Fade To Black ?

When it comes to viewing web sites, what’s better?

A Black Background with White Text (White on Black – WOB)

 

OR

White Background with Black Text (Black on White – BOW)

 

The Eye

 

 

There is  good argument to avoid white text in general, in terms of readability of paragraphs:

 

  • White or light colors reflect other light hitting them.  Therefore small white text on a monitor or LCD screen will reflect light, blurring it into adjacent text.  This becomes difficult to read and can cause eyestrain.
  • As any artist or designer knows, black is a color devoid of any amount of the three primary constituent colors: red, green or blue.  White on the other hand is produced by combining the maximum amount of red, green and blue.  The human eye has three types of receptor cones that respond to these three colors.  When a reader focuses on white text, all three cones are continually stimulated to maximum, potentially causing eyestrain for large amounts of text, or at least making it uncomfortable to read.

Actually, it’s a little better to use two colors that are not 100% contrasting.  That’s why grey on white (such as the text you are reading now or as you’ll see on bbc.co.uk) or black on light grey is slightly preferable than just pure black on white.  I think it just looks nicer as well.

For any photographers out there, there is also an argument for BOW (Black on White) to do with the eye’s exposure time.  See here    – (Peter McLennan’s post)

There are sometimes good reasons to use WOB or a bright font on a dark background;

  • When the text is a title, a link, or a menu item (i.e. not long paragraph text that’s going to be read) or an advertising banner/ highlighted area, that needs to get visitors’ attention.
  • When there is little or no light in the reader’s environment.  In this case, the overwhelming light background in comparison with the environment can cause eye strain, meaning it’s preferable to use a dark background behind a light or white text (in the case of a low light environment, this would also mean less light reflecting off the white lettering itself).  Many Ebook readers are designed to allow night mode with a dark background and light text.

LED Technology

Many devices these days use LED (Light Emitting Diode) or  AMOLED (Active Matrix Organic Light Emitting Diode) technology.

They basically work using an array of pixels consisting of a semiconductor producing it’s own light.  When electric current is passed through, they switch on which produces color.  Brighter color requires a higher voltage and more electrical energy.

It’s  likely that mobile device operating systems such as Android were designed with a predominantly dark theme background, not due to aesthetic or readability issues, but to make the device more energy efficient to preserve precious battery life. I noticed that one alarm clock App I recently downloaded offered a range of backgrounds but they were all dark !!

This shows how technology can sometimes influence color design of interfaces and text.

 

The Aesthetics

The color and feel of a site should symbolise the nature of what it represents.  A vampire site is almost obliged to be in black, such as this one (note the red and white text on black lower down the page)

Many night clubs and war games related sites are similarly set up with a dark theme.  Often, they are produced as a kind of an online flyer or leaflet as opposed to pages of content it intends people to read. In this case, color of text and background is more for feel and effect rather than readability, so a dark theme is understandable.

Personally, I think that a light color feel to a site should be a default.  It provides an open, warm setting.  A black color theme I would generally view as a little cold, closed and uninviting.  Tastes vary of course, but unless you happen to be a nightclub, a wargames company or a vampire movies fan site, then go with a light theme.  The site will appear more inviting and will be easier to read.

Happy Grey on White reading !

A source and further reading




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6 Responses to “Fade To Black ?”

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