User interface design is an integral and essential part of digital product design (website and application). The smallest problem in the design of the user interface of the product has a direct effect on the user experience and ultimately on its success or failure.
User interfaces make the user interaction with the product, and human-computer interaction possible. User interfaces are the same as UI elements. Therefore, the goal of the user interface designer is to design interfaces in such a way that users interact with the product in the best possible way. Of course, along with this discussion (needs and wishes of the user in interacting with the product), the user interface elements must be designed beautifully and attractively.
Dark mode or dark user interface design has become a trend in the world of product design since 2018. And since then, it has gained a lot of loyal fans. Now most of the products have dark mode. But implementing dark UI design is a complex task and not all UI designers can design it correctly.
In the following, principles and techniques will be explained that will help any user interface designer implement dark mode properly in any product.
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Dark user interface design principles and techniques
UI Design expertise is constantly evolving. Because hardware, software, and the tastes of users are constantly changing. For example, user interface designers 10 years ago didn’t have to worry too much about the multidimensionality of interfaces. But, in the not-too-distant future, they should prepare themselves for the design of 3D interfaces.
Dark mode or better said “return to dark mode” is also included in the category of developments that the field of user interface design has gone through in the last few years. In dark UI design, what the designer does is to give the user interface of the product a look similar to a negative in photography. When the viewer holds the negative in front of the light, he sees no color except darkness and light. In the negative, the brightest parts of the photo become darker and the darkest parts become lighter.
You’re probably saying to yourself, “So, there’s no point in designing a dark mode! I’m going to lighten up where it was dark and darken where it was light.” By the way, it is not like that at all. Dark UI design is not just about darkening the background and lightening the color of the text on it. Many complexities and subtleties must be observed in this type of design. Otherwise, the dark mode becomes a product user experience killer.
When the user interface designer, with the cooperation and consensus of the product design team, and after detailed research and reviews, has concluded that it is necessary to add a dark mode option to the product, he should design the dark user interface by considering the following 7 principles and techniques.
1. Don’t sacrifice accessibility for UI design
The digital product must have accessibility for all users, with any type of physical or mental disability. UI designers, remember that this is not a choice. Designing an accessible product for all users is a must. If the UI/UX design team designs a product without following accessibility standards, they will lose a lot of audience/customers.
In choosing the colors for the dark mode design, the designer should pay special attention to the contrast of the background color and the text, so as not to make it difficult for the visually impaired to read the text. The recommended standard is: that the contrast ratio should be 4.5:1 for normal texts and 3:1 for large texts.
Do not forget or sacrifice the accessibility standards in the dark user interface design and implement these principles and techniques based on those standards.
2. Avoid absolute (pure) colors in dark mode
Absolute or pure colors are those that cannot be obtained by mixing gray with another color. The best examples are pure white (#FFFFFF) and pure black (#000000). Pure colors create too much annoying contrast. In the dark design mode, use grayscale instead. That is, instead of white from light gray and instead of black from dark gray.
3. Avoid white text in dark UI
As mentioned, dark mode design is much more than just throwing white text on a black background. The success of a dark UI design is not about a dark background, it is about choosing the right color instead of text on a dark background. The white text has poor legibility and appears blurry on most screens. So, never make the texts white in dark mode. Use light gray instead.
There is a way to find the best gray for text on a dark background: first, make the text pure white, and then start changing the color from white to gray. In this case, you will easily find the most appropriate gray that guarantees the readability of texts and its code.
4. Use negative spaces in smart dark UI design
A smart UI designer makes maximum use of negative (empty) spaces to create a dark user interface. The correct combination of elements with negative space on the dark background reduces the boredom of dark mode for users. When blank spaces are used for page composition and layout, scanning the page and getting information becomes faster and easier for users.
5. Do not use shadows in dark user interface design
In dark user interface design, shadows should not be added. The purpose of shading an element is to make it stand out against the background. In other words, it is as if a narrow border is drawn between the element and the background or between two elements with shadows. In dark mode, where there is a contrast between the background and the element, the boundaries are clear. Using the shadow is useless and may have the opposite effect on the design. It means to make it look unusual and unfamiliar in the eyes of the user and to make the space between the elements disappear. In addition to all these disadvantages, users probably won’t notice the shadow in dark mode at all.
6. Customize photos with a dark mode design
It is not only the background color and texts and other elements that should be changed in the design of the dark user interface, the light and contrast of the colors in the photos should also be adjusted to the dark design. The best way is to use a regular filter to adjust the brightness and contrast of website photos.
7. Pay attention to the color saturation in the dark mode design
Dark UI design means redesigning the website and app (especially choosing the color palette, texts, buttons, and icons). All elements are supposed to be displayed on a dark background. This change should not negatively affect the user’s interaction with the product, on the contrary, it should improve the user experience.
Dark UI design is built on contrast. But remember that too much contrast ruins the dark mode and does not allow the user to interact with the product. Therefore, in addition to the fact that pure colors and white texts have no place in the design of dark mode, neon colors (night view) should not be in the color palette of dark product design. Neon colors have a lot of contrast on a dark background because they are saturated colors.
The higher the degree of color saturation, the closer those colors are to being pure. Neon and saturated colors should not be in the dark mode color palette because they reduce the visibility and readability of texts and elements.
Summary of points that UI designers should follow to design a dark user interface:
To overcome the challenges of dark design, the UI designer should keep several points in mind:
- observe the 7 principles and techniques mentioned in this content;
- Dark mode design of various websites and products (especially Apple and Google) is carefully examined and
- Study the system design of the giants of the technology world.
It is not bad to say in this short explanation that the system design is a guideline that includes all the details of the user interface design of the product (even the necessary codes for the development of the front end of the product). If the UI designer is a member of a large product design and development team, he usually has to design the product system in collaboration with other team members. Famous product system design, which can be found with a simple Google search, is a very, very useful and important training and helpful resource for designers.