How to Design a Toggle

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The word toggle comes from the Middle English verb togglen, meaning to turn, or to move back and forth between two positions or states, such as turning a light on and off or shifting between screen modes in a video game. The word has been used in a number of ways throughout the years, but it is most commonly referred to as a hardware switch or a software button that allows users to shift between options or settings.

When used in software, toggles are typically paired with an interface icon that communicates what the control is supposed to do and a label that describes its current state. These elements are important to keep in mind when designing a toggle. Because a toggle has only two possible states, users must be able to clearly understand its current position in order to interact with it. Toggles are a great choice when changing system settings, preferences, or other state-based functionality as they take up less screen real estate than radio buttons. However, they are not suited for when the user is deciding whether to accept or reject a feature. This is where a checkbox or radio button would be better.

In addition to having an interface icon and label, a good toggle will also update its appearance based on its current state. This helps people recognize the state the toggle is currently in and provides a visual cue to remind them that they need to interact with it. When designing a toggle, it is also important to follow WCAG guidelines regarding the use of color. A toggle should never rely on color alone to convey its state, as this violates WCAG point 1.4.1. Lastly, it is best practice to use an uncluttered design when creating a toggle. If a toggle contains a lot of information or images it may be difficult for people to navigate and interpret.

Often, toggles are created as a form of feedback to indicate that a change has been made. The purpose of this feedback is to let the user know that a change has been made and what the effect of the change will be. This helps reduce user confusion and ensures that the toggle is functioning properly.

Another way of managing a toggle’s configuration is to hardcode it directly into source code. This can be an acceptable option for certain types of toggles such as Ops Toggles, but it should only be used where there is a clear plan to regularly roll out a release that includes the toggle’s configuration change. This approach has the additional benefit of being able to easily verify that the toggle is indeed in a given state.