Thinking Through the Way You Use Toggle Switches

The word toggle is used in everyday technology, computing, programming, and communications to refer to a switch that allows users to change between different states or options. You can find toggle switches in devices like smartphones and tablets, or in software applications that provide the ability to turn features on/off or switch between different display modes, for example. A toggle is a simple user-interface element that has the power to drastically affect a user’s experience. It’s important to think through the way you use them, especially when they are a prominent design component. Toggle switches need to be easy to read, deliver immediate results, and clearly communicate their current state. They are a good choice for updating preferences, settings, or other types of information, but you should not use them for tasks that require more thought and consideration like making decisions or changing values.

Toggle switches are often seen in the form of a circular button with two opposing sides, or a rectangular button with one side clearly labeled as “on” and the other as “off”. These visual cues make them easy to recognize and use, but they can be confusing if not used consistently. It’s important to avoid inverting toggle buttons because they can lead to ambiguity as to which is the active state. The simplest solution is to use the same color for both active and inactive elements, but you can also use clear labels that describe what each toggle will do when activated.

Another common use for toggles is for A/B testing, bucketing users into two groups to test new features before rolling them out to the entire user base. You can even set up a Champagne Brunch (feature flag that’s only active for a small segment of your users) to test a feature without disrupting the rest of your customer base.

The benefit of using toggles for A/B testing is that you can validate your changes with a smaller group of users before implementing them in the full product without risking your reputation. Similarly, it’s prudent to use toggles when fixing bugs so that you can roll back the bugged behavior if it’s not well-received by your customers.

In addition to A/B testing, you can use toggles for other continuous development purposes. For example, you can use them to enable premium features to users who have upgraded their accounts. Or, you can use them to disable certain features when your application is experiencing high latency. Then, you can re-enable them when the system is back to normal. You can even use them to control the way that your users see and interact with your products. This gives you the ability to tailor your products to the needs of each audience, while still allowing you to leverage your existing codebase. This kind of flexibility is crucial for building great products at scale.