Why a Toggle Shouldn’t Be Used
Toggle is a control that allows users to switch between states. When a toggle is set to the On position it means that the feature is enabled and when it is set to the Off position the feature is disabled. Toggles are used in a wide variety of interfaces where there are options or preferences that can be enabled or disabled. They are especially useful for adjusting settings on mobile devices where there is limited screen space and a toggle takes up less space than two radio buttons or a checkbox.
A toggle is a great control for changing state of system functionality like turning Airplane mode ON or OFF. It’s also a good choice when adjusting an option that doesn’t require users to make a binary decision (like turning off cookies). However, there are many situations where a toggle shouldn’t be used. Toggle switches aren’t always intuitive and they can cause confusion if they don’t use visual cues to convey their current state. Toggles can also be difficult to read and interpret if the colors aren’t high contrast or they are surrounded by other visual elements that have meaning.
The most common problem with toggles is that it is hard for users to understand which side a switch should be on. Toggle switches need to be clearly labeled and the labels should clearly describe what action the toggle will take when it is activated. The best way to avoid confusion is to ensure the toggle looks like a slider and uses movement and color to indicate its active state.
We ran a user study on four toggles where we varied the size of the text in the active and inactive states. The toggles that had the smallest difference in font performed the worst, with an error rate of almost 15% and a confidence score of only 0.63. This is because the toggles were so similar that users didn’t trust their instincts to tell which side of the switch was active.
Another issue with toggles is that it’s easy to confuse them with other types of controls, like radio buttons or checkboxes. Users can mistakenly think that a toggle is ON or OFF when it is actually enabling or disabling an existing feature. To prevent this from happening, designers need to make sure that the toggle is clearly labeled and doesn’t look like any other control.
Finally, it’s important to test the toggle configuration that you expect to live in production. This means testing the toggles which you are releasing flipped On as well as testing the fallback configuration of those toggles which will be flipped Off. It’s also a good idea to test some of the release features with all of the toggles flipped ON to see how the new behavior performs in conjunction with other existing or legacy codepaths. If you do all of this testing it’s unlikely that a released toggle will have any unintended negative consequences for your users.