Dark Mode Isn’t the Answer to Our Screen Problems

Research suggests the feature is overhyped as an accessibility tool

Angela Lashbrook
Published in
5 min readJun 12, 2019
Photo: Andrew Brookes/Cultura/Getty

In Microprocessing, columnist Angela Lashbrook aims to improve your relationship with technology every week. Microprocessing goes deep on the little things that define your online life today, to give you a better tomorrow.

The night is overtaking our computer screens.

It’s coming in the form of dark mode, a trendy feature in the tech industry in which the standard bright backgrounds are substituted with a muted navy or black. Twitter launched its dark mode for web in 2017, while Facebook Messenger introduced a dark mode feature in April of this year. Most notably at WWDC last week, Apple announced it will include a dark mode option in iOS 13, which launches this fall. Apple claims that dark mode will “make every element on the screen easier on your eyes,” while some users assert that dark mode is better for people with people with migraines.

But there’s little data to show that dark mode is actually easier on the eyes for most people. Even for users with vision impairments, dark mode isn’t necessarily better than other accessibility options that have been available for years, though there is little research on the subject overall.

One thing is certain: in most daily settings and for most people, dark mode will do nothing to increase productivity or ease eye fatigue. It’s likely nothing more than another aesthetic option — not a life-changing accessibility tool or productivity-enhancer.

In fact, for most people, dark modes will decrease readability and productivity. A 2003 study looked at how users’ task comprehension was affected by different screen display conditions, including negative polarity (light text on a black background) and positive polarity (black text on a white background). It found that test subjects had an easier time completing tasks when the screens were in a positive polarity mode.

Dark mode is likely nothing more than a reasonable aesthetic option — not a life-changing accessibility tool or productivity-enhancer.



Angela Lashbrook

I’m a columnist for OneZero, where I write about the intersection of health & tech. Also seen at Elemental, The Atlantic, VICE, and Vox. Brooklyn, NY.