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Dark Website Backgrounds: When Is It Appropriate?


One of the cardinal rules of websites and print design has always been to make black or dark text on white or light background. This is what most people are accustomed to and is easy for the eyes. But there are times when a dark background would be more appropriate for a website.

Take these amazing websites for example:




Black Estate

Kayak Creative

So when does it make sense to use dark backgrounds?

1. When it strengthens your brand.

As you can guess with both BlackBerry and Black Estate Wines, a dark background can help strengthen your brand. It also helps if your brand colors are light, making it a great contrast to dark backgrounds.

2. When it fits the subject.

Consider also what your subject is. You can easily pull off having a dark background on a personal blog, but not on a business website.

For business websites, consider what products you want to highlight on the site. If you are a travel agency, you might want to eschew black and go for full sunny colors.

3. When it helps highlight your products.

Dark backgrounds help you highlight your products. A product shot set against a dark background can help direct your visitors’ eyes on it.

4. When there is not much content to go over.

If you have a lot of content or a crowded layout, similar to a news site, it might help to have a lighter background. If you have few elements to display on a page, a dark background would work fine.

Are websites with dark backgrounds harder to read? There are a lot of conflicting research and ideas on the matter, but nothing conclusive has ever been established. For all intents and purposes, the proliferation of white on black websites are an indication that people still visit websites with dark backgrounds.

When designing a website and you can’t decide on a light or dark background, it might help to have two versions of your site and put it through A/B testing to see which one works better.

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