Light vs Dark Color Scheme: Which One Should You Choose?

It’s almost impossible to calculate the exact number of websites. According to the report, there are over 1.6 billion active sites on the World Wide Web, but no one can say that for sure because the number just keeps growing minute after minute. The only thing we can claim is that websites keep piling up.

In such circumstances, it might seem reasonable to believe that web design is not a complicated job. After all, it must be super-easy to create a website if there are so many of them, right? But as always, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

While it’s relatively easy to launch a simple website, the process itself involves a plethora of details that only the most proficient designers can solve successfully. A lot of things can go wrong here, and the study reveals that over 90% of visitors stop trusting websites with degraded web design. It means you need to craft a perfect product before launching it.

A color scheme is one of the most critical aspects of web design, which often makes it critical to the overall success of a website. The key question is: Should I choose the light or dark color scheme? In this post, we will help you to learn more about this subject and make the right decision.

How to Prepare for the Selection Process

Before you start thinking about technical details, you have to pay attention to the peculiarities of your business. Website design depends on your specific needs, so it’s crucial to make the proper balance between what is right and what suits your organization the most.

Light or Dark Color Scheme

You can consider many details here, but three things make the most significant impact during the preparation period. Let’s take a closer look:

The purpose of your site

The purpose of the website is the first thing to consider. Do you want to put textual content in front or instead rely on visual elements such as images or infographics? The color scheme dramatically depends on the way you answer this question.

If your goal is to write a lot of blog posts and other types of textual content, the best option is to go for the light background with dark typography over it. It increases the visibility and makes your content more accessible to read.

On the other hand, darker backgrounds might suit you better if you want to publish images. That way, visual content gets a little bit of the 3D look, thus becoming more attractive and even exclusive on some occasions.

Define the target audience

Color schemes don’t only depend on the purpose of your website but also on the requirements of the target audience. You need to analyze the typical customer to understand how she/he feels consuming the content.

Shelton Dunn, a web designer, says older users generally respond much better to the lighter color schemes, considering it to be more straightforward in terms of orientation: “Younger people are not afraid to experiment, so they often prefer darker backgrounds. At the same time, children enjoy bright schemes and colorful details that make the content more appealing.”

This is the standard behavioral pattern, but you should dig deeper into the preferences of the target audience to find the perfect combination for your website.

Research competitors

The preparation phase is almost over, but you still have one thing left to do – research competitors to see how they solved the color scheme problem. It’s necessary because it could give you a general notion of how your niche works.

You don’t want to be a copycat, so try to come up with a unique color scheme that converts. But if it fails to deliver, while all competitors are doing the opposite time and again, you should reconsider the strategy. Perhaps your niche found the best solution already, so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel.

Major Color Scheme Features

Understanding how color schemes work is impossible without knowing their significant features. Each color scheme – light or dark – must fulfill several purposes:

1. Readability

Readability is a key color scheme feature because it enables users to read textual content easily. Even if your website focuses on visual elements more than textual posts and articles, you should put readability on top of the priority list. Lighter backgrounds are dominant in this field since they give the highest contrasts with the darker hues.

2. Clarity

Clarity is as essential for website performance as readability. Namely, this feature represents the site’s potential to display all visual components to maximize the quality of user experience. To put it simply, clarity enables users to find the desired webpage element quickly by scanning the whole page.

The goal is to distinctly separate different elements adding just enough contrast to your color scheme. Lighter backgrounds often outdo darker solutions here because they allow designers to play with different colors, testing a variety of interesting but unorthodox solutions.

It’s rather simple to check the clarity of your design. Just blur the page and see whether the elements stand out. If yes, the color scheme is clear. But if not, you should try different options.

3. Responsiveness

Online activities differ drastically by device type. In such circumstances, it’s critical to make the color scheme responsive regardless of the sort of device. For instance, some color schemes and design solutions might seem compelling on the high-definition display but lose clarity on less advanced screens. Therefore, your task is to test color schemes across multiple devices to ensure the highest level of usability.

4. Environment

The environment feature is where we come back to the audience research. Namely, designers who analyze their audience thoroughly can learn how and where they consume content. Is it in the office or the outdoor environment? This is important because darker color schemes tend to reflect natural light, making the page look more like a mirror than the content-rich screen.

5. Accessibility

Accessibility represents a web design practice which allows every user to approach and consume your content, regardless of their physical limitations or disabilities. This is extremely important for persons with visual impairments who have to invest additional efforts into reading.

Contrast plays a significant role in this field because the vast majority of persons with visual impairments suffer from low contrast sensitivity, which stops them from differentiating between similar tints and hues. Besides that, you can use a larger font to ensure higher accessibility.

While this feature has social responsibility connotations, keep in mind that it also serves a practical business purpose. Namely, accessibility helps you to reach more customers, thus giving you the opportunity to increase sales in the long run.

Practical Color Scheme Tips

Crafting a quality color scheme takes a lot of knowledge and experience. Fortunately, some tactics already proved to be more effective than others, so you might use the existing tricks to win over new customers. We made you a list of the best-performing tactics:

Split the color palette

This is one of the simplest but most productive color scheme tricks. You can split the entire color palette into the two opposing units, with each section containing the same number of mutually contrasting hues and tints.

Now you have two sets of twin colors, where the first shade on the lefts side of the spectrum perfectly aligns with the last color on the right. Pairing symmetrical hues, you get the perfect balance for the color scheme. Using this approach, you can’t make a mistake because the twin tints represent logical pairs.

Play with webpage elements

While color schemes usually rely on a couple of basic colors, there is no need to keep things too conservative. You can play with webpage elements, adding different colors with widely recognized meanings and connotations.

For instance, you can add to the versatility of your color scheme by introducing red, blue, green, and yellow components. Red is the color of caution and alert, so you can use it to highlight calls to action. On the other side, blue delivers trustworthy information, while green promises fairness and success. Yellow should warn users about any unusual details on your website.

Limit the number of hues

Designers have to exploit different hues to divide certain parts of the website, but they are not supposed to overuse shades. Your tint sets, ranging from light to dark, should not go above 12 hues. If you apply more than that, you don’t make a real difference in terms of color scheme quality, but you will probably confuse readers who are trying to consume your content effortlessly.

Highlight input controls

Input controls and fill-in forms always demand special attention because you want to convince as many users as possible to sign in or subscribe. For this reason, make sure to highlight borders using strong colors that contrast the background. For instance, most websites use red borders and letters to emphasize mandatory fields.

Test color schemes

Whatever you do and whichever color scheme you choose, don’t forget to test it. Even the most beautiful solutions sometimes fail to deliver practical results, so you must check the effectiveness of your design. Test everything:

  • Color schemes across multiple devices
  • Different resolutions
  • Background behavior in different environments
  • User impressions
  • CTA buttons

The more you know about the color scheme, the better it will perform. Each test you make will contribute to the overall knowledge and understanding of your design, thus helping you to improve the product. Sometimes, however, it’s not so easy to make an ideal color scheme based on these general rules.

In such cases, you can craft in-between solutions to satisfy the requirement of all users. For instance, you can create both dark and light color schemes and let users choose which one to apply. This is exactly what YouTube is doing with its background color. They offer you both options so that you can switch to the dark theme rather simply.

Another solution is to create a dark interface but also add white text boxes to improve readability. This option allows you to design luxury or elegant backgrounds without jeopardizing user experience. White tabs can also shrink or minimize after usage, leaving the main theme wholly uncovered.


Crafting a website forces you to make some critical decisions, from templates and typography to content and color schemes. The latter is one of the crucial elements of web design that has the power to make or break your online efforts.

For this reason, it is essential to understand how color schemes function and figure out the best option for your site. This post explained to you the differences between light and dark color schemes. We showed you what to look for in the process, told you how to prepare for it, and gave you a few practical tips and suggestions.

Now it’s your turn to choose the most appropriate solution, so which one will it be – the light or the dark color scheme? Let us know in comments, and don’t hesitate to post questions if you need any other explanations about this topic.

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