How to Design Effective Toggles in Web Design

A toggle is a switch that can either be turned on or off. It’s also a metaphor for switching back and forth between settings or programs. For example, the computer program Alt+Tab lets you toggle between stream and map views.

In web design, toggles (also known as “sliders”) are a common type of control that users interact with. They are used to enable or disable functionality and can be positioned anywhere on the page. While they may seem simple to use, designing them properly can be a challenge.

There are many factors that contribute to the effectiveness of a toggle. Choosing the right visual cues is essential, as well as ensuring that users understand what effect each toggle will have. The best way to do this is by giving them a clear, concise label that describes the function being enabled or disabled. Toggles should not be positioned in a way that confuses them, such as inverting the background color of the active half of the toggle. This confuses the user and leads to higher error rates in a 5-second test than when the correct orientation is used.

If a toggle is waiting for something to load, a loading indicator should be displayed. This will help avoid the mistake of assuming that the toggle is turned on when it’s not, and prevents users from pressing it multiple times as they wait for the screen to load.

Another important factor is ensuring that the toggle is clearly visible. This can be achieved by ensuring that the toggle is positioned in a way that allows it to stand out from the rest of the page, and if necessary by providing a small variant of the switch that maintains visual hierarchy but is more compact. In some cases, a toggle may need to be inverted to draw attention to it in order to make it easier for the user to see, but this should only be done where there is risk of confusion and not as a default option.

A final consideration when designing toggles is the contrast between the color of the active toggle and its inactive counterpart. To achieve this, we recommend using a light or dark background color for the inactive part of the toggle and a contrasting color for the active toggle. The most effective toggles have a significant difference in their color, as the more subtle distinctions between the two can be difficult to perceive.

Finally, it’s also important to ensure that toggle configuration is easily managed. There are a few different approaches to managing this, from hardcoding the state of the toggle into source code via commenting or preprocessor #ifdefs through to more sophisticated ways of allowing for dynamic re-configuration. Regardless of the method used, it’s vital to have a consistent method for managing toggle configuration across releases so that users can always get access to the functionality that they need. Fortunately, the Content Toggle extension makes it easy to do just that.