEEE): 652–657.
[2] "Active-matrix OLED". Wikipedia. 2011. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.. 12 Jul 2011. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Active-matrix_OLED

Adi Tedjasaputra
Founder
Komunitas Android Indonesia (Android Community of Indonesia)

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