Has anyone done any studies or found any good research to see if a dark interface or a light interface is good for viewing outside on a mobile device? Does the color of the interface make a difference, or is it more about contrast?

  • Great question. I'm curious to see the research too but I know in my experience that dark UI is really annoying when it comes to glare. Screen qualities differ between different devices and the only direct-sun-friendly device I ever had was an old Nokia 6288 which had a TFT Screen (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nokia_6280_Series). None of the touch devices I have now were ever as crisp even with screen covers.
    – Pdxd
    Apr 8, 2014 at 15:21
  • 3
    I would say Contrast over Colour. Colour can be used to assist with contrast. There's a tool to check that here: webaim.org/resources/contrastchecker
    – Pdxd
    Apr 8, 2014 at 15:22
  • Nice, ya, I have always thought dark UI was bad for viewing outside, but I was using my Strava app this morning and it's really pretty nice. It has a very high contrast tho. Apr 8, 2014 at 15:49
  • 2
    It will depend on context/time of day too. I have a nav in my car and the map switches to "night mode" which is light on dark. In this case, the map needs to be less distracting while driving at night. Having a dark background helps with focus on the primary physical task of driving.
    – Pdxd
    Apr 8, 2014 at 15:57
  • 1
    This model of daylight readability assumes negative contrast polarity will degrade readability. See page 24. This research on legibility manipulated several factors including contrast polarity. They summarize the effect of the color-related factors as 'Color difference was found to play a minor role in legibility under daylight ambient conditions.' I do not have access to the full paper and am unable to provide more details about the effect of contrast polarity in detail. Apr 8, 2014 at 19:04

1 Answer 1


I didn't do a formal study on a contrasting color scheme, the following is what I found over the course of a weekend.

During an app contest last year, I created a transit application which used black and white in hopes that it would be easier to see outdoors on a sunny day because of the contrast of colours. Here is a screen shot:

Screen shot

Since it was a competition, we didn't have much time to test, but we did simulate a sunny day by placing a phone directly under a light:

We found that text becomes obscured the easiest, but we could generally still make out the images; go for images/icons over text whenever you can (this would also help with localization down the road). In the case of our application, even if you couldn't make out the text at all, you would still have a decent idea of when the bus was coming based on the black blotch on the screen.

Some people had screen protectors on their phones. We found that these improved the readability of what was on the screen.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.