Just over a year ago, we shared a way to enable dark mode on a WordPress website via a plugin. While it works, it is fairly limited — instead of using a device’s state to automatically display a light or dark version of the site, it can only be changed by the user pressing a button. True dark mode automatically detects whether the user’s device is using light or dark mode and displays the proper version of a website based on that preference. Now that many computers, phones, and tablets support dark mode, how does WordPress plan to support dark mode?
Two dark mode support options
The WordPress team is still deciding how to implement dark mode. They are considering two primary options, and these options might be implemented as soon as WordPress 5.6, set to release on December 8.
Option 1: A dark mode plugin
One option is to create a dark mode plugin. Similar to the plugin we suggested above, a native WordPress plugin could build on this functionality and automatically detect light and dark modes, filling the void on the limited plugins that are currently available. Ultimately, the dark mode plugin could be added into WordPress core, similar to the way the WordPress Site Health Check started out as a first-party plugin and was later bundled into WordPress.
Option 2: Theme support
Right now, the WordPress team is testing out dark mode implementation at the theme level. The primary reason for this is to make testing easier, as WordPress 5.6 and the Twenty Twenty-One theme are both currently undergoing beta testing. The benefit to implementing dark mode at the theme level is that theme developers can customize the dark mode settings to work perfectly with each theme. However, a major downside to implementing dark mode at the theme level is each theme developer will have to support dark mode. This means some themes will add dark mode immediately, but others may take a long time to implement it.
Ideally, WordPress will release dark mode as a plugin, and once it has been more thoroughly tested, it could be added into a future version of WordPress core, allowing everyone to use it.
Want to try out the Twenty Twenty-One theme with dark mode support? Download the beta for Twenty Twenty-One on Github here. Just remember it’s in beta and it could have bugs, so you’re better off testing it out on a separate testing site instead of your live website.