What Is a Toggle?

Toggle is an interactive user-interface element that allows the user to select a desired state for an option item. It is found in many types of user interfaces, especially when there are options or preferences that can be flipped on or off, such as an “Off” and “On” switch or checkboxes for a radio button. The toggle can also be used in software to control a feature that is turned off by default, such as an option to hide unused elements.

In general computing, the word toggle refers to any switch that is initially off and when pressed will turn on an action or feature. For example, the caps lock and num lock keys on a keyboard are toggles that activate certain functions when pressed. The same concept is present in most options menus that are found in all forms of computer programs.

Toggles require clear, direct labels to ensure users understand what state the toggle is currently in, and what state it will be in when pressed again. In addition to providing the label, a visual cue should be included to help users determine whether the toggle is on or off, such as a check mark or an icon. This will make the toggle much more intuitive for users to use, as they will be able to see the current state of the toggle and understand what action it will take when pressed again.

It is also important to avoid using toggles in long forms or in places where users will have to click a Save or Confirm button for changes to take place, as the delay between pressing the toggle and receiving an immediate result may cause confusion for some users. It is better to replace toggle switches with a simple checkbox in these situations.

Another reason to avoid toggles is that they can be very cognitively difficult, particularly for users with low vision and mobility issues. This is because a toggle requires the user to press and hold a button for a longer period of time than a traditional checkbox or radio button. This can cause discomfort and lead to errors when done poorly.

Toggle switches can be a good solution when it is necessary to update preferences, settings, or other types of information. However, they should be used sparingly and only when it is possible to implement them in a way that provides immediate results. In all other cases, it is often more appropriate to use a simple checkbox or other user-interface element.

It is also important to consider how a toggle switch will be managed and configured at scale in an enterprise environment. For example, if toggle configuration is stored in static files then modifying the toggles at a large scale can become cumbersome, and it can be difficult to maintain consistency across environments. This can lead to a significant delay in the cycle time of testing and deployment, which can negatively impact the overall agility of a team and its processes.