Web dev at the end of the world, from Hveragerði, Iceland

The Aesthetics of Concentration

Dark mode. Worse for most, essential for a few

These quotes…

Except in extraordinary situations, Dark Mode is not easy on the eyes, in any way


Unfortunately, Apple’s marketing claims about Dark Mode’s benefits fly in the face of the science of human visual perception.

… are from “The Dark Side of Dark Mode”

While the science on dark mode for regular users is pretty clear cut (mostly detrimental for most people) it is an accessibility feature that can be really helpful to some people. If Apple rolling it out makes the web more accessible, that’s an overall plus.

The issue of emotions often gets hand-waved away. We are, as a species, driven by our emotions to the point where if brain damage harms our ability to engage with our emotions, our ability to make decisions is compromised as well. People make decisions based on emotional engagement and some people are more emotionally engaged by dark mode so in the prevailing rhetoric, people are stupid and irrational.

But because our decision making is driven by emotions all the way down, consciously basing your decisions on your emotional involvement is usually a good thing: you are being aware of how your mind works. Overall, this tends to lead to better decisions. Self-awareness being a plus in almost every system of belief on the planet for a reason.

As for me, I have concentration issues that mean that I find it unusually hard to work when I’m not emotionally engaged in what I’m working on. When the screen in front of me isn’t aesthetically pleasing that makes it hard for me to work.

(Which is why I find Google’s entire ecosystem hard to work with, but I digress.)

And, yeah, this has had a rather detrimental impact on my work over the years.

But, it also makes me appreciative of the role of aesthetics in productivity and usability. Dark mode’s usefulness as an accessibility feature alone makes its inclusion in OSes an overall plus. And as an aesthetic feature it is a decent compromise between no aesthetic adaptability and a full theme system. Theming turns UI design into a near impossible task akin to trying to hit a moving target while standing on a moving platform but a colour change, while still tricky as hell. It’s easier to accommodate in your designs than a theme system albeit a little bit trickier than many other accessibility features.

And like most accessibility features it’s counter-productive to most; extremely useful to some; and essential to a few.

You can also find me on Mastodon and Bluesky