You may have already noticed that following a few weeks of tweaking and bug squashing we’ve extended the new ‘light’ theme to the forums and deployed a new unified header that is shared between both dark and light versions of the site. The beta pop-up has been banished from the site and a new permanent ‘Reading Mode’ switch placed at the top right corner of the site.

Use the 'Reading mode' switch (top right of every page) to switch between black and white themes. Your choice is remembered.

White is the new black

As of the today the ‘light’ reading mode will be the default. If you want to switch to black and forget this ever happened, go ahead – your choice will be remembered.

DPR has had the same basic ‘look’ since it launched in 1998, and there’s no doubt that the white-on-black design has always been an instantly recognizable part of our identity – our brand. And we know – because you’ve told us through polls and comments – that many of our regular visitors and forum pros are very happy with the current design and have no appetite for change, hence the decision to offer this as an option, forever.

If you want to switch to black and forget this ever happened, go ahead – your choice will be remembered.

But we also know that a large number of our visitors found the old design visually off-putting and hard to read, and a switch to a more conventional ‘black on white’ design has been the single most requested change seen via our feedback system for at least ten years. So we decided to see if we could, in relatively short order, knock together a quick alternative with the emphasis on readability for those that struggle with white text on a black background. What you see today is the outcome of that experiment. Not a lot has changed – we flipped the colors and made the body font a little larger, but this is a new coat of paint, not a foundation-up rebuild.

White theme forum index White theme post view

We asked, you answered...

For those of you that managed to get this far down the page before scrolling straight to the comment section, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the thousands of visitors who took the time to give us feedback on the new theme during the beta. I personally read every single feedback email, all the comments on the original news story announcing the beta, and as many forum posts as I could find. 

The feedback (after filtering out all the complaints about the pop-up asking for feedback and those that took the time to tell us they had no opinion) pretty much all fell into one of four buckets: those that loved the new design (most common words: ‘thanks!!’ and ‘finally!!’), those that prefer the old design (most common phrase ‘don’t fix what ain’t broke’), those that didn’t like either and had their own suggestions for background colors, and a few who hadn’t read the story or the pop up and were under the impression that we were going to replace the old design with the new one, which made them angry. Like, really angry.

I’m not complaining – we were really appreciative of ALL the feedback, and it informed many of the decisions we made and will make in future design changes. 

..and the results are in

Overall the feedback was split 63:37 in favor of the lighter theme, though in the last two weeks the gap widened to about 70:30 as we finessed the design and annoyed more people into giving us feedback (thanks Mr Pop-up!).

The most common themes we saw in favor of the darker theme were

  • The original color scheme sets DPR apart from most sites on the internet and is a fundamental part of our identity.
  • The new theme is too bright and is hard to read (quite a few people claimed it ‘burns my eyes’)
  • Photos look better on black and photo apps such as Lightroom have a similar theme.

We agree that generally color images look better on a dark background, so we didn’t re-skin galleries, challenges, slideshows or the expanded image view in forums.

Just to reiterate...we may be defaulting to the white theme... but the dark theme is not going away. Ever.

It’s probably worth mentioning too, that in the month or so that we ran the beta we saw a significant difference between those using the white and black versions of the site, with those opting for the lighter theme spending almost twice as long and reading almost twice as many pages as those who stayed with the black theme. This is not conclusive proof (for reasons too longwinded to go into here), but it did confirm our long-held belief that the old theme was actually putting people off reading our content.

I hope you give the new ‘Reading mode’ a try – especially the forums, which we just launched. Please share your opinion of how we might make it better below.

Desktop users wondering where the switch for the 'classic' (yellow on gray) forum skin went - it's at the bottom of every forum page (below the index of threads). Again, this setting is remembered between sessions (as long as you retain our cookies).

Just to reiterate, we may – for now - be defaulting to the white theme (because based on the feedback and the data it’s the right choice), but the dark theme is not going away. Ever*.

That’s all, folks.

*OK, it's been pointed out to me that saying the black theme won't 'ever' go away is quite a commitment, and maybe I should say 'until no one is using it, or until the dying Sun consumes our planet, whichever comes sooner'.