Using Toggle Controls in Mobile Apps and Websites

A toggle is a switch that has two positions, on or off. It is commonly used to control settings and preferences in mobile apps or websites. However, it is important to use toggles sparingly and only when they make sense. In some cases, a checkbox or radio button might be better options for the task at hand. If a toggle is used in the wrong context, it can lead to confusion and frustration for users.

Toggles are best suited for adjusting system settings or preferences (i.e. states of system functionalities). For example, a toggle is the right control when you want to allow users to turn the Airplane Mode ON or OFF. They are also preferable to use on mobile since they take up less screen space than a pair of radio buttons and enforce a mutually exclusive state.

When using toggles, always provide direct labels and ensure they have a consistent visual design to prevent them from confusing users. Additionally, if possible, toggles should deliver immediate results when pressed. If you are unable to offer immediate results, consider adding a processing status loop animation to explain the current state of the toggle.

Another thing to keep in mind when using toggles is that they should not be confused with links or buttons. It is important to design them with enough contrast in order for users to easily discern their current state. It’s also worth considering WCAG guidelines when deciding on color, as not all users will respond to the same colors in the same way.

When it comes to managing feature flags there are a number of different approaches to consider. Some teams prefer to hardcode the toggle configuration into their codebase while others use a feature flag service for more dynamic re-configuration. In either case, savvy teams will view their toggle inventory as an asset with a carrying cost and strive to keep it low.

Toggle configuration can be hardcoded into the codebase through comments, an if statement or by using a preprocessor’s #ifdef feature. However, this method is limited in its flexibility and is only suitable for a small set of scenarios. Savvy teams will often add a task to their backlog to remove a toggle that is no longer in use after it is first introduced while others will put “expiration dates” on their toggles that will fail tests or even refuse to start the application if they haven’t been re-configured for a certain amount of time.

When used correctly, toggles can be an effective way to implement data-driven features in production. Just be sure to evaluate the situation, provide clear, direct labels, and always deliver immediate results. By following these best practices, you can avoid creating a user experience disaster. The next time you find yourself thinking about implementing a toggle, remember these tips and you’ll be well on your way to a more successful UX. Good luck!