I just received an email from a concerned reader about the theme of my blog. With the utmost respect, I am posting the body of the email text here, then the justification of why I chose an overall dark theme for my blog. I am not posting this to embarrass the person sending the email, nor to belittle. Rather, I wold like to teach and to inform. Here is the email:
Please, PLEASE…use black on white not white on black for the web page. White on black is much harder to read, especially if you are older and using spectacles. Some of the worst are yellow on black…… Just ordinary black text on white background is easy and simple to read. It’s why books are printed the same way. Linuxformat magazine also has this ‘thing’ about printing critical text on coloured backgrounds so it becomes almost impossible to read…artistically correct, but practically very bad.
The concern is having white text on a very dark background, and that for the older generation, it becomes difficult to read, especially if wearing vision correction. I do not dispute the validity of that argument. I can imagine that it may be more difficult to read the text. As such, there are a couple solutions for overcoming this, without me changing my theme.
1) Most modern Internet browsers will support increasing and decreasing text sizes. For Firefox, it’s as easy as navigating to the “View” menu, highlighting the “Text Size” submenu and clicking “Increase”. You will notice also, that there is a keyboard shortcut bound to increasing and decreasing the text. This is done with ‘ctrl-+’ and ‘ctrl–’ respectively.
2) Being a blog, it has an XML-based feed. I syndicate 3 different XML feed standards, so you can choose one to your liking. I would recommend using the feed through Feedburner, as it helps me track some statistics about my readership (click on the large square button on the right beneath “Subscribe”). With this XML feed, you can use it to read my posts through a different application, rather than your browser. Liferea is a great feed reader for Gnome, with Akregator for KDE. With these applications, you can read several feeds in one spot without having to navigate to the web pages. But, the point of this, is most XML feed readers use dark text on light backgrounds. So, if it’s easier for you to read text in that manner, I would suggest using my XML feed with a feed reader that can syndicate the content.
The reason, simple put, is this: staring into a computer monitor, means looking into light. Light is powering your display, whether be plasma, LCD, CRT or whatever. The technical details behind producing the light may be different, but the result is the same: light waves entering the pupil. Now, in all seriousness, you wouldn’t stare into a Philips light bulb trying to read the text while the light is powered on, would you? So, why do we do it with our computers? Well, I don’t really know, except, maybe we are trying to reproduce printed text, such as a book page or a newspaper. But, unlike printed text, staring into a bright monitor while trying to read text is bad for your vision.
Studies have shown, and I don’t think I need to cite sources, that staring into a computer monitor all day long in degrading to your vision. People who generally sit a computers for their career most the day end up needed correctional lenses to fix their vision. This is due to the nature of the computer screen being brighter than the environment. Just as looking at the Sun can permanently damage your vision, so can staring at a computer monitor.
So, by reducing the light that comes out of the monitor, you can effectively reduce the chance for eye damage. By reducing light, less light colors should be visible, with dark colors taking up the majority of space. Turning down your monitor’s brightness can be one solution to achieve this. Another, can be reversing your desktop theme to use dark colors (charcoal gray or black) as backgrounds, and light text. The same contrast is received, as is with black text on a white background, but you are saving your vision for degradation.
There is a side effect, however, to light text on dark backgrounds. You will read the text about 30% slower than you would, reading the same text, but reversing the contrast. I don’t know why this is, other than to say, that you will recognize a positive exposed photograph about 40% faster than the same photograph exposed as a negative. It is probably something to do with what we recognize as familiar versus foreign.
So, being concerned about my own vision, and the vision of my readers, I chose a dark background with light text. I still find the text readable and contrasting. I’m not concerned, really, about the speed at which you read my posts, but more, the safety of your vision. This theme is an excellent theme, that maintains that level of safety. Trust me, however, when I say, that I did not pick this theme, because it was artistic or aesthetically pleasing. The reason was based solely on my health, and the health of you.
In conclusion, I won’t be changing my blog’s theme anytime soon. If I do, it will be only because the functionality of this theme has gotten outdated or I have gotten sick of it. But, it would still be replaced with another similar theme of dark backgrounds and light text. Again, I mean not to offend or hurt the sender of that email, but rather, wish to inform my readers about why I chose this theme. Hopefully, our vision will be better off, because of it.