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The White House website now has a dark mode – and that's important

The White House
(Image credit: RozenskiP / Shutterstock)

Following the inauguration of Joe Biden as US President on January 20. several changes appeared on the official White House website, including the option to enable dark mode for the first time.

At the bottom left of the site, you'll now see a pair of icons – one that allows you to toggle a larger font size, and another that lets you switch to 'high contrast mode', which switches the site's usual white and cream backgrounds to black, with white and gold text rather than navy blue.

Dark modes for websites and apps are hugely popular. Microsoft and Google have spent the last few years gradually adding dark themes to their various apps and services, and early last year Facebook finally released its highly anticipated WhatsApp dark mode (complete with a trailer featuring an unreleased version of The Sound of Silence). But why?

Dark matters

Dark mode is partly an aesthetic choice; many people just prefer the way it looks, but there are some more practical reasons, too.

For resources like government websites, however, the main reason is accessibility; many users find pale text on a black background easier to read than black on white, and having the option to switch makes the site more usable.

According to its accessibility statement, the White House is working towards "conforming to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) version 2.1, level AA criteria". These guidelines include making it easier for users to see and hear content, which can include providing a style switcher to switch to high contrast.

The jury is out on whether using dark mode will help you sleep better (conventional thinking is that too much blue light before bedtime simulates daylight and throws out your natural circadian rhythm), but we do know that dark screens use less power than those displaying white pixels.

This is particularly true on OLED screens, where pixels that need to be rendered as black are actually switched off, thereby using no power at all.

Dark mode isn't great for everyone, though. For users with astigmatism (wherein the eye isn't quite spherical), for example, white text on a black background can cause an effect called halation, which causes the writing to appear fuzzy. That's why a simple, easily located switch is so important.

Via Gizmodo