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dark backgroundsYou’re reading MakeUseOf X Seldom-known Awesome Tools To Optimize Windows X Seldom-known Awesome Tools To Optimize Windows Read More right now, a website which primarily uses dark text on a light background. Which is as it should be. That bar across the top with light text on a dark background, and the section at the bottom which hardly anyone reads, are fine because they’re just small parts of the site. Any more and I would have to give my bosses advice on how to improve the look and feel of the site as a whole – because websites with dark backgrounds completely suck.

You don’t agree with that assessment? Then read on as I argue why this is the case. If you still disagree when you reach the end then I’m afraid there is no saving you from the poor website design 6 Best Web Design Blogs To Follow 6 Best Web Design Blogs To Follow Read More future you have set off on the path towards. There’s a reason 99 percent (completely made-up figure) of the Web uses dark text on light backgrounds…

Website Design

dark backgrounds

Website design is constantly evolving. Just type any URL into The Wayback Machine to see quite how far we have come in the last 15 years. The elements included on a webpage have changed, with different media embedded and integrated fully. Oh, and there are now adverts everywhere you look. Which can be annoying but keep sites such as MakeUseOf free for all to use.

However, most websites still retain that all-important component that is text. With the exception of photo blogs and suchlike, if there is no text then there is no way of knowing what you are looking at or the reason you’re meant to be looking at it. Text on webpages should be black on a white (or at least light) background. For the most part.

Black and White

website backgrounds

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Books are primarily made up of white paper and black text. This is therefore the standard way humanity has learned to read printed materials. When computers first hit the mainstream they shipped with monochrome displays, so many of us had a first experience with green text on a black background. Boy, did that suck. Thankfully color monitors soon took over.

When the Web started evolving into the place we know today, many sites took a weird and wacky approach to design. Garish color schemes and flashing text were all the rage. Thankfully we once again moved on, and most of the Web now follows a very careful and considered design line which sees usability and readability given precedent over a visual style meant to stun, but more likely to cause epilepsy.

Web Standards

website backgrounds

While colors other than black and white are superior in lots of cases (television and movies for starters), for text-based media such as most websites, black and white rule. It isn’t hard to see why. Black on white works. You can see the text clearly without anything else distracting your field of vision.

As the majority of the Web has adopted this sensible stance, when a web user hits a site which has taken the opposing stance, it’s very noticeable. The eyes take some time to adjust to the light writing and dark background, while the brain struggles to comprehend why anyone would do such a thing.

Perhaps if every site employed a dark background, things wouldn’t be so bad, but since light backgrounds are the standard the odd exception looks terrible.

Must Try Harder

website backgrounds

So, the majority of website with dark backgrounds completely suck. But they don’t necessarily have to suck as much as they currently do. Those who are responsible for designing, building, and maintaining websites with dark backgrounds could and should try harder.

Web Designer Depot has some good examples of sites with dark backgrounds that are at least trying to make things better. They still suck, obviously, but by adjusting simple elements such as text size and font, paragraph length, and the contrast between the shade of light text and shade of dark background, these sites have kept the suckage to a minimum.

In other words, the amount that websites with dark backgrounds suck exists on a sliding scale. And a little bit more time and effort (and adapting the design sensibilities to the dark background look) results in more-tolerable examples. Try harder and perhaps we won’t reject your design so readily.


dark backgrounds

Which do you prefer? Dark text on a light background, as is the norm, or light text on a dark background, as is the strange? Feel free to pick apart my argument for why websites with dark backgrounds completely suck. Or if you’d rather agree with everything I said in order to make me feel warm and fuzzy inside then that’s fine too.

Image Credits: Tom F, Chris Gilmore, purplejavatroll

  1. TO
    August 28, 2016 at 3:02 pm

    I'm a software developer. I look at text editors for many hours each day. I've grown to despise bright backgrounds and dark text, and the first thing I tend to do when setting up an editor is change the scheme to something darker. The eye strain from white backgrounds is just unbelievable. I can comfortably look at text all day with something dark, but a bright white background has me wishing for death in half an hour.

  2. Nunya
    August 3, 2016 at 6:24 pm

    Such a content-less blanket statement without any real scientific backing. And not the best approach in constantly using the same term "suck" in every statement about dark websites. There's TONS of good dark themed sites and applications. Spotify, one of the most used applications on the web uses a dark background. Apple Mac Pro site ( also uses a dark background and you'd be hard pressed to call Apple's design selections as "sucky". Cue shame nun. This article sucks.

  3. Tom
    July 26, 2016 at 1:39 pm

    I agree with Harry. Literally no argument. Just opinion restated over and over again.

    Of course one's eyes will need to adjust when going from a light to a dark background, but that doesn't make a light background better. You pretty much say so yourself towards the end of your blurb. You didn't really make any other point.

    There are a lot of factors to consider here, and one of them has to be the prevention of eye strain, especially when we do so much reading on the web these days. It is highly unlikely that stark black on perfect white is the optimal here - rather somewhere in between. And the optimal is also likely to vary between people.

    Your thinking is way too simplistic.

  4. Harry
    July 10, 2016 at 6:57 am

    lol nice 'argument'

    • Joe
      October 13, 2016 at 10:16 am

      Especially when they break their own rule by having 69656E on FAFAFA. Also, posting that image on a page with a light background, is pretty dishonest. Try going into Irfanview with a screenshot of this and invert the entire screen. Oh look, it looks just as awful.

  5. Anthony
    July 8, 2016 at 12:49 am

    Complete naivety in understanding the world of design and the internet, not to mention an uneducated opinion born out of arrogance it seems.

    That being said, there was also no real factual evidence pertaining to your theory of "black background sucking".

    I've been a website designer for almost 13 years now and although I haven't designed many websites with a black background and white text, they definitely have their time and place in the world of website design.

    I suggest doing more research before writing such articles like this.

  6. jsdfsdfsdf
    April 18, 2016 at 6:49 pm

    Dark on white makes my eyes hurt.

  7. bla
    March 20, 2016 at 1:17 am

    Just by reading this article on a white background, my eyes got a strain

  8. Muhammad Ilham
    December 27, 2015 at 12:02 pm

    It's easier for me to read light text on dark background because, I don't know, somehow, it helps me focus more rather than black on white. White background with #000 black text is too contrast, tho. #444 or #333 dark grey text is just right.

  9. John Thompson
    November 2, 2015 at 12:06 pm

    Well Daaaave, YOU ARE WRONG! I guess you, like Wikepedia, believe that consensus equals right but that is also wrong as can be seen by the plethora of misinformation that abounds on Wikipedia. The Monochromatic displays of old used black backgrounds (Atari defaulted to a light blue I recall) because research showed it was better on the human eye, especially the longer one viewed a monitor. Most people who owned a computer back in the "hobby days" were enthusiasts and we understood how to program our computers.

    Programing involves looking at a screen for a LOOOOONG time! Green text on black background was proven to be the best on the eye. Of course you people who believe that a computer and the WWW are one in the same will differ. You say; "Books are primarily made up of white paper and black text. This is therefore the standard way humanity has learned to read printed materials.", Well yes books are printed on various shades of white and usually use black text; this is about the only thing you state that is correct. You see (you don't but...) BOOKS ARE NOT BACKLIT! MONITORS ARE BACKLIT! Try hard to remember these two phrases in bold because they are true. On backlit screens (ALMOST ALL COMPUTER MONITORS) the light is projected directly at the eye while on paper ambient light is softly reflected to the eye. There is a big difference and the backlit bright background does have negative physiological consequences. This is why E-readers are available, their screens are not backlit but rather use ambient light to illuminate a "page". Moving towards a standard of white background has encouraged cursory short reads rather than detailed perusals of text. Such bright backgrounds have contributed to circadian rhythm issues and they actually suck! You see, scientists actually studied the situation years before the web and concluded that a black background with green text was best for the eye and human being when viewing a backlit display. However the consensus of poorly educated (relatively speaking) web designers have chosen a white background on black text as a de-facto standard.

    I will stay with the conclusions from the scientists and reverse the web pages with high contrast modes until an E-ink or other display technology that utilizes ambient light becomes common place. When non-backlit displays are ubiquitous then your preferred page aesthetic will not SUCK but until then it is you who sucks!

  10. Connor Doherty
    October 9, 2015 at 9:11 pm

    This article commits a fallacy called begging the question.

    "Dark backgrounds suck because they suck"

    I was stunned when I read the beginning of the article, where it seemed like they were actually going to make a case against for white backgrounds (besides "everyody's doing it") and was quickly met with a section titled "Conclusions".

    "Conclusions"? How can there be any conclusions already? There has yet to be an argument!

    And no, glib complaints and unfair examples do not an objective argument make.
    You do have many good countering arguments in the comments here, though. Not many on your side, it seems.

  11. stardust4ever
    September 4, 2015 at 8:52 pm

    I respectfully disagree with your opinion, and here's why:

    Black text on white background in print media is necessary for three reasons. One, the printed page does not have it's own light source and relies on reflected light from the environment in order to read it. Thus, white text on black background on printmedia creates more eye strain and is harder to see. Secondly, ink costs money. White paper, whether glossy or matte, is a fixed cost per page, but ink is not. White text on black background requires vastly more ink than black text on white, raising costs. This is also the way type writes and printing presses have created documents for centuries. Thirdly, white text on black background makes the letters harder to see since paper is porous, and the paper when saturated with wet ink, bleeds into the negative space of the white letters making them harder to see.

    Now the counter argument for wen pages and screen reading. In the beginnings of indcator bulbs and multidigit displays, the display output device emmitted it's own light source and needed to be brighter than the ambient lighting in the environment in order to read. Video game arcade monitors used tube displays to great effect in the early days of the arcade, using illumnated rator or vector sprites on black backgrounds. While monochrome LCDs reversed the trend for a period, it was out of necessity since they did not emit their own light source and relied on reflected light, like paper. Modern devices generally employ an LCD display with some sort of backlight, with the dark areas of the display screen absorbing the emitted light, but the end result is the same. The display is it's own light emittng source. In a brightly lit offce environment, black text on white background is fine because the display is not noticeably brighter than the surrounding environment. However many people view pages onmobile device screens, often in poorly lit or totally dark environments. These tiny screens flood the eyeball with their bright light, causing eye fatigue and strain, often tampering with circadian rythms as well. I often turn the backlight brightness down as low as possible on my devices, for comfortable viewing in dark environments. Still even on the lowest setting they are often too bright. Viewing a web page with white text on black background decreases the white ratio of the screen from 85-90% whiteness to 10-15%. The end result is text that is just as readable but with much less light flodding the end users retina, vastly reducing eye fatigue. Most forums that I frequent which have an option to change the default text colors, I switch to light text on dark background for tihis very reason.

    Respectfully yours, Alfred Williams.

    • Mihir Patkar
      September 5, 2015 at 5:54 am

      What a fantastic, detailed, and courteous response, stardust! Thank you for commenting. I'm sure someone will come along with a counter-point, but right now, I just wanted to say comments like this are gold :)

  12. Marta Bartok
    August 30, 2015 at 10:37 am

    I find it difficult to read a website with a black background, but perhaps it's just my eyesight. I think you have to create your website to suit the majority of users.

    • Mihir Patkar
      August 30, 2015 at 2:21 pm

      It's not your eyesight. White text on black is harder to read than black text on white.

  13. Ton Paliin
    August 19, 2015 at 4:07 am

    Good Day, Author of
    I really hope that people will tell me, those who will read this and have commented already, if this website I'm creating right now, is awful. It's a photo, because the website itself is under construction. Hope I'll hear feedback from people, and from you as well.

    We really do appreciate knowledge from the internet, especially from designers. I currently love to read about white text over black background because I had been creating one for my website. The last one you made, the white text is very small over a black background, it may definitely suck to read, compared to the black text with bigger font size on your page. But, we have to be very objective and it's a case to case thing. For example, my eyes easily hurts when reading a website like yours with very white screen from my monitor and black text in it. But I feel more comfortable to read white text on a black background for it doesn't hurt my eyes. I do that as well, night mode when reading on kindle, or when reading on my word editor when I'm editing my book.
    The reason why we have to be objective is because there are some people out there whose eyes easily hurts when reading black text on a wide white background. Some prefer to read on black background, that's why it's a case to case basis. I did not find the right information I'm needing, though you are discouraging me to use white text over black background. The reason why I keep reading such information like this, is to know if I will drop it or not. Though I learned some things about the past computer, what their font color and monitor was. Cool, that's really cool. It's a free world, thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    Sincerely Yours,
    Ton Paliin.

  14. Rubix Triton
    June 26, 2015 at 5:15 am

    Would you look at a light bulb all day? ~Maddox~

    You make almost no valid arguments for your opinion.

    We use black on white for books because paper is naturally white.

  15. sdohgsodif
    May 21, 2015 at 5:02 pm

    This is complete, absolute, and utter nonsense.

    White colored websites are a disaster for anybody who needs to do any sort of serious reading.

    It's getting very hard to not insult the author of this article in any way. While "design" and whatever is necessary to keep the user entertained is nice, you should also think about the health and well-being of your eyes. And the research, while not completely, but still quite decisively supports black-on-white. Just read about it.

  16. Graham
    March 13, 2015 at 7:49 am

    A background as bright as we are forced to look at these days is bad for the eyes, ask any optician.
    Computers are not great for the eyes but the more you use a computer with white as a background the worse your eyes will get.
    Yes a small strip of black background with white writing is hard but who has ever suggested strips of black background, making the background a blue is nowhere near as bad as black, looks 100% better and is not as bad on the eyes.

    • sdohgsodif
      May 21, 2015 at 5:03 pm

      Sorry the response was aimed at the author of the article, not your response.

  17. Dave Mathews
    January 21, 2015 at 3:32 pm

    Black backgrounds ARE horrid! They're certainly difficult to read from, and just because that overly opinionated person, BG Matthews, so oustspokenly disagrees, doesn't make the dark backgrounds right, or any better!

    • Graham
      March 13, 2015 at 7:53 am

      I don't disagree black backgrounds are not great but you will find that 99.9% of complainants are not advocating that so to blow that is not an argument.
      Most liked what we used to have, darker shades of colours like blue.
      There was once a time where you could take your pick from a range of background, wouldn't that have been so much better, then the 12% that really want bright glaring, bad for the eyes backgrounds could persist with it and the rest could continue to have better eye sight for a while longer.

  18. Rob Simpson
    January 1, 2015 at 4:38 am

    i agree, i prefer light background and dark text.. i am looking for firefox extension to do this on pages that have black background with any text, some pages are a matter of html color hacking, others are more complicated, their are alot of make the screen dark extension , but no make it readable without temporary blindness after word

  19. Dazzler
    August 12, 2012 at 5:20 am

    I agree I hate black background websites, but only when the text is pure white and not softened towards grey which makes them easier to read.

    For me the main issue is, after looking at a black site, is getting dazzled when going back to a white site, it can feel very uncomfotable. It is like being in the dark for quite some time, then someone turns on a torch straight into your eyes. As black websites are in the minority that is why they are the despised rather than the white ones. I think white sites would be hated if the vast majority of sites were black.

  20. Aaron Couch
    August 2, 2012 at 5:12 am


    This is an interesting take on websites. I've changed my tech blog and, I feel, improved it from what it used to be.

    What's your opinion of what it looks like? I'm guessing you won't like it! Haha

    • Dave Parrack
      August 2, 2012 at 12:42 pm

      I do like it, you've done a great job. I'm not a particular fan of light text on dark backgrounds but each to their own. I would personally make the background underneath the text just a solid color as I think the patterned background interferes with the text a little too much. :)

  21. BG Matthews
    July 28, 2012 at 2:03 pm

    You must be too young, ignorant, or otherwise (self-admittedly) opinionated to know some history of web page black background you failed to mention in your slanted attempt at "dark-backgrounds-completely-suck" piece of typed blather. Not only do we (some of us) subscribe to the unwritten rule of anti-establishment, but many other valid reasons exist. Instead of me spelling it all out for you please try for starters. And furthermore you coward, since you have provided a vehicle for a challenge, please allow me to quote Cornelia Otis Skinner (1899 – 1979) "My dear young sir. The choice of weapons is mine. We shall fight with orthography. You are already dead!"

    • Dave Parrack
      August 2, 2012 at 12:39 pm

      I don't think I'm ignorant, everyone has opinions, and I'm definitely not young. The article is slanted because it's an opinion piece. It would be pretty dull if I'd sat on the fence.

  22. Cal
    July 17, 2012 at 4:06 am

    How disappointing, now we're "hate mongering" display preferences. All I can say is that the reason Light text on Dark background sucks is the same reason your spouse is so ugly, it's a matter of OPINION!! There is no right or wrong answer.
    I've been using computers for over 20 years (I do CAD work) and I (like most people who sit at their computer 8+ hours a day) prefer Light text on Dark background because of less eye strain. I don't mind the occasional dark text on light background for short periods, but I sure as hell wouldn't want to look at it ALL DAY!
    What's next? Are you gonna revert to the days of bashing Left handed people??

    • TenaciousD
      July 17, 2012 at 11:10 am

      Nice one!

      • Yrelo
        August 1, 2012 at 11:22 am

        Would you like the design of this site , and then the white background unpleasant eyes = (

  23. TenaciousD
    July 14, 2012 at 11:07 am

    I do agree with your thoughts, although my site has white text on a grey/dark grey background which I think is still fine.(

    I still like variety though. Its good to see websites with different color schemes as long as it feels right. Sometimes you need to stand out from the millions of plain vanilla websites out there.

  24. I love Black
    June 16, 2012 at 5:53 pm

    this current page is too white for my eyes....and i hate bright websites.... i dont have any sight problems... white is just too flashy.. dark background absorbs light all around and relaxes your eye muscles..whereas white color deflects any light around.... well am making a website with dark background.. will send you a link after its done.. i hope when your eyes pain by looking at your own website do visit my website.. :D .... dont forget "GO Black" thats the motto of my site

    • Dave Parrack
      June 16, 2012 at 6:51 pm

      I guess people are different. I don't like dark backgrounds, you do. We'll agree to differ :)

  25. dave
    June 12, 2012 at 7:24 pm

    The BS in this article is even more hillarious when you consider Adobe has just made Photoshop CS6 white on black. Erm why do you think that is hey?

    • Dave Parrack
      June 15, 2012 at 4:34 pm

      It's not BS, it's just my opinion. I tend to think opinions cannot be wrong. Perhaps misguided and definitely arguable, but not wrong.

  26. Gerald Kieffer
    June 4, 2012 at 6:28 pm

    Since my Atari-ST days I would tweak the desktop menus & background to be BLACK with Wihte, Light green, Light yellow, Light blue or CYAN reading text, menus, etc.
    I even had my WINDOWS 95, 98, XP, Vista with BLACK BACKGROUND with light text, menus, etc...
    FOR me it's way easier to read without using GLASSES to see what should not be BLURRING. When you have DARK on WHITE background you often have lots of BLUR with DOUBLE DARK LINES OF TEXT...
    With WHITE [or other light colors ] on BLACK BACKGROUND the BLUR effect dosen't happen as much.
    I even have my old menu lister = LIST.COM [yes it is a WINDOWS OLD TIME MENU LISTER PROGRAM from the early 1990's to around 2005] and I have that set up to MENU LIST = LIGHT CYAN BLUE file list with BLACK BACKGROUND
    Bottom menu commands list LIGHT PURPLE on BLACK BACKGROUND...
    Top info stuff = Light GREEN on BLACK Background. But nowadays I only get to use it when I'm using DOSBOX running in a LINUX machine.

    AND With my LINUX 10.10 I have the background [desktop] 2 shades of dark purple & dark blue with WHITE icons.

    The only time i have major reading problems with that is when you have a extreme dark background with extreme dark print as some websites love to do it.

    [It's the same effect going the other way as well... Extreme light print on a all white background]

    • Dave Parrack
      June 15, 2012 at 4:33 pm

      If it works for you then that's fine. Perhaps everybody's eyes are different, some finding light on dark better and some finding dark on light better. I appreciate your comment regardless.

  27. Thompson
    May 29, 2012 at 2:47 pm

    I actually find that very bright backgrounds tire my eyes pretty quickly and definitely don't work well with embedded videos, because all that whiteness is distracting me. I am not saying websites should use black backgrounds, but something in between, because neither extreme is very good.

  28. Gabriel
    May 8, 2012 at 11:10 am

    Posted on Your are not worthless. You mean the world to snooeme. You just need to find out who. And don't ever try to take your life ever you are loved by more people than you think.

  29. Justin Pot
    April 23, 2012 at 5:40 pm

    This sums it up better than I can:

    "I've chosen a black background for most of my text because it's easier on the eyes than staring at a white screen. Think about it: your monitor is not a piece of paper, no matter how hard you try to make it one. Staring at a white background while you read is like staring at a light bulb (don't believe me? Try turning off the lights next time you use a word processor). Would you stare at a light bulb for hours at a time? Not if you want to keep your vision."

    Disagree with Maddox at your own peril.

  30. Joao
    March 30, 2012 at 12:54 am

    Yeah, black background and white text sucks.. specially at night in a dark room, when your eyes are bleeding already... not. Get a grip dude.

    I think I had enough of this garbage, think I will unsubscribe. It used to be cool checking the mail to see new stuff on makeuseof, but havent seen anything remotely useful in months.

    Now its a place for stupid personal ramblings about "white on black instead of black on white".

    I think its time you stop milking the cow dry and actually feed her with some greener grass.

    • Dave Parrack
      April 12, 2012 at 11:33 am

      You're entitled to your opinion, as am I. And this is just an opinion. We have a range of writers and a range of content here on MakeUseOf. If you don't like a particular style then just avoid reading it. It would be foolish to unsubscribe though.

  31. blackvoid
    March 28, 2012 at 7:34 pm

    you shood try nightshift userstoe with firefox. it is light gray text on dark grey background. it forces all websites to this format. it is much less eyestrain.

    actually, black text on glaring white background sucks.
    it causes eyestrain. it consumes a lot more energy too.

    actually, it should depend on your envireonment. if you are sitting in an office with large windows and the sun is out, it is better to use white background. at evenings n a dark office it is better to use lack or dark background.

  32. Moises Blasi
    March 12, 2012 at 4:57 am

    My coder is trying to convince me to move to .net from PHP. I have always disliked the idea because of the costs. But he's tryiong none the less. I've been using Movable-type on a number of websites for about a year and am concerned about switching to another platform. I have heard excellent things about Is there a way I can import all my wordpress content into it? Any kind of help would be really appreciated!

  33. James Bruce
    February 20, 2012 at 2:41 pm

    Nonsense. Just as ridiculous as saying using a screen in a dark room is damaging to the eyes. The science just isnt there. 

    It's entirely a matter of personal preference. Just as I can sit there reading my iPad in the dark with no adverse effects on my vision, I also *prefer* the old backlit green on black for reading that my Palm Pilot had. 

    I'd also tend to agree with everyone else here that says you didn't actually make a  single convincing argument. I would have loved to read that "it takes the human eyes twice longer to read black text on white than white on black" - but I didn't. For obvious reasons (that it's BS). 

    I think it should plainly obvious that the only reason humans are so accustomed to black text on a white (page) is for economic reasons - less ink. 

    • Dave Parrack
      February 20, 2012 at 8:07 pm

      Thanks for your input as always, James.

      • Anže Gros
        April 13, 2012 at 5:46 pm

        It's cool and hip if you can be trendy and stand out a bit (black backgrounds) but when it comes to the effect the reasons behind the thing that is more effective, suddenly don't matter any more. Try looking at white on black when you're really tired (after working for let's say 24 hours) and you'll see the argument against black on white is quite bulletproof.

        You usually notice the little but important things in extreme situations.

        Saying that people use black on white because of economic reasons may be true when it comes to "printing" something, but it has got nothing to do with reading-experience (hence the altamira black on "white" (i think it's drawn on limestone) paintings that were drawn in a "darker" setting but, i strongly believe, with no real economic reasons for the use of darker colors on a light background but a plain and simple reason that white on black just doesn't do the trick in dim-lit environments).

        The economic reason - to me - does not hold the water (but ears do seem to like it)

      • Anže Gros
        April 13, 2012 at 6:07 pm

        Oh and yeah - websites with (very/mostly/a lot of) dark background completely suck in my oppinion too.

        They tend to be like those beautiful and well-dressed girls I would never want to date but would certainly not mind to.....know a bit better (but over a really short period of time). You know how they are when you see them walking around - they always gaze in a far direction in a 25 degree upward angle thinking that by doing that they're showing you an image of success, exclusivity and the fact of being so much better then anyone else.

        The resemblance is undoubtable and should be plainly obvious....

  34. Vic
    February 17, 2012 at 3:05 pm

    I would just like to let you know that this pointless, rambling article which said practically nothing and proved practically nothing, which you wrote, has convinced me to abandon this website altogether. I will be removing it from my reader after I submit this comment, and I will not regret it. Absolute mindless garbage, which you should be ashamed of.

    • Dave Parrack
      February 17, 2012 at 4:34 pm

      I'm sorry to hear you feel that way, Vic. You could always just avoid my articles if they're not your cup of tea. But there are 30 other people working for MakeUseOf, some of whom will be producing content you'll appreciate.

  35. Anon.
    February 17, 2012 at 9:59 am

    White text on dark gray is fine. As long as the contrast isn't too much, this should work fine.

    • Dave Parrack
      February 17, 2012 at 2:15 pm

      I don't mind dark backgrounds if they're well-designed. And dark gray with off-white text would count as that.

  36. Dave Parrack
    February 16, 2012 at 4:56 pm

    Bright, pure white would obviously be bad. It would hurt your eyes. You agreed with me that dark backgrounds suit things like photography sites and also that a lot of it comes down to bad design.

  37. Dave Parrack
    February 16, 2012 at 4:54 pm

    They don't look blurry to me. And I certainly didn't make them that way intentionally.

  38. Susi Schuele
    February 16, 2012 at 2:02 pm

    Dave, I have to agree.  I do think that some white on black sites can be visually attractive for fashion or photography sites because it makes their work pop, but in general, I concur with you. One other thing to note is that some people who are somewhat visually impaired by diabetes or other medical reasons are literally not able to see AT ALL when there is a dark background. I know this because I have a client with that issue. Great post.

    • Dave Parrack
      February 16, 2012 at 4:58 pm

      Thanks for the comment, Susi. I didn't even consider people with visual impairments, but that's another reason to add to the list. :)

      • James Bruce
        February 20, 2012 at 2:45 pm

        No it's not. Why do you think accessibility options usually include an *inverted colors* (or high contrast) option to make text white on black?

        • Dave Parrack
          February 20, 2012 at 8:04 pm

          Wouldn't it be better not to make people with visual impairments have to use accessibility options?

        • James Bruce
          February 21, 2012 at 9:31 am

          I don't think you understand. Regular black text on white is difficult for many people with visual impairment to read, hence why operating systems include an option to automatically convert everything to a high-contrast white text on black display. 

          My point is, there are both kinds of visual impairment so using that an excuse is wrong; as are there both kinds preferences to design and readability. What you think may be more readable is not neccessarily true for all. 

        • Dave Parrack
          February 21, 2012 at 1:56 pm

          Thanks for your insights, James. Thankfully I haven't yet had to use accessibility options.

        • James Bruce
          February 21, 2012 at 2:13 pm

          You broke the comment threading! 

    • Scutterman
      February 19, 2012 at 4:58 pm

       There are many, many disabilities, and some will mean that reading black on white is impossible. That argument goes both ways.

  39. Bben46
    February 16, 2012 at 1:25 pm

    Bright white backgrounds are too glaring and distracting. Solid black backgrounds with blinding white are too dark with too much contrast. My preference is a dark grey background, with off white characters and muted highlights.

  40. Herpes
    February 16, 2012 at 12:19 pm

    For me, spending too much time using Linux shell and developing windows console application made light text on a dark background kinda normal.
    I even love the themes "gedit" has, especially oblivion, not to mention the themes I found in mig’s repository.
    But as far as websites are concerned, white text on dark background is just bad practice ( bad taste is more like it ).
    If nobody's paying me to look at these colors, I really doubt that I'll like any of them.

    Sorry for any grammar/writing mistakes ( English isn't my first language )
    and sorry for the username ( I created this account to troll meme sites, but I felt like sharing :P )


  41. Count Stex
    February 16, 2012 at 11:15 am

    I don't think you can generalise so much. Most light on dark and dark on light can work so long as it is well designed. What it may be is that people without good design skills try to hide it by making things different to the norm, and hence a larger proportion of light on dark sites look bad compared to dark on light. But good design is subtler than that.
    For instance anyone creating a photography site is going to go for a dark background as it is a long established fact that you can appreciate the content of a photo far better when there is not a distracting light screen around what you are looking at.
    Personally, when I have a site with a long article for reading on I do one of too things. I either load it via Readability using my own preference of reading colours which tends to be off-white on a dark grey background or I send it to my Kindle.
    I think perhaps we jumped to white sites with black text because it was comfortable to read on older displays, but with the every increasing contrast ratios available on a modern screen, the whites have become so white as to be almost painful in large use. Hence sites like MUO having a textured background to take the edge off that whiteness. 

  42. Free Zombie Online Games
    February 16, 2012 at 7:33 am

    dark web site can be cool

    • BG Matthews
      July 28, 2012 at 2:12 pm

      How do you click "Like" on this site?

  43. Jeff
    February 16, 2012 at 5:34 am

    Reading black on white is like staring into a  bright light. 
    More commonly known as computer
    People have not discovered that its better to read into a black light with white
    letters yet.  Majority don't mean its the best way.  I can name many
    things humans do backwards.  By the way, your sample pictures of white on
    black is blurry just to persuade your point.

  44. Matt
    February 16, 2012 at 4:50 am

    Great article! I see green on black occasionally with sites that are trying to give you the "old school hacker" feel. I used computers back then and that "look" is nothing I want to be reminded of. Here's how to deal with these sites. Bookmark this line, then select this bookmark when you are on one of those sites. It will fix the colors for you. Of course you can choose a different background color if you like. If this code doesn't come through for some reason, Google can find it for you.


  45. Ian Hecht
    February 16, 2012 at 3:45 am

    Interesting thoughts. I read a few years ago that the biggest contrast that the human eye can perceive is yellow text on a black background. So all our websites should look like the text scroll from the opening of the Star Wars movies...

    • Dave Parrack
      February 16, 2012 at 12:00 pm

       That's intriguing. I'd hate to see the Web filled with sites using that color scheme though. Apart from sites about Star Wars, naturally.

      • BG Matthews
        July 28, 2012 at 2:11 pm

        "Hate" is a pretty strong word. I continue to dislike websites with white and grey backgrounds just so their plethora of ads and pop-ups can disturb our eyes.

  46. Greg
    February 16, 2012 at 12:53 am

    I will admit, reading text on a site like this is easier to read than white text on a black website, but I can still see both just fine. I happen to like dark websites, they're cooler, and if it's appropriate , then do it.

    • Dave Parrack
      February 16, 2012 at 1:27 am

      When is a dark background appropriate for a website, Greg? I agree that some can have a visual appeal, at least until you start reading. All photo-blogs can have dark backgrounds if they want to.

  47. PsychEroc
    February 15, 2012 at 11:19 pm

    Although I agree; you make a poor argument.  The only discernible point you make is that almost everything else is black on white, thus white on black sucks.  I was hoping for some other support, maybe even science. 

    • Dave Parrack
      February 16, 2012 at 12:19 am

      Unfortunately I'm not a scientist. I approach things from the standpoint of an ordinary user, and for them (myself included) it's the fact it isn't the norm that makes it suck.

      • Scutterman
        February 19, 2012 at 11:30 am

        Being non-technical is no excuse for making such a weak argument. I know this is an opinion piece, but usually the articles give some valid reason to consider the opinion being given.

      • BG Matthews
        July 28, 2012 at 2:09 pm

        I for one, am glad you admitted to being "ordinary" so please do not try to speak for the rest of us who may be "extraordinary".

  48. qox
    February 15, 2012 at 11:05 pm

    A lot of bs in there .. "We're used to it", "it sucks".
    Well, I use light on dark for my desktop and scripts for major website .. reddit, google reader ..
    While it made sense to use black on white for books (ink !) it's different on screen. Not talking about energy waste.. I just find it blinding and tiring for the eyes, and forget about night surfing without reducing intensity.
    So basically, your article says, everybody uses dark on light so the ones Im not used to suck.
    A bit weak..

    • Dave Parrack
      February 16, 2012 at 12:22 am

      My statements aren't BS, they're just clearly not as strong as you'd hoped.

      It's not that it made sense for books, it's that because of books it's ingrained in out collective consciousness that dark on light is the natural form.

  49. rshewmaker
    February 15, 2012 at 11:03 pm

    I would have to say has always been a favorite of mine with its default black background.

    • Dave Parrack
      February 16, 2012 at 4:53 pm

      Popurls is a great site... but it would look better with a light background.

      • BG Matthews
        July 28, 2012 at 2:07 pm

        Your consistent use of definitives ("would") as opposed to "may" or "might" make you look like a fool and you may just not have the final word on matters as you would like your ego to think your readers may not be smart enough to see right through.

  50. Luke
    February 15, 2012 at 10:28 pm

    I'm not sure there was much of an argument apart from the constant repetition of "this sucks" and a quick everybody else does it.

  51. el tio ska
    February 15, 2012 at 10:02 pm

    Interesting, but why the rant? I don't come across such a high usage of dark-background sites myself. Also I use Redability or Evernote Clearly on most sites, as well as Stylebot to adjust the CSS for sites I visit often.

    While most of the time I use one of the light options in Readability/Clearly, sometimes I do find the dark theme useful (especially to adjust for contrast with the surrounding around-the-room environment). I also jack up the fonts to something like 25px, so I never have to squint!

    • Dave Parrack
      February 16, 2012 at 12:23 am

      Thanks for the tips, el tio ska. I rant because it annoys me. Nothing more, nothing less.

      • Justin Pot
        April 26, 2012 at 1:07 am

        I also use Evernote Clearly. So I can read on a dark background with white text.

      • BG Matthews
        July 28, 2012 at 2:35 pm

        Please continue to annoy me so I may continue to call you on your "annoyances". Thank You.

  52. Scutterman
    February 15, 2012 at 10:02 pm

    A lot of forums use light text, dark background. The reason? It's easier to read over long periods. Just because something is the norm, doesn't mean something else isn't valid.

    But while we're on the topic, what really sucks is that MUO uses several CDNs, from what I can tell, which makes loading the site a real challenge when my internet connection is playing up.

    • Dave Parrack
      February 16, 2012 at 12:24 am

      I'm sorry to hear you have trouble loading MUO sometimes. It's worth persisting with though :)

      • Scutterman
        February 19, 2012 at 11:35 am

        Sometimes I begin to think it maybe isn't. There is a couple of simple solutions though. Change to using a single CDN, fix the bug with the next / previous buttons, and look at optimising the site.

        • James Bruce
          February 20, 2012 at 2:34 pm

          MakeUseOf content comes from a single CDN. Ad networks, jQuery, and login systems all come from their own respective source, either for speed concerns or security. 

        • Scutterman
          February 20, 2012 at 4:41 pm

          Either way, the site is way too slow to load. On a pretty decent connection at work it took almost 30s to load. If people supplying you with ads are causing it, they need to improve their service, and if it is resources you're using from source, move them to your own cdn if the license allows.

          Sorry if this comes across as demanding etc. but the slow load times and glitches are honestly making me consider not reading MUO any more, and that would be a shame because MUO provide such good content.

        • Aibek
          March 5, 2012 at 1:26 pm

          Hey Scutterman,

          Just wanted to let you know that we are no reviewing all of the ad networks we work with and removing the slower ones.
          That should result in faster page loads on user's side.


        • Scutterman
          March 7, 2012 at 8:41 pm

           @makeuseof:disqus Thanks for letting me know. I've been away from the internet for a week or so (RSI) so hopefully I'll start to notice the improvement

  53. Anonymous
    February 15, 2012 at 9:43 pm

    Other than repeating "it clearly sucks", the only argument I can find in this post is this: "You can see the text clearly without anything else distracting your field of vision."

    Sorry, but distractions in your field of vision are not related to the background color, but to the composition of screen elements. If anything, black is the ultimate, non-distracting background, because is "not there". Black is the absence of color, of anything. White is an amalgam of every color, all canceling each other into nothingness. Black is silence, while White is static background noise ("white noise").

    I have used themes and scripts to change the color of my google tools (Gmail, Reader, etc) to white on black background, and I have no issue with that. In fact, after long reading sessions on my "inverse" environment, my eyes are usually less tired than when reading regular black-on-white text.

    • Dave Parrack
      February 15, 2012 at 10:21 pm

      I made the point in the article that if the whole Web was light text on dark backgrounds then things would be fine. It's the jump from what we're used to to what we aren't used to that's the problem.

      • BG Matthews
        July 28, 2012 at 2:33 pm

        The "problem" seems to be your lack of ability to "adapt" (as well as other problems you appear to possess).

  54. Anonymous
    February 15, 2012 at 9:43 pm

    This is so true. It takes time when you jump from a white screen to completely black. 

    • Dave Parrack
      February 15, 2012 at 10:20 pm

       Your brain has to adapt, and it's not adept at doing so.

      • BG Matthews
        July 28, 2012 at 2:32 pm

        YOUR brain has to adapt. Please do not try to speak for the rest of us with real brains. Thank You.

  55. Wally
    February 15, 2012 at 9:40 pm

    I cant stand a small intense rectangle of white when reading on my DROID. In fact im reading this on feedly dark. Because..... Wait you aren't using oneof those huge things you have to balance on your lap? Or need to have a table to use... Next you will be telling me the screen is separated from the computer.

    • Dave Parrack
      February 16, 2012 at 12:25 am

      Just because smartphones are taking over the world doesn't mean laptops and desktops have ceased to be relevant. I couldn't do my job without one.

  56. Southchick_ga
    February 15, 2012 at 9:12 pm

    If I see white (or any other color) text on a dark background, I have to squint.  And that's not good because I have perfect vision.

    • Dave Parrack
      February 15, 2012 at 10:18 pm

      Exactly. It doesn't matter how good your eyesight is when this happens.

    • BG Matthews
      July 28, 2012 at 2:31 pm

      You must not have "perfect" vision if you have to squint for any reason.

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