What Is a Toggle?

A toggle is a switch that allows the user to select a state of a feature. Toggle switches are usually found in settings menus in software programs and can be turned on and off by the user. This control is more commonly used than a checkbox because it only has two outcomes (on and off).

A Toggle can be combined with other controls into a Toggle Group, in which case the toggle will be displayed as an icon with its label followed by the Toggle Group description. A toggle can also have Transition Options, which determines the way that the toggle reacts visually when its value changes.

Historically, the word toggle has been used to describe pins that are passed through an eye or loop in a chain or rope to hold it fast, as well as other kinds of up-and-down switches such as those on bicycles or airplanes. More recently, the word has been applied to computer hardware and software as a way to turn on or off different functions, such as the Caps Lock and Num Lock keys on a keyboard.

On a website, toggles help users update preferences, settings, and other types of information. They’re preferred over radio buttons because they are more easily understood by users (no ambiguity about which side to press), and they allow for greater flexibility in the layout of a page because toggles don’t need space for a text description like a checkbox does. However, when used improperly, toggles can lead to confusion and annoyance for users. To avoid this, toggles should always be accompanied by clear labels and use standard visual design (e.g., a slider-looking icon).

Toggles are good for simple settings or confirming actions, such as clicking a box to agree to terms and conditions or verifying that a user has read legal disclaimers. They’re also a great alternative to dropdown menus because they take up less screen estate than two radio buttons.

In addition to their ability to change the state of an option, toggles can also be used as a form element to collect user input in a linear fashion. This is especially useful in mobile applications where users often need to input multiple pieces of data in a small amount of space.

Ultimately, the best way to make toggles work is to test them in real life. Once they’re in production, it’s important to be consistent and predictable with their behavior. Toggles that are used in the same context should look and behave the same. This consistency will make the user experience feel more natural and recognizable. As with all design decisions, the goal should be to find the right balance between consistency and flexibility. With this in mind, consider introducing a few toggles into your design over the next few months and watch your user feedback to see how they perform. For more on user testing, please refer to our article: Testing User Experience Designs: How to Plan and Run User Research.