Using Toggle Controls in Web Apps and Sites

Toggle is a simple user-interface component that can be used to update preferences, settings and other types of information. When used correctly, toggle switches deliver immediate results and can make a huge impact on user experience. Toggle controls must be labeled clearly and provide direct functionality. Toggles must also be recognizable and have a consistent visual design. When using toggles, consider the context and evaluate if they really serve the user’s needs.

A toggle is a small piece of wood or plastic which is sewn to something like a coat or bag and is pushed through a loop or hole in the item as a way of fastening it. On computers and some other machines, a toggle is an object which allows you to switch between two functions, such as power on/off or screen resolution.

In software development, a toggle is a feature flag which is used to enable or disable features in production and test environments. This allows teams to perform A/B testing by sending different users down alternate paths so they can learn what works best for them. Feature toggles can be a great tool to speed up the product cycle and give the team more time to spend on analyzing and implementing new ideas instead of debugging old ones.

There are a number of different approaches to creating toggles in web apps and sites. One way is to use a standard button element with a uk-toggle=”true” attribute and the toggled state binded to aria-pressed via an input field. This approach is fairly simple but can be difficult to understand for people who use voice recognition or other assistive technologies. Another approach is to create a MatButtonToggleGroup around a set of toggles and apply role=”group” to convey the grouping and association of those individual toggles to the user. This is much simpler to understand for users and also allows the toggles to have a consistent visual design, if desired.

A toggle can be created in many ways but it should always provide clear labels and have a consistent, recognizable visual design. It is also important that toggles are well labeled so that the action they are taking is obvious to the user, whether it’s on or off. If a toggle is going to have a default value, it should be explicitly stated in the label and in the toggle’s state.

The most common way to create a toggle is to use a standard form control with a label and an aria-on=”true” or aria-off=”true” attribute. This is often easier for developers to understand because it requires no extra code to implement. However, when working in a large codebase it can be more difficult to keep track of what toggles are enabled because they are hidden by other forms and not easily visible. This can result in some users accidentally activating a toggle that they didn’t intend to or even worse, not knowing that it was there at all. Savvy teams view their feature toggle inventory as having a carrying cost and work to be proactive in removing toggles that are no longer needed. Some teams even put “expiration dates” on their toggles to make sure they are swept out of the codebase before they cause any problems.