Best Practices When Using Toggle Controls

A toggle is a switch that can be set to either on or off. It is most often used to enable or disable features in software, but it can also be found in hardware such as phones, tablets and cars. The word is derived from the verb toggle, meaning to shift back and forth between two states. Toggle switches are easy to use and provide immediate results. However, they do have their limitations. When using them, make sure you understand the context and follow best practices to avoid confusion for your users.

Toggles are useful for updating preferences, settings and other types of information. Unlike other form controls such as checkboxes and radio buttons, toggles do not force users to save or confirm changes. However, they do require that users tap the toggle to change its state. When this happens, it is important to let the user know that their action has been taken and the toggle is now in a different state. Toggle switches are best used in forms with short durations. Longer forms may be better served by a Submit button that requires user confirmation before applying new values.

Toggle switches can be confusing to use if the label is unclear or the visual design is inconsistent. Make sure the label identifies what the toggle is controlling and explains the current state. Avoid using words such as On and Off unless the toggle is truly on or off. Instead, use words such as Yes and No to ensure that the user knows what the toggle is doing right now. Also, make sure the toggle uses a high contrast color to indicate its state. Also consider societal and cultural implications when choosing colors as they might have different meanings for your users.

If you are using a toggle to perform multivariate or A/B testing with your feature flags then be sure to test each of the codepaths that will be triggered by the toggle when it is flipped on. This will help prevent you from running into regressions in production when you deploy the toggle to a new cohort of users.

The best way to test a toggle configuration is to use a real distributed system of runtime configuration that supports Toggle configurations and can be re-configured per request. This type of system is typically known as a Champagne Brunch or Canary Release and can be very useful in reducing the time needed to validate a toggle configuration before it goes live in production.

Toggle switches are an excellent choice when you need to update your application’s preferences, settings and other information quickly. Use them sparingly and wisely to improve the user experience of your products. When you do, be sure to provide clear labels, standard visual design, and deliver immediate results. This will ensure that your users can easily make the right decisions. Using these principles will help you to create toggles that delight your users.