The Definitive Guide to Optimizing Emails for Dark Mode

As digital interfaces like Gmail, outlook and Hotmail continue to evolve, ‘dark mode’ has become an increasingly popular feature. Some studies have put the number of people using dark mode as high as 80%. If you are not already, you absolutely should be optimizing emails for dark mode

Many of your favorite browsers, mobile apps, and operating systems now offer dark mode settings, allowing users to reduce the brightness of their screens for a more comfortable viewing experience. This trend has also made its way into email, making it a crucial factor for email developers and designers to consider when optimizing for accessibility and audience engagement.

Understanding Dark Mode for Emails

Dark mode is a user-selected setting that inverts or darkens the colors displayed on a viewer’s screen. This setting can significantly impact how your email appears to subscribers if not properly optimized. While dark mode is designed to reduce eye strain from screen use, it is not advisable or even possible to completely avoid its effects on your email designs. Instead, it’s best to optimize your emails for compatibility with both dark and light modes. This is where services like Klaviyo can provide valuable insights into this process.

However, it’s important to note that the ways different email clients handle dark mode can vary significantly. For example, some email clients, like Apple Mail and Gmail, may auto-invert colors, while others, like Yahoo! and AOL, do not. This discrepancy can become more complex depending on how users access their emails. For instance, an email may render differently in Apple Mail’s dark mode if it is pulling emails from Gmail or Outlook, compared to viewing content directly in the Gmail or Outlook mobile apps.

Best Practices for Optimizing Emails for Dark Mode

1. Use Transparent Backgrounds

Images with background colors may become difficult to see in dark mode. Using transparent backgrounds for all your images can ensure they are displayed properly. When not in dark mode, the emails will have a white background, but when in dark mode, they will turn to black and invert the color of the text itself.

2. Optimize Your Logo and Social Icons

If your brand uses dark colors for your logo or social icons, consider adding a thin white border around them to improve readability. In light mode, users won’t see the white border, but in dark mode, it becomes visible, helping your logo and icons stand out.

3. Prioritize Text over Images

To ensure your message comes through clearly in dark mode, prioritize using text rather than images of text. This not only renders better in dark mode but also improves your email’s deliverability and accessibility. Plus, text-only emails often have higher open and click rates (its weird – but its the truth).

4. Test Your Emails

With any email, it’s important to test how it will render in both dark and light modes. You can do this by sending a preview email to yourself and testing your emails across different devices and inbox providers. Platforms like Email on Acid offer comprehensive testing tools for this purpose, while In-box provides services for testing emails for compatibility across multiple devices.

5. Consider Asking for Preferences

If you have the bandwidth to design both light and dark-mode emails, consider asking your customers which viewing experience they prefer. You can ask this in an email to your newsletter list using a hidden field in the Call To Action (CTA) and follow up with those that don’t respond using a signup form. In that CTA, update their profile property according to their preferences and then create segments of people based on those profile properties. This is a pretty labor-intensive process and unless you are dealing with lists in the 50k+ range (in terms of size), we don’t recommend doing this.

Dark Mode Email Testing

Given the rising trend of dark mode usage, it’s becoming increasingly essential to include dark mode email testing as part of your team’s pre-deployment checklist. Tools like Email on Acid’s Campaign Precheck can help make this task easier by providing automated testing for both light and dark modes.

Overcoming Challenges

Designing for dark mode can present unique challenges, such as dark graphics and text disappearing against dark backgrounds. One way to address this is by adding a light outline around dark text or using a non-transparent background.

In Conclusion

While optimizing emails for dark mode may present some challenges, a little extra effort can significantly enhance your email marketing’s ROI and give you a competitive edge. As more users adopt dark mode, ensuring your emails are optimized for both light and dark modes will become increasingly important to stay ahead of the curve.