How to Design a WAI-ARIA Toggle

A toggle is a switch that has two positions, on and off. It can be used to turn on and off features, such as chat or video calls with multiple friends at once, or to change settings like brightness or background color. A toggle can also be used to switch between different views of the same information, such as a timeline or list of recent activity. Whether used to enable or disable features, toggles allow people to customize their experience without needing to edit code or ask a developer for help.

Feature toggles can be especially useful for teams that have limited resources or are new to feature management. They can be a way to encourage experimentation, and to avoid the “I don’t think that will work” mindset that often comes from fear of failing. Toggles also encourage collaboration between team members, as they can be an effective way to test out ideas and get immediate feedback from other engineers.

When designing a toggle, consider the colors you use. They should be high contrast to make it easy for users to discern state. It is also important to keep in mind the societal and cultural implications of these colors, so that they reflect the expectations of your audience. For example, red for the on position might be counterintuitive for users that associate it with stop signs or traffic signals.

Toggle switches should also have clear label text that conveys the binary action they perform. This text must be visible when the toggle is in its default state, and should also be present when it changes state. It is also helpful to include a tooltip that describes the action the toggle performs and what the current state of the switch is.

Finally, if a toggle is part of a group, be sure to provide a label via aria-label and/or aria-labelledby that communicates the collective meaning of the group. This will make it easier for users to understand what each individual button does within the group, and how it relates to the others in the group.

If you’re using a MatButtonToggle, it will automatically set the appropriate WAI-ARIA roles, states and properties for you. However, it’s still a good idea to specify a meaningful label via aria-label and aria-labelledby for each toggle, and to provide a mat-button-toggle-group> element with role=”toggle” that conveys the association between the toggle group and the content.

A toggle configuration living in static files becomes cumbersome at a certain scale, and many organizations opt to move their toggle configuration into some sort of centralized store — often an existing application DB. In these cases, they typically build out a form of admin UI that allows system operators, testers and product managers to view and modify the toggle configuration at scale. This allows them to see the current and historical state of the toggle configuration, and ensures consistency across the fleet of servers. It also helps teams to make consistent configuration decisions when it’s time to release a new version of their product.