What Is a Togle?

A toggle is a small switch that has two states — on or off. In everyday technology, toggles are found on devices like computers and smartphones. They can be used to turn on or off different features and settings, such as a screen saver or sound volume control. In software, toggles are used to test new functionality with a segment of users before it is rolled out to the entire user base.

Feature toggles are powerful tools in the continuous delivery toolbox and can be used for everything from experimentation to circuit breakers. They are especially well-suited for use in A/B tests because they bucket your users into two groups — if the toggle is flipped ON then your users will see the tested version of your application, and if it is flipped OFF then your users will see the original version without the tested functionality.

The term is also often used to refer to the act of switching back and forth between different settings or functions on a device or computer program. For example, the keyboard’s Caps Lock and Num Lock keys are toggles that enable or disable their respective functions.

Collapsible toggles and accordions can make long article content easier to navigate and read by reducing scrolling. They can also provide a way to organize the article content into sections that are relevant to visitors and their needs. However, it’s important to consider whether this type of content structure is the best fit for your audience. Some audiences may not want to scroll through a long page of content, and in these cases, a more traditional navigation element such as a table of contents or sidebar menu might be more appropriate.

While toggles can be effective in enabling a more diverse range of content options on a page, they can also create a cognitive burden for some users. This is because toggles typically don’t have any text to indicate that they are on or off, so they rely entirely on visual clues (e.g., an eye icon that turns opaque when the toggle is active) to convey that state. This can lead to cognitive overload if these visual cues aren’t carefully chosen and implemented.

The most common approach to managing toggle configuration is to hardcode it into your codebase using something like a preprocessor’s #ifdef feature, although other approaches are available as well. These can range from slightly more dynamic than the commenting approach to highly sophisticated and more robust solutions that require a more involved workflow in your CI/CD process.

Savvy teams understand that every toggle in their codebase comes with a carrying cost, and they are proactive about removing toggles when they no longer serve a purpose. Many teams have a policy of adding a toggle removal task to their backlog whenever a new toggle is introduced and some even put “expiration dates” on their toggles to ensure they are removed in a timely manner.