What Is a Toggle?

A toggle is a pin, bolt, or rod passed transversely through a eye or loop in a rope or chain to bind it temporarily, as in a cordlock toggle, used for stopping a drawstring. The word is also used for a type of switch, especially in computer technology. For example, the key that turns your caps lock on or off is a toggle. It’s also a verb meaning “to move or switch repeatedly between two things,” as in toggling between two screens when video chatting with two friends at once.

The most common use of the toggle is in user interfaces, where it’s an easy way to adjust options, settings, or preferences. Because they’re usually labeled clearly, have only two opposing states, and deliver immediate results, toggle switches are better than other types of controls such as radio buttons or checkboxes in applications where users need to select a yes or no answer.

Toggles should be placed at the top of the screen when possible, where they’re easily accessible, to avoid unnecessary tapping or scrolling. The default toggle state should be ON unless otherwise specified by the user, and designers should consider using different visual signifiers to differentiate the ON from the OFF state. The design of the toggle should be consistent with other user-interface components, such as sliders, and should provide clear labels that describe what option will be selected when the toggle is in the ON state. Designers should also evaluate societal and cultural differences when choosing colors to signal state changes.

As with any other kind of control, it’s important to test how users interact with the toggle before implementing it in production. For instance, it’s a good idea to use a toggle only when the option that it’s controlling is something that can be changed by an on/off switch—for example, turning on or off a flashlight or a camera’s flash. When the toggle’s function is to change a predetermined value, such as changing from an airplane mode to a normal internet connection, a button with a pre-selected default ON or OFF state should be used instead of a toggle switch.