Designing Toggle Controls

A toggle is a switch that has two possible states: on or off. The word is derived from the 18th century meaning “a pin passed through the eye of a rope.” Toggle controls are used in almost every aspect of computing when a user needs to change the state of an option or preference.

Toggle labels are an important part of the toggle control’s visual design. They should describe the control’s current state and its effect when toggled on or off.

The label also makes it easier for users to understand the control and its purpose. The toggle labels should be short and direct, limiting the total number of words.

Use of high-contrast color is a good idea when designing toggles. Low-contrast colors can be confusing to users, and they often look bad on mobile devices. Using high-contrast color is especially important for toggles with small fonts and other small text.

When toggles are not in their default state, they should be displayed with a clear label. A clear label lets users know what the toggle will do when it’s flipped on or off.

Feature Toggles are a great way to manage feature flags and their configuration but it can be a challenge to keep track of them once they start showing up in production. This can be a real pain for teams, especially when they have to make changes to toggles on a frequent basis in their testing and CI/CD environments.

Many organizations move their toggle configuration into a centralized store, usually an application DB. This provides a centralized location for system operators, testers and product managers to view and modify features flags and their configuration.

Some teams also use a static configuration approach for their feature flags but this is not always the best practice, particularly when you reach a certain scale and want to ensure consistency across a fleet of servers. For this reason some organizations build a toggle override endpoint which allows for in-memory re-configuration of toggles at runtime.

It is also a good idea to test all of your toggle configurations before releasing them flipped On in production, and some teams also perform fall-back tests where they flip off all of their toggles. Performing these tests will help to ensure that any regressions are caught in time, and that any new codepaths are not causing unexpected surprises during the release process.

Another common practice is to put expiration dates on toggles, which can be a helpful way to ensure that toggles are removed when they’re no longer needed. Some teams even go so far as to create “time bombs” that will fail a test if they remain in the system after their expiration date has passed.

When developing a toggle switch, it’s essential to follow the same guidelines for other user-interface components such as buttons and sliders. The key is to provide direct labels, standard visual design, and immediate results. The toggle switch is a simple user-interface component that can make an important impact on the experience of your users, so it’s worth taking the time to think about how it will work in your application.