What Is a Toggle?

A toggle is a switch between two settings or functions. Often used in software as part of an options or preferences list, the toggle can be either on or off. This simple concept is widely implemented throughout computer hardware, for example in the physical switches on a keyboard that turn on or off things like Caps Lock and Num Lock. It is also seen in the software context where we can toggle between various modes in an application, for example a document editing view and a map viewing mode.

In general, we use toggles to make it easier for users to update their preferences and settings. For this reason, it’s important to think carefully about the wording of your toggles and how they are applied. Toggles that are used to make sweeping changes should be avoided, as they can cause confusion and lead to frustration for users. Toggle switches should be clearly labeled, and if possible should utilize standard visual design to make it easy for users to understand their meaning. It is also important to consider the cultural and societal implications of your toggle colors, as different cultures may associate some color signals with negative or positive meanings.

For example, a red toggle could signal to some that the system is in danger or could crash. On the other hand, a green toggle might indicate that the system is safe and working correctly. In addition to these societal issues, it is important to evaluate the technical considerations of your toggle colors as well. Using high-contrast colors that are easy to recognize and identify can help to prevent any potential confusion or frustration that might be caused by the color choice.

When it comes to implementing feature toggles in your development process, there are many different options. Feature toggles can be applied to support newer agile development models by allowing your team to write and test new features without creating a separate code branch. This can allow you to continue making improvements to your existing product while delivering on your delivery targets.

Toggles can also be used to implement experimentation or A/B testing. For example, an ecommerce company might decide to split their configurator into two cohorts and see which algorithm performs better at driving conversions. Then once they have the data they can decide to remove the experiment toggle and permanently deploy the better performing algorithm. In some cases, a release toggle will need to stick around for a longer period of time. However, it is a good idea to keep these toggles transitionary by rolling out new releases whenever the toggle configuration is changed.