What Is a Toggle?

A toggle is a switch with two positions: on and off. It’s a commonly used user interface element for updating preferences, settings and other types of information. As you design with toggles, keep in mind that they should be easy to understand and have immediate results. This requires clear labels and standard visual design. A toggle should also resemble a slider (i.e., movement and color) to avoid confusion. It’s important to evaluate the context in which you use toggle switches and ensure that they are implemented consistently throughout your site or app.

The word toggle has a long history of usage in many different disciplines and meanings. In the 18th century it meant “a pin passed through the bight or eye of a rope to secure it round a stay, mast or cleat,” and it is still sometimes used for this purpose. The word has also come to mean a quick change of state or position, as in “toggle between stream and map views while video chatting with two friends at once.”

In software, toggles can be found in the options menu of many applications. These are usually easy to understand, with the label indicating what the function does. For example, the Caps Lock and Num Lock keys on keyboards are toggles that turn on and off certain functions when pressed.

Toggles are also useful in software development for A/B testing and other types of experimentation. They are a simple and effective way to compare two configurations of a page or application without requiring a large number of users to be placed into each cohort. This allows us to quickly see which configuration performs better and then roll out that version to the whole audience, or to select a smaller group to test a new feature.

Toggles are particularly useful in mobile environments, where they can be used to control features like Airplane Mode or Wi-Fi Connectivity. However, in these cases they should be limited to changing a pre-selected default state rather than an un-selected one. It is best to avoid toggles in situations where users need to choose between two opposing states, as this can be confusing for them and may result in the wrong decision being made. In these situations, it is often more appropriate to use a checkbox or other form field that does not require any confirmation by the user. Always use high-contrast colors to indicate system status and ensure that the toggles have clearly visible, contrasting state descriptors to help users understand what they are selecting. In addition, it is important to deliver immediate results when users interact with toggles; if the toggle state takes some time to change, this should be noted in the UI and communicated clearly to the user.