Dark Mode is Possibly Coming to a WordPress Dashboard Near You

For the past year, Daniel James has been developing the Dark Mode plugin for WordPress. The plugin is actively installed on more than 1K sites. Dark Mode replaces the white and grey colors in the backend with darker colors that are easier on the eyes.

Dark Mode for WordPress

James has published a proposal to merge the plugin into core. There are three things to know about Dark Mode up front. It does not have a high contrast mode to meet accessibility needs, is not a new admin color scheme for the backend, and is not a tool that helps people with vision issues.

By default, WordPress ships with eight admin color schemes. However, color schemes are only applied to the WordPress sidebar and Admin toolbar. Dark Mode is applied to the main content area of the dashboard. This gives users the ability to use Dark Mode and an Admin Color Scheme in tandem. 

Admin Color Schemes

Dark Mode is not compatible with Gutenberg but is compatible with TinyMCE. Because of the speed at which Gutenberg is being developed as a plugin, James decided that a merge proposal without Gutenberg support is the best way forward. Compatibility with Gutenberg will likely arrive once it is merged into core.

Because Dark Mode affects the content area of the WordPress Dashboard, if it’s merged into core, plugins will need to support two different color schemes.

There is no easy way for Dark Mode to support every plugin, especially when many of them use custom user interface elements. This guide on the plugin’s GitHub page explains how developers can add support for Dark Mode.

Proposal Hits a Snag

Within the comments on the proposal, members of the core and accessibility teams weighed in. Gary Pendergast, a WordPress core developer, outlined a list of requirements from the Core Handbook that the plugin has yet to achieve.

James responded by explaining the process of merging a feature plugin into core as outlined in the Core Handbook does not lend itself to all projects.

“For example, weekly meetings, or kick-off posts etc,” James said. “I understand that Gutenberg is probably a top priority right now but it’d be great if I could have some help on what to do to push this forward. I think an introduction of Gutenberg and Dark Mode would be a great addition to shout about in 5.0.”

Some of the Benefits of Dark Mode

One of the obvious benefits is that Dark Mode is aesthetically pleasing, especially after sunset. Depending on the screen technology, darker colors are more energy efficient. It’s also a mode that’s gaining in popularity. For example, earlier this year, Apple announced Dark Mode will be available in macOS Mojave.

I find myself using Dark Mode on Reddit, the Twitter app on my iPhone, and now WordPress. I like to browse the web on my phone while laying in bed and my partner enjoys not seeing a bright screen shining in her direction.

Based on comments made to the proposal and on social media, there is a definitive interest in having a Dark Mode option in WordPress. Is Dark Mode something you’d like to see be part of core? Also, I’m curious as to which Admin Color scheme you use. Please vote in the poll below.

Which Admin Color Scheme Do You Use?

View Results

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19 Comments


  1. I like it, but I wish it was a bit more general. It doesn’t need to account for every plugin, I feel. I realize that css can be a pain, but this seems more complex than it really needs to be. Dunno. Will need to investigate further.

    But core damn well needs a dark mode. One hundo.

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  2. Your poll is missing one option: different schemes for different sites so I can quickly tell them apart.

    But dark mode would be a game changer.

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    1. Looks very interesting. Looking forward to this WP feature for sure

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  3. I love the dark mode. But I think the styling should be improved. Blue links on black really hurts my eyes!

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  4. I expect Sunrise to come in dead last in the poll.

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  5. I think that Dark Mode is a great thing that should be merged into Core along with Gutenberg in 5.0!

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    1. It’s nice but what benefit is there for having it in core? If people want it they can install the plugin, so why add more bloatbto core?

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  6. As cool as it is, it should stay a plugin. If people want it they can install it but don’t force additional bloat on those that don’t need it.

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  7. Thanks for the write-up Jeff! Although I noticed in all instances you referred to me with my surname James, did you mean Daniel? ;)

    Nonetheless, I’m happy with the amount of people that have come forward to help support the effort in making the dashboard darker. If anyone is willing to help out, please do! The links to GitHub (where all the development takes place) is open for bug reports etc.

    I do think there’s probably some more work to be done in ensuring it’s just right for core, although I firmly believe I’m about 95% of the way there after looking at the reaction from the merge proposal. The trickiest thing is plugins. There’s over 50k in the directory and many of them have their own styles for a unique dashboard experience. Making Dark Mode work with all of those different plugins will be something the developers will have to do, I’m only one person! :D

    If you have any questions relating to Dark Mode though, please do respond to the merge proposal, ask in the support forums or raise an issue on GitHub. I look out for any activity so I’ll try my best to respond. One thing I’m keen on doing is trying to meet the 5.0 deadline as this does seem to be a fairly popular feature. Fingers crossed, eh?

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  8. Just seems like bloat to me. I’d rip out the existing colour options as it is, let alone adding an extra option in.

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  9. I believe the Dark Mode will benefit people such as me, colourblind, making our workflow somehow easier.

    Strangely, or perhaps as an inspirational approach, the Dark Mode proposed reminds me of my Fedora Workstation, using the Arc-Dark Theme.

    The resemblance is uncanny if you take a closer look.

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  10. There are 14,356 bigger priorities for core than this fluff.

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  11. The whole premise of this post is built on a myth! Where is the evidence that darker colours ‘are easier on the eyes’?
    Conversely, there are reams and reams of published data proving conclusively that dark text on a light background is not only far easier to read (because it IS easier on the eyes) but it also GREATLY enhances comprehension!
    Is it just a coincidence that your post complies with the PROVEN facts? Why not try publishing it using white text on a black background and watch as ‘would be’ readers quit trying after the first couple of sentences.
    Seriously, this is a case of someone thinking he/she had a good idea and that if he/she tells enough people it will come true. It won’t.

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  12. This is definitely plugin territory. So much for the 80:20 rule, lol.

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    1. Not sure I agree. Dark Mode only works if it is in core. Large/Complex plugins will need to add support for Dark Mode, and that’ll only happen if it is in Core not a plugin or a bunch of competing plugins.

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  13. Anytime I land on a website that has dark backgrounds and light fonts, I bounce. So this would be a no for me. :)

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