What Is a Toggle?

Toggle is a small piece of wood or plastic that is pushed through a loop or hole to fasten it. The word can also refer to a function that switches between two states, such as when you toggle between screens while video chatting with two people at once. It’s often used as a verb, as in “I toggled the com to talk to air traffic control.”

In software and technology, a toggle is a switch that changes a setting from one state to another. It’s typically found in options menus and settings pages, as well as any interface that requires users to choose between two actions. The term can also refer to a physical device that changes a system’s state, like a cord lock toggle.

Toggles are generally preferred over radio buttons because they take up less screen space and have a clearer default state when untouched. Depending on the context, however, it may be more appropriate to use a checkbox instead of a toggle if the user must choose between two options.

For toggles to be effective, they must be clear and unambiguous. This is especially important on mobile devices, where users have smaller screens and less space to work with. Designers should also consider the societal and cultural implications of using particular colors to convey toggle status. For example, using red to indicate a toggle is on can be confusing for users who have color blindness or associate the colour with stop signs and traffic signals. In these cases, it’s a good idea to add clear labels next to the toggle to help clarify its state.

The last thing to consider when designing toggles is that they must be accessible for users with accessibility needs. Sadly, many designers and developers forget that their toggles might not be visible to users with visual impairments or motor disabilities. In addition to making sure the toggle is clearly marked, it’s also important to make sure that its labeling doesn’t cause confusion for these users by using high contrast colours and avoiding the use of colors that can trigger associations with other meanings (e.g. green for on and red for off).

If a toggle configuration is dynamic, the process of flipping it between states must be automated so that it can be tested and debugged in the same environment as the rest of the product. This can be a challenge, particularly in shared environments where it might not be practical to restart a process or re-deploy an artifact just to test a single toggle configuration. In these situations, it’s a good idea to implement an in-memory re-configuration feature that can be triggered by a manual override. This can be accomplished with a number of different approaches, ranging from simple comment-based hardcoding to full-blown distributed configuration systems.