What Is a Toggle?

A Toggle is a simple user interface element that allows the user to instantly switch an option between two possible states. Toggles are often used to update preferences, settings and other types of information. They are also commonly found in the options menus of many applications.

A toggle can be either a small or a large version. When using a large toggle, it is best to display label text along with the action text so that the state of the toggle can be understood at a glance. Small toggles are used when space is restricted or in cases where a large toggle may be too visually overwhelming.

Depending on the context and the use case, toggles can be used in combination with other components to create Toggle Groups. These are useful when a selection of options should be on or off at once (eg, playing music during gameplay). Toggles are also commonly used for confirmation actions such as reading legal disclaimers.

There are a number of ways to manage toggle configuration ranging from simple commenting through to sophisticated approaches such as the preprocessor’s #ifdef feature. The more sophisticated approaches tend to be better suited for Feature Toggles where re-configuration is expected to happen frequently. The commenting approach is simpler but it’s not as dynamic as a fully managed toggle.

A savvy team will be proactive in removing old toggles as they become obsolete or are no longer necessary. Taking this approach avoids leaving old code in the product and also helps prevent accidental re-use of a toggle in production that was originally created for testing purposes. Some teams even have a rule of adding a toggle removal task to the team’s backlog whenever a new toggle is first introduced.

When designing a Toggle, designers must keep in mind that colors can have a significant impact on the user’s understanding of the toggle’s state. For example, if the toggle’s state is displayed in a low-contrast color, it can be difficult to determine whether it is currently on or off. This can be further complicated when evaluating societal and cultural differences around the use of certain colors as signifiers for specific states.

When using a Toggle, it is important to remember that a toggle does not support input when in its off-state. If the toggle is being used to confirm an action that requires an input, a separate input control should be provided. For instance, if a Toggle is being used to confirm that a user has read a disclaimer, a checkbox might be a more appropriate tool. In addition, a Toggle should not be used to implement a user experience that depends on user interaction. For instance, a Toggle that is being used to track user progress in a game should be removed from the page when the game is closed. This would make the progress unreliable and frustrating for users. A similar issue can occur with Toggles that are being used to gather user feedback or analytics.