What Is a Toggle?

A toggle is a switch that has two positions, on and off. It is used to move back and forth between settings or programs, like the way you toggle the video camera on a Skype call. It can also be used to move between two different views on a screen or interface. For example, you might toggle between a map and stream view on a video chat.

A physical toggle is a rod-shaped button that you push into a larger buttonhole or loop to fasten it. The word comes from the 18th century, when it was defined as “a pin passed transversely through an eye or loop in a chain or rope so as to bind it temporarily.”

Savvy teams treat their toggle inventory as an asset that comes with a carrying cost, and they strive to keep that inventory low. This is especially important when they are using Toggle to perform experimentation or canary releases on their product. A Canary Release is a special category of Feature Flag that is rolled out to a very small cohort of users. It is often accompanied by an Experiment Toggle that will be flipped to the On position for some of those users and then flipped off for the rest. The results of a Canary Release can be measured against the results of an Experiment Toggle to see which one is more effective.

In the context of user interfaces, toggle buttons are most useful for controls that have a clear and obvious effect when flipped to the on position. They are generally not appropriate for controls that require a user to click Save or Submit, as these are typically better served by radio buttons or checkboxes. Toggle buttons are also not well-suited for controls that change their state based on input (such as an input field or radio button), which are better handled by the input> element and its aria-pressed attribute.

The choice of which color to use as the indicator for a toggle is critical. A high-contrast color is preferred, as this makes it easier for the user to discern which button is active. It is also a good idea to include text or other visual cues next to the toggle to provide additional information about its current state. Finally, designers should consider the societal and cultural implications of their choice of indicator color, as it can have an impact on the usability of the control.

In some cases, a toggle may be a transitional design element that will eventually be replaced by something else. This is often the case with features that are aimed at improving product performance, such as making an interface more responsive or simplifying the navigation of an application. In these cases, the team will usually be able to replace the toggle with the new design without needing to roll out an entire product release. In other cases, a toggle may be a permanent replacement for an existing feature.