Using Toggle Controls in UX Design

Toggle is a user-interface control that helps people manage the state of content or a view. It generally enforces a mutually exclusive state (on or off), and requires the user to click on the button once to initiate an action.

Toggles are heavily used in modern interfaces. However, they can be prone to a number of usability problems. One of the most common problems is that toggles are often made inaccessible to users with motor disabilities, as they do not allow the user to select their preferred toggle state by using a keyboard or other auxiliary input device. This can lead to confusion and frustration for those users, especially if they are trying to interact with a toggle switch for the first time.

In the context of UX design, a toggle switch can be seen as a glorified checkbox or radio button. Both types of controls have the same purpose — to allow a user to select their preferred option among multiple options — but whereas checkboxes offer an up and down choice, toggles are more like an on/off switch. For this reason, it is important that any toggle switches you use do not rely on color alone to communicate their current state.

Instead, they should include clear labeling that states what the toggle does when it is in its active state and provide visual cues such as movement to indicate that a change has been made. They should also be updated immediately to reflect this new state, ideally by changing the background of the interface.

Despite the best intentions, many designers use toggles in ways that aren’t always intuitive to users. For example, the color of a toggle can be confusing, particularly when it doesn’t match its corresponding label. The label ‘on/off’ is a great way to prevent this confusion, as it clearly explains what the toggle does when it is in its on state.

The word toggle comes from the 18th century, when it was used to describe a pin passed through the eye of a rope to fasten it around a stay or mast. More recently, it has been applied to software and hardware switching, such as the caps lock or numlock keys on a keyboard.

A good rule of thumb is to only use toggles for things that require a user to choose between two opposing states, such as an “on/off” setting or a video stream vs. map view in a tourist attraction. Anything else should probably be handled with another type of user-interface component.