What Is a Toggle?

A toggle is a switch that allows you to alternate between two positions, such as on and off. You can use a toggle to control a light or a camera’s focus. You can also toggle an audio or video feed in a chat application. Toggle is a verb that means “to change position.”

A toggle (pronounced tog-gle) is used in interface design as a way to quickly switch between states. It’s typically a button that uses an icon to communicate its current state, and an interface text to describe what will happen when it is clicked. If the toggle is pressed, its appearance may be updated, such as by adding an overlay or changing the background color to indicate the toggle’s current state.

Toggles are a useful tool for displaying options without overwhelming the user with choices, especially on mobile devices where screen real estate is limited. However, it’s important to remember that toggle switches can still cause cognitive overload and that users may need a bit of help understanding what each state does. The best way to avoid this is by using toggles sparingly and in conjunction with other types of controls, such as checkboxes or radio buttons.

In addition to limiting the number of toggles on a page it’s also important to consider how they are configured. Ideally toggles should not require an additional click to apply the new state and should work immediately upon clicking. If immediate results are not possible due to system delays such as processing, then it’s better to replace the toggle with a button that will take the same action, such as a progress bar or an overlay.

Another option for configuring toggles is to use the preprocessor’s #ifdef feature (where available). This method can be useful for managing large numbers of feature flags and for enabling rapid re-configuration of existing toggles in production. This approach also offers the benefit of toggle configuration living side-by-side in source code which can be easily reconstructed for regression testing.

Toggle configurations should always be tested. It’s wise to test the toggle configuration that you expect to be live in production, plus any toggles that you intend to release flipped On and the fallback configuration where those toggles are flipped Off. Savvy teams view their feature flag inventory as a carrying cost and seek to keep this to a minimum by proactively removing toggles when they are no longer needed. Some teams even put expiration dates on their toggles to ensure they are removed from production by the time they reach the end of their shelf-life.