Disadvantages of Toggle Switches

Toggle is a simple switch with two states, on or off. It is a common UI element found in many settings and options menus. Toggles are often used in place of radio buttons or checkboxes because they offer the same functionality in a more compact form factor. However, toggles have a few disadvantages. They are difficult to understand for users that are unfamiliar with them and require more cognitive effort to use. They also can create visual confusion if not designed with consistency and usability in mind. Lastly, toggles can be confusing for users with accessibility needs, especially those using screen readers and other assistive technologies that rely on color to convey meaning.

Toggles can be great when used sparingly and with good context. They can be an effective way to update preferences, settings and other types of information without making the user go through a long form or list of options. In these cases, the toggle should provide direct labels, utilize standard visual design, and deliver immediate results. When we do use toggle switches, it is important to evaluate the user experience and ensure that we are delivering consistent, intuitive results.

A toggle can also be an effective mechanism for implementing A/B testing or other data-driven optimizations. In these instances, the toggle will consistently send a user down one codepath or another, based on their membership in a particular cohort. By tracking the aggregate behavior of these cohorts, we can make data-driven decisions about how to best optimize a system or website.

Unfortunately, too many web developers and designers use toggles because they are familiar with them from their desktop or mobile applications. Unfortunately, too few of them have taken the time to understand their limitations and how to implement them correctly to ensure that they are accessible for all users. This is a shame, because it is possible to implement toggles in ways that are accessible to people with disabilities and who use assistive technologies.

Ideally, the configuration of toggles should be managed with a centralized location. This will allow team members to easily see and modify toggle settings. In most cases, this will be in the form of an existing application DB or some other type of centralized management. Commenting the configuration into source code can be cumbersome at a certain scale, and does not allow for dynamic re-configuration of the flags (for less dynamic flags). As a result, many organizations will choose to deploy a form of admin UI or similar tool to manage their toggle configuration.