What Is a Toggle?

A toggle is a piece of hardware or software that switches between two states: ON and OFF. They’re commonly used in settings or preferences menus where users are able to choose between different options. For example, the Caps Lock and Num Lock keys on a keyboard are toggles for those specific functions. In software, toggles are often found when adjusting the state of a feature such as whether a website shows or hides ads.

One of the primary purposes of a toggle is to create consistency across an interface or set of features. This allows the user to change an experience with a single button press without needing to re-configure settings in their browser or app. Toggle switches also tend to be smaller in size than radio buttons and take up less screen real estate on mobile devices. As with other UI controls, there are some best practices for using toggles.

In addition to helping users switch between states a well designed toggle should be clearly labeled so that it is easy to understand what it does and its current state. Toggle switches are typically labelled with a simple, direct phrase that describes the function it performs. Avoid phrases like “Enable or disable,” as they can be confusing and obscure the actual functionality of a control.

Toggle switches are frequently used in A/B testing to make data-driven changes to features or flow in a system. By using an experiment toggle to send a given cohort down one codepath or another it becomes possible to measure the effect of that change on a larger population and then make a decision about which variant to roll out.

A common approach to managing Feature Toggles is by hardcoding them into the codebase. This can be done in a variety of ways from the simple commenting approach which isn’t very dynamic through to using the #ifdef feature of a preprocessor to do some more sophisticated hardcoding. This isn’t a great option in most cases as it doesn’t allow for the re-configuration of a toggle on a per-request basis and can quickly become cumbersome as an application scales.

Savvy teams will keep the inventory of Feature Toggles low by proactively removing toggles when they’re no longer needed. Toggle removal can be a regular task on a team’s backlog or can even be built into the release process with a feature flag having an expiration date that will trigger a test to fail (or refuse to start an application!) if the toggle is still active after the specified time period.

Split is a feature management platform that attributes insightful data to everything your team releases. Whether you’re rolling out a Canary Release, experimenting with Champagne Brunch or just doing some small batch work, Split helps you manage your Feature Toggles and maximize the impact of every release. Get started with a free account or schedule a demo to learn more about our solution.