Best Practices for Creating Toggle Controls

A toggle is a switch that has two positions: on and off. Whether we’re talking about an electrical switch or the ability to video chat with two friends at once, we use toggles all the time. And while these simple user-interface elements can be used in many different ways, they’re typically used to update preferences, settings, and other types of information.

But while toggles are an effective tool for doing this, they can also be a source of confusion and frustration for users. In order to prevent this from happening, designers should think about the context and user goals of the interface before deciding to use toggles. In addition to that, they should avoid using ambiguous labels and ensure that the toggles have clear visual cues to differentiate their states.

This is the first of our series of articles on user experience best practices, where we will explore different UX topics and share tips and tricks that can help you improve your site or app. Today’s topic is all about Toggle, so let’s get started!

In computer technology, the word toggle can refer to hardware or software switches. For example, the Caps Lock and Num Lock keys are both toggles, allowing you to turn on or off specific functions. The same concept applies to software controls like buttons and checkboxes. But when it comes to toggles, users are often confused about which ones to select and how they should be configured.

So, we’ve put together a list of best practices for creating toggles that will give users the clarity and consistency they deserve. The most important thing to remember when designing a toggle is that it should always be visible. It should also be clear to the user which side of the toggle is active, based on the initial position of the control.

Depending on the design of the toggle, other visual cues can be used to communicate its state. The most common is color, but it’s important to note that relying solely on this can lead to confusion. For example, we tested a toggle that used an inverted color scheme — the half with the filled background was perceived as being active even when it was not. As a result, the toggle performed worse than a similar control that used no inversion of colors.

A better option is to use a combination of font size and other visual cues, such as embossment or a contrasting border, in order to achieve the same effect. This approach is more reliable and will not cause confusion when compared to the inverted color scheme, which leads to significantly higher error rates and confidence scores.

Another consideration when choosing a toggle configuration method is how easy it will be to manage the underlying feature flags. For example, using static files can become cumbersome at a certain scale and may require the application to restart in order to change the toggle state. This can impact the cycle speed of automated testing and may negatively affect the overall feedback loop that CI/CD provides. To minimize this risk, savvy teams try to limit the number of toggles they create and, when possible, implement an expiration date on their toggles.