What Is a Toggle?

Toggle is a hardware and software control that provides a binary on/off option for users. Typically toggles are used as a form of options menu for system settings. They are also commonly found in other types of input devices like keyboards as well as in user interface design. The word can also be used to describe the act of switching between two different states or options, such as moving from one camera to another in a virtual chat.

The most common use of the word toggle is in software technology. A toggle switch is a binary on/off control that can be flipped either way to select a desired state. This kind of switch is commonly seen in system preferences menus for applications and can be applied to nearly any item that a user might choose from.

A toggle can be configured with a variety of settings, and each state can have a different behavior. This flexibility is what makes a toggle so valuable to application developers and end-users. However, a toggle can be difficult to use when not implemented properly.

As a result, designers need to carefully consider the underlying principles of toggle switches when designing their applications. In addition to selecting a good default setting for toggles, they must carefully consider the type of visual cues they will use to show the state of a toggle. This can include color, size, shape and embossment. The results of our research into toggle button design have shown that these cues need to be clear, visible and simple.

For example, using a large, brightly colored toggle is the best way to show an active state while a small, dark gray toggle shows an inactive status. Embossment has also been shown to be a reliable signal for toggle states, but it is not a substitute for a primary color and is most effective when combined with a bold-thin font-size combination.

Additionally, when selecting a text color to display the on/off status of a toggle it is important to consider societal and cultural context. For instance, using a red toggle may be counterintuitive to audiences that associate this color with stop signs and traffic lights. In general, designers should avoid using low-contrast colors to display a toggle state since this can make it hard for users to discern the toggle’s state.

When developing an app with toggles, it is essential to test them in the live environment. This includes testing the toggle configuration that will be live in production as well as a fall-back configuration with all toggles flipped off. This prevents any surprises for users who encounter an unfamiliar configuration.

Managing the configuration of a feature toggle via static files can be cumbersome once the toggling system becomes more complex. As a result, many organizations move to a more sophisticated toggling system by building-out a centralized config DB and a separate admin UI to manage this configuration. This is often referred to as Champagne Brunch or Canary Release toggling and can be particularly useful when developing mobile apps with Permissioning Toggles or other more granular features.