Daily Archives: April 15, 2024

How to Design a Toggle Switch

A toggle is a software or hardware control that enforces a mutually exclusive state, such as on/off. It lets users change a setting, preference or other aspect of an experience without needing to press a Save or Submit button to apply the new state. For instance, toggles are often used to turn on or off things like the Caps Lock or Num Lock key on keyboards. They are also commonly found in options menus for various applications and services.

While toggles have their place, they can sometimes be confusing for users if they are not designed well. This is because they do not have the advantage of a label that clearly states if something is on or off. This forces us to rely on other visual cues, such as color, to make it obvious to the user whether or not a toggle is currently active. When used poorly, this can do more harm than good.

When picking colors for toggles, designers should be mindful of WCAG guidelines and consider cultural differences as well. For example, if your audience associates red with stop signs or traffic lights then using that color for the on position may cause confusion. It’s important to use high-contrast colors and provide clear labels that describe what the current state is.

Toggle switches are a useful tool for providing immediate results. However, it is best to use them when they can be applied without the need for additional input. When this is not possible, then checkboxes or radio buttons are the better option.

In addition, it is good to limit the number of toggles used in a product. Too many can increase a product’s complexity and decrease its performance. When a toggle is dynamic and it needs to be fetched from a database, this can lead to thousands or even millions of database calls for one rarely changing value. Toggles should be used sparingly, if at all, and they should always be considered a risky feature that can have unexpected consequences for the user.

Moreover, when creating toggles as a part of bug fixes, it is good to consider case-by-case whether they are necessary. Fixing bugs is always a risky task and it can be hard to predict whether or not the fix will actually improve the experience for users. Therefore, it is usually safer to leave a bugged behavior as-is and create a toggle for future updates instead of dogmatically adding the toggle every time a bug is fixed.

In short, toggles can be cognitively okay if they are used sparingly, consistently and with clear labels. They should be applied only when there are clear options that the user can choose between, and when their effect is immediate. If you are considering using them on your website or app, then keep these tips in mind to avoid confusion and ambiguity! Good luck!