A toggle is a button or switch that enables a user to change the state of a feature. Toggles are often used in software to update settings, preferences, or other types of information. When used correctly, toggles can help users quickly make changes without having to open a separate window or navigate through a complex menu. However, they must be used sparingly and carefully to avoid overwhelming the user with too many options and causing cognitive overload.
Toggles are generally considered to be better than checkboxes when adjusting system settings or preferences because they take up less screen space and come with a default state (ON or OFF). Unlike radio buttons, which require the user to select one of two alternatives, toggles can enable multiple states. However, they can still be confusing for users because they only allow a binary choice of on/off, and the current state must be explicitly indicated.
Despite the clear benefits of using toggles, it is important for teams to remember that they must be used cautiously and with consistent user evaluation. For example, a toggle that uses a red color to indicate the current state can be especially difficult for users who are blind or visually impaired. The use of high-contrast colors and clear labels are recommended, as is the use of a standardized visual design for toggles.
Savvy teams view the toggle configurations in their codebase as inventory that comes with a carrying cost and seek to keep this inventory low. To this end, some teams have rules that ensure a toggle is removed from the release schedule once it has been in production for some time. Others put “expiration dates” on their toggles and create “time bombs” in their test suites that will fail a build or even prevent a test from starting if the toggle has expired.