How to Use Toggle Controls in Web Design

A toggle is a switch that has two states: on and off. It’s used in computer technology to turn specific functions on and off. For example, the keys on a keyboard that turn the Caps Lock and Num Lock functions ON or OFF are toggles. Toggles are also commonly found in options menus on software applications. Toggle switches should be used sparingly, and only when it’s necessary for users to update preferences or settings. When you do use them, provide direct labels and a visual design that signals the current state of the control. For instance, toggle switches should look like sliders and use a color that conveys its current state. It’s important to consider societal and cultural implications when using color for toggles, as some colors have negative connotations for certain groups of people.

The word toggle is also a verb, meaning “to shift or alternate between two things.” For example, you might toggle between streaming and map views on your favorite video game. You can also toggle between cameras on a social media app when you’re video chatting with multiple friends at once.

Unlike radio buttons, which can have multiple values and take up a lot of screen space, toggles are compact and clear in their function. They’re often preferred for adjusting system settings (i.e., ON or OFF) because they deliver immediate results.

In web design, toggles should be placed at the top of an interface, close to the user’s face, and should have clear visual cues that indicate their current state. Labels should clearly describe what the toggle will do when turned ON and be short and direct. For example, the label “Local Search” could read: “Show all results within my area.”

Toggle controls can be confusing for novices if they’re not implemented properly. Be sure to evaluate the context in which you’re using them, and be consistent in your usage of them across the site or application. Also, be aware that a toggle can be difficult to use on mobile devices because of the touch response time. When using a mobile device, consider using an animation to signal the current state of the toggle. This will help prevent accidental taps and allow the user to pause the interaction.