What Is a Toggle?

A toggle (also known as a rocker switch) is a type of switch used in various technology devices to control settings and features. A toggle is usually an on-off switch that can be changed from one state to another by pressing on the top of the switch or moving the switch in a certain direction.

In user interface design, toggles are typically used to make system settings or preferences visible and accessible. For example, toggle switches on mobile devices enable the user to set Airplane Mode ON or OFF. Toggles are more intuitive than radio buttons and can require less screen space to use. However, the main benefit of toggles is that they are very clear to users when their state has changed. This is why using high contrast colors and state descriptors can be effective in making a toggle switch easy to understand and interpret.

Toggles are also very effective for implementing feature experiments or A/B tests. By configuring a toggle to have two states (Off or On) and then deploying that toggle to different cohorts of users you can measure the effectiveness of a specific code path or change. This can be used to test things like a new button color or the wording of a Call To Action.

A common approach to managing toggle configuration is via a static file or set of files. This method can work well at a relatively small scale but becomes cumbersome as an organization grows. It is also difficult to track changes across a fleet of servers or to ensure that toggles are configured consistently. For these reasons most organizations opt to migrate to a centralized Toggle Configuration store. This may be an existing application DB or it could be a purpose built solution such as Split.

A centralized Toggle Configuration store offers many benefits. It provides a consistent and easy way to manage toggle configuration. It also allows for more detailed logging and reporting. Additionally, most implementations of a Toggle Configuration Store will include some form of admin UI which can be used by system operators, testers and product managers to view and modify the state of Feature Flags. This is especially important for more long-lived Feature Toggles such as Permissioning Toggles which may live for days or weeks at a time, or even semi-permanently. This approach can be a good compromise between the flexibility of dynamic configuration and the stability of a static configuration.