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Colin Keany

Implementing Dark Mode and Accessibility Features

A Milestone in Developer Experience

Product Designer, Front-End Developer


Planning & Scoping, Prototyping, Front-end Development, Quality Assurance

Team Members

Visual Designers (2x)
Product Manager
Software Engineers (3x)



Internal Initiative

Developer Experience



The Benefits of Dark Mode: Beyond Aesthetic

In recent years, the tech industry has seen a significant shift toward prioritizing user experience and accessibility. GitHub's introduction of dark mode, alongside high and low contrast and colorblind color modes, stands as a testament to this evolution. This change not only represents a leap forward in interface customization but also underscores the platform's commitment to inclusivity and developer well-being. The journey to this achievement was marked by meticulous planning, extensive coding efforts, and a deep understanding of user needs.

The push for dark mode was primarily driven by its potential to improve developer experience, particularly concerning eye strain and fatigue. Studies have shown that dark mode can reduce the glare from screens, especially in low-light conditions, thereby minimizing eye strain for users. This can lead to a more comfortable coding experience, particularly during long sessions, making it a highly requested feature among developers worldwide. By acknowledging and acting on this feedback, GitHub has demonstrated its dedication to enhancing user satisfaction and productivity.

Overhauling the Design System: My Contributions

One of the most challenging aspects of introducing these new color modes, and where I spent the majority of my time contributing to this project, was the necessity to overhaul GitHub's monolithic codebase. The original design system was replete with hard-coded color values, which made the implementation of dynamic color themes a daunting task. Transitioning to a design system that uses color variables required a meticulous audit of existing stylesheets, component-by-component review, and the introduction of a scalable system of color variables. This monumental effort ensured that colors could be easily adjusted across different themes, laying the groundwork for the current and future accessibility features.

Emphasizing Color Blindness Accessibility

Creating color modes that cater to users with color blindness was another critical aspect of this project. Color blindness affects approximately 1 in 12 men and 1 in 200 women globally, which translates to a significant portion of the developer community. By implementing color modes that account for various forms of color vision deficiency, GitHub has made its platform more accessible to a broader audience. This move not only enhances usability for affected users but also raises awareness about the importance of designing for accessibility.

The Impact of the Project

The update to GitHub's codebase to support dark mode and enhanced accessibility features represents a significant investment in user experience and inclusivity. By adapting the platform to meet a wider range of user needs, GitHub has set a precedent for how tech companies can and should prioritize accessibility and customization in their products. This pragmatic approach to software development underscores the importance of listening to user feedback and proactively addressing accessibility concerns.