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We are developing an anti-malware android application and some of the colleagues insist on using a dark theme for application UI because:

  1. Many other anti-malware applications like DU, Avast, Avg and Bitdefender use a dark theme
  2. It implies security.

I disagree because with a dark theme:

  1. Shadows cannot be shown properly
  2. With low screen back-light design details are not properly visible and it makes the app ugly
  3. Dark themes remind old android versions
  4. We don't have to do exactly as what other apps do
  5. Material design is not that beautiful with dark color pallets as it is with light ones

There is a tie on opinions in our group and any good advice from outside the group and you, more experienced ones in this field, is really appreciated!

  • 3
    Avira is white. – Abektes Sep 12 '15 at 20:18
  • Whether it does or not isn't really a UX question (and even then, mostly opinion) – DA01 Sep 14 '15 at 5:58
  • @DA01 It's about the feeling the user get when (s)he's using the application, and i think this relates to UX. Also i think it's not opinion based, we reason about whether or not it should have a dark theme, i wrote my reason, the other team members reasons and none of them were opinion based. – Mohammad Jafar Mashhadi Sep 15 '15 at 4:45
  • @MJafarMash it's related, but is really more about graphic design (so would suggest it goes on GraphicDesign.se instead) but even then, it's going to be heavily opinion based. As for your team members, they were opinions. Well reasoned opinions, but still opinions. – DA01 Sep 15 '15 at 4:53
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There is consensus within the research community and practicing UX professionals that color definitely has an impact on how a site or application is perceived by the user (paper discussing design factors).

The Society for Technical Communications published an article in 2011 entitled Color Matters: Color as Trustworthiness Cue in Web Sites. It's likely the closest thing you'll find in published research that attempts to answer your question.

The authors concluded that a blue color scheme was perceived as most trustworthy and black as least trustworthy. The point of the paper was to demonstrate that color does impact trust - but the numbers only show a small difference in user feedback from one scheme to the next.

I too have encountered resistance from stakeholders insisting that the application must be designed to mimic the look, feel, and functionality of competing products. I would bet that similar feelings are driving the desire for a darker color scheme - but instead of just saying that, opinions are being thrown around as if they were facts.

Some suggestions:

  • Review with the team the websites of trusted security providers. Kaspersky, Symantec, Mcafee, and Kali all have light color schemes. Barracuda has dark landing pages but they lighten up quite a bit once you navigate to interior pages. Defcon and Blackhat are as you would imagine.
  • Take a few screens and comp them using different schemes - but modify them to ask the user for something sensitive, like a credit card. Use them on one of the cheap user testing sites and ask whether the user trusted the app.
  • Make design disputes less about opinion and more about what you can prove (either with research or testing).
  • If you can't come to a data-driven conclusion, propose a compromise and instrument the app or feature with analytics to monitor the impact of the decision post-launch. Teams will usually go for this and it will help move the process along.
  • If all else fails, and the design team is in a tie that can't be broken, flip a coin. Both options must be equally good if they have an equal amount of support :-)
  • Given how close blue and black can be, I'd take that study with a huge grain of salt. – DA01 Sep 14 '15 at 6:00
  • Agreed @DA01 - the conclusion of the research was more focused on the fact that color does indeed impact a user's perceived trust in an application. – Tom Griffin Sep 14 '15 at 6:15

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