How to Design a Toggle

Toggle is a button or switch that allows you to move between two different modes, settings, or options. It is commonly used in technology, computing, programming, and communications to provide users with a simple way to manage features and configurations.

You can find toggles in various everyday technology devices such as computers, phones, and televisions. They can also be found in software applications such as email programs, social media platforms, and web browsers. Toggles are commonly used to allow users to select or change display preferences and to enable/disable features.

When designing a toggle, it is important to consider both the visual design and user experience. Toggle switches should be recognizable as such, and they should use clear visual signifiers to communicate their state. Using high contrast colors for on and off states can help to ensure that the toggles are clearly visible to users. Additionally, utilizing color to communicate state can be helpful for international users, as not all cultures associate the same meanings with on and off.

It is also important to keep the number of toggles in an application as low as possible. This helps to reduce the amount of complexity that needs to be managed by your team and can help to increase the speed at which you can make changes to your product.

If you do decide to implement toggles in your application it is important to develop a process for vetting when they are appropriate for a particular problem. It is also important to have a plan for managing the inventory of toggles, including how and when they will be decommissioned once their lifecycle has run its course. Doing this will help to avoid having idle toggles hanging around in your code that may be difficult to locate and debug should issues arise.

A common strategy for managing toggles involves hardcoding their configuration in the code, using a preprocessor feature such as #ifdef or the conditional compiler. This method is effective at a small scale, but it quickly becomes cumbersome as the number of toggles grows. It also restricts the ability to re-configure toggles dynamically, and requires that you follow a pattern of deploying code in order to trigger the change in behavior.

A better approach is to move toggle configuration into a centralized store, often an existing application DB, and build out some form of admin UI for system operators and testers to view and modify the toggles. This type of approach is more flexible and can be triggered at runtime, rather than requiring a pattern of deploying and re-deploying to trigger a change in behavior. For this reason it is often preferred to any approach that requires static file based management of toggle configuration.