The Truth About Dark Website Designs

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Fear not, we aren't covering anything sinister or creepy today! No dark magic here, folks.

Instead, we are going to dive deep into what people think about dark coloured website designs, how users interact with them, and whether or not they are a good idea for your business.

While dark website designs can be extremely striking when done right, they can also be very polarizing. Because of this, it's very important to consider all aspects before choosing a dark website design and I'm here to help you out.

The Rules

As a general rule, designers and users both agree that light coloured text on a dark background is difficult to read. This is especially true on a screen, which is how people will be interacting with your website. As such, most websites are designed with the opposite in mind and opt for a light background with dark text.

While everyone has their own preferences about what they do or do not like about design in general (in this case, website design), most visitors will not hang around if they can't even read your website. The harsh contrast between a dark background and light text might be too much for them to easily consume and subconsciously, they might even think that you don't have any consideration for them (and their business).

This doesn't mean that you are restricted to a Scandinavian-influenced "black text on white background" design, but following this best practice will make the user experience much more positive. In addition, this gentler contrast means you won't have to opt for such large text and line spacing, as you would in a darker colour scheme.

Who Favours Dark Websites

There are certain genres or types of content that might be more likely to choose a dark coloured website design. For example, fantasy or horror genres often favour this colour scheme (see here and here), "as do blogs by or for teenagers and gamers, or on subjects like cars, photography, technology or web design", says Robin Houghton. The white-on-black design won't be a turn-off for all audiences, but some groups will be much more receptive than others.

Keeping your audience in mind is extremely important when choosing a dark website design. If your users tend to be older, they are more likely to have worse eyesight and therefore will find it much more difficult to read a dark coloured site. On the flip side, if you target a younger crowd, they'll likely be used to darker website designs and will have less trouble working their way around your site.

Making the Most of Dark Designs

A dark background with lighter text can make colours pop more dramatically than if they are used on a lighter background. If this is the look you are going for, you might prefer a darker design. Also, a dark design might be a striking choice if your website is very heavy on visuals / images with short captions or lines of text. By using a clear, sans-serif typeface (click here for examples) in a generous size with good line spacing, your users won't experience as much eyestrain.

Another option is to create a style switcher so that users can switch over to a lighter version of your site if they prefer. This will help those who prefer lighter website designs and/or have difficulties working off a dark website.

Final Tips

  • More space around elements and within copy
  • Taller line heights
  • Bigger fonts
  • Avoid serif fonts
  • Choose darker and lighter greys (instead of straight black and white)

As a parting reminder, your website is the online version of your business. All users should be able to easily read and navigate your site, specifically your target audience. When you choose a website design, you're putting forward your brand and identity. It's important to keep accessibility and readability in mind, especially if you are leaning towards a darker website design. The option isn't off the table but you must move forward with caution and consideration so that visitors to your site are more likely to return and bring their business back.

Related: How to Switch WordPress Themes

Let us know - does your website have a dark design? Are there any sites you like or frequent that use a darker style? How do you find them? Have you ever switched from a dark design to a lighter one? Leave us a note in the comments!

 

Charlotte O'Hara

Vancouver