What Is a Toggle?

A toggle is a pin passed transversely through the eye of a rope or the like, to bind it temporarily. Similarly, the word toggle is also used to describe any up-and-down switch. For instance, the cap lock key on your computer is a toggle that can be switched from one position to another, allowing you to lock and unlock your keyboard as needed. The toggle design pattern is widely used in interfaces to allow users to easily control or hide elements. It is often combined with other UI elements such as accordions, popups, and tabs to provide users with more flexibility for controlling the content of their experience.

TechCrunch reports on a new startup called Toggle that is developing software and hardware to help manufacturers automate the process of building construction projects. Its flagship product is an application that can turn CAD drawings into automated robotic manufacturing programs for rebar fabrication. The company has raised a Series A round of financing to support its expansion efforts, including plans for a new production facility and growing the team.

Toggle uses a standard button> element to implement its API, but the toggle behavior can be applied to any widget or HTML element using the uk-toggle attribute. When this attribute is applied to a button>, the toggle will apply its state to all children of that button. If the toggle is flipped off then all children will be hidden. This is an effective way to create a per-widget or per-page feature that is easy for the user to activate and deactivate.

For a toggle to work properly it needs to be labeled correctly, and in a way that reflects its purpose. The labels should clearly communicate what the toggle will do when it is activated and be easily understandable. They should not be neutral or ambiguous and it is helpful to include visual cues, such as movement and color, to avoid confusion.

Many teams make it a practice to ensure all toggle configurations are testable before they are deployed to production. This can be a challenge if your system for managing toggles doesn’t support dynamic in-memory re-configuration. In these cases it may be necessary to hardcode the toggle configuration into source code or use preprocessor directives such as #ifdef. This is generally only acceptable for Ops Toggles or experiment toggles where the toggling decision won’t be changed much after it is rolled out to production, but is not recommended for release toggles.

Savvy teams view their release toggles as inventory that comes with a carrying cost, and seek to keep this inventory to a minimum. To do this they are proactive in removing toggles when they are no longer needed, and even go so far as to put expiration dates on some of them. Some teams will add a task to their backlog for removing a release toggle when it is no longer needed, while others will build in time bombs that will fail a test (or even prevent the app from starting!) if a toggle has not been removed before its scheduled expiration date.