What Is a Toggle?

Toggle (pronounced tog-l) is a user interface element that lets people manage the state of a setting or view. When a toggle is clicked, it’s turned on; when it’s pressed again, it’s turned off. Toggles are often used to allow users to update their preferences, but they can also be applied when a control needs to act immediately, without requiring a save or submit action. They are also sometimes used as an alternative to radio buttons and checkboxes.

Historically, toggles have been physical items — the kind of fastener that binds two ends of a chain or rope together to secure it around something else, like a mast or bight. In the 18th century, the word was also used for a type of up-and-down switch, such as the one on a desk lamp. Today, toggle refers to software-based options menus or other kinds of controls that have a clear on/off pattern. The caps lock and num lock keys on keyboards are examples of hardware toggles, while software toggles tend to be found in settings menus.

A toggle is a kind of control that’s easy to use but can cause cognitive problems if not designed well. For example, the toggle button that has a dark background and a filled background is hard for some users to read. This is because the darker color cues the user that the toggle is active while the lighter color cues the user that the toggle switch is inactive. The result is that the users have to spend more time thinking about the toggle to figure out what it does, and their error rate increases as a consequence.

The solution is to make sure that your toggle switches are labelled clearly, look like sliders, and have visual design elements that indicate their current state. For instance, when a toggle is switched on, it should move; when the toggle is switched off, it should be hidden. If you’re using toggles to allow users to update their preferences, make sure the labels are direct and descriptive.

Toggles are an excellent user interface tool when you want to create an interactive experience for your site visitors. However, they should be used sparingly — in most cases, it may be better to opt for a different control. For example, if you need to let people choose from multiple options, radio buttons or checkboxes may be more appropriate. Alternatively, you can use the Toggle extension to transform standard ordered (ol>) and unordered (ul>) lists created in the article editor into collapsible and expandable sections. Toggle is available as a free, open source plugin for WordPress. The developer of the project has released a demo version that can be downloaded from Github. The demo includes a number of examples that demonstrate how you can use the plugin to add toggles to your website or blog. The full documentation for the Toggle plugin is also available on the project’s homepage. The Toggle extension is available for all WordPress users and can be enabled in the admin under the Appearance menu.