What Is a Toggle?

Toggle is a simple user interface control used to easily update preferences, settings, or other types of information. It is a binary action that delivers immediate results, allowing users to select either the on or off position. When using toggles, it is important to provide clear labels, use standard visual design, and to avoid ambiguity.

Toggles can be a great way to experiment with new ideas for improving the user experience of your site or app. By introducing a feature with a toggle, it becomes easier to test the impact of new features without changing existing workflows. For example, adding a toggle to enable or disable the auto-save of drafts allows you to test whether or not this will improve the user experience. By testing the effect of a toggle, you can decide whether to make the feature permanent or continue experimenting with other options.

A toggle can be either a hardware or software switch that has two positions, like the caps lock and num lock keys on your keyboard that allow you to turn on and off certain functions. This concept is also widely used in software, with most options menu items being toggles enabling or disabling specific features.

The term toggle can be used in a verb context as well, meaning “to alternate between positions,” such as switching back and forth from one screen to another during a video chat with two friends at once. Similarly, the word can describe how content on your website or app is structured—for example, by using collapsible sections that hide or show additional information.

When designing toggles, it is important to use high-contrast colors to indicate state change, and to evaluate the societal and cultural implications of the color choices for your target audience. Additionally, it is helpful to include an action label and a state descriptor next to the toggle to further clarify what each option does.

Ultimately, savvy teams view their release toggle configuration as inventory that comes with a carrying cost and seek to minimize it. To this end, they often add a task on their backlogs to remove toggles that have been in place for too long. Some even go so far as to create “expiration dates” for their toggles that will cause a test to fail if it attempts to run with the feature flag flipped on.

Toggles are great for enabling or disabling features, but they can also be used to display or hide UI elements in order to reduce visual noise or make an interface more focused. For example, a per-textbox toggle that hides article IDs would allow editors to focus on the content of an article instead of having to remember and constantly check for article IDs in their edit screens. This makes the editing process more efficient and ensures that the most important articles are always front and center. Toggles can also be a useful tool for minimizing screen clutter, especially in larger sites with many articles and pages.