How to Design Accessible Toggles

A toggle (also called toggle switch or toggle button) is a control that allows users to easily select from two different states — typically ON and OFF. They are the perfect solution when you want to give users a simple choice between system settings or preferences. It’s also often the best option when space is limited as it takes less screen real estate than a checkbox.

Toggles are heavily used in modern interfaces but many of them are often made inaccessible. For example, they may not always be clearly marked as active or inactive and can have a hard time displaying their state when there are multiple options in the same list. This is why it’s important to keep accessibility in mind when designing your toggle switches.

In this article, I’ll show you a simple HTML + CSS only implementation of an accessible toggle that you can use right away in your projects. We’ll also explore the design and behavioral aspects of toggles to help you make better decisions when designing your own.

The word toggle is most commonly associated with a pin passed through the eye of a rope to secure it round a stay, mast or other object. However, it’s also a verb meaning to switch between tasks and actions. For example, you might toggle between the ‘Favorite’ and ‘Recently Deleted’ folders in your email client or toggle between streams as you video chat with two friends at once.

Similarly, in software development a toggle is a method of managing features via a toggle configuration file that enables developers to change the behavior of certain codepaths for a selected cohort of users at runtime. This is the foundation of most A/B testing tools and allows designers and product managers to make data-driven optimizations in their apps and websites.

One of the main challenges when using toggles is making it clear to users what their current state is – and this is especially difficult on mobile devices. A good way to achieve this is by using a clear label, which describes both the action that will happen when the toggle is in its ON state and what it looks like currently (e.g. Airplane Mode ON).

Another important consideration is how long it takes for the toggle to change state. If the change takes too much time, you can improve user experience by adding a progress bar or a processing status loop animation. Finally, it’s important to avoid using embossment as the primary visual cue for an active toggle. In our tests, this has proved to be unreliable and it’s usually more effective to use a combination of other visual cues, such as a bold-thin font or color fill.