What is a Toggle?

A toggle is a switch with two positions, on and off. It can also refer to an action or a verb, the way you might toggle between different screens as you video chat with two friends at once. Toggle is an interesting word that has multiple meanings and contexts.

One of the primary benefits of a toggle is that it enforces a binary state: either something is on or off. This helps us understand the current state of a feature and allows us to make changes that are immediately visible. This is in stark contrast to radio buttons and checkboxes which do not automatically update. This is why toggles tend to be more effective at communicating a change in state than other interface elements like sliders and dropdown menus.

In software development a toggle is generally used to manage features which may be exposed or hidden to users. There are a number of ways to manage the configuration of a toggle ranging from simple and static approaches to more dynamic and complex options. Toggle configuration is often stored in some type of centralized store, typically an existing application DB, and managed via an admin UI which is accessible to system operators, testers and product managers.

The word toggle is also commonly used to describe a process of changing states from one to the other, such as a user’s experience with a website or app. This can be done using different interface components such as sliders, checkboxes or radio buttons. However, it is important to consider the impact of these different experiences on a user’s perception of the system and the way they interact with it.

While it is tempting to use a toggle to represent a feature which may be switched on or off by the user, in some cases this can lead to confusion and frustration. To avoid this, it is best to use a toggle only where the current state is obvious to the user. This can be achieved by providing clear labels, avoiding complex visual design and ensuring that the toggle is always easily accessible.

Another consideration is the use of color to indicate the current state of a toggle. It is important to remember that not all users have the same experience with colors and it is particularly problematic for those who have a red/green color vision deficiency. Therefore, it is often recommended to use high-contrast colors and avoid relying solely on color to convey a toggle’s state.