What Is a Toggle?

A toggle is a switch that can be moved between two positions — either on or off. It is used in almost all computer applications and devices to control features and settings. For example, in a Windows computer you can use the keyboard shortcut Alt+Tab to toggle between different programs while working. In a device like a phone or tablet, you can toggle the Wi-Fi option on or off.

In software development a toggle is a configuration parameter that allows for dynamic re-configuration of a feature in a running production environment. Toggles are particularly useful when a product is in a beta phase and the team wants to make it available to more users but doesn’t want to deploy a new version just for this purpose.

When a team has a large number of Feature Toggles it can become difficult to manage their configuration in a centralized fashion. For instance, using static files for toggle management can quickly become cumbersome once you reach a certain scale. Modifying the toggle configuration via these files is also fiddly and can impact the speed at which the configuration can be changed. As a result many teams choose to move their toggle configuration into some type of centralized store, often an existing application DB. In addition to this they typically build out a form of admin UI which allows system operators, testers and product managers to view and modify the state of all of their toggles.

Some teams also choose to add some sort of expiration date to their toggles. This way, if a toggle is no longer required the team can simply remove it from the codebase rather than having to go back and update every test case that depends on this feature.

The design of a toggle is important because it can affect user behavior. It’s essential to ensure that the toggle is easy to read and understand. For instance, the switch should be brightly colored with a clear indication of the current state. It’s also important to use high contrast colors and avoid color combinations that might be confusing to a user. In some cases, designers even consider the societal and cultural implications of the color choice.

Toggle is a powerful tool that should be used wisely to enable your users to get the most out of your product. However, it’s important to remember that any time you’re implementing a toggle you should have a well-thought-out process for managing its configuration and ensuring that you don’t accidentally introduce regressions as a result of changing the toggle state.