Best Practices for Implementing Feature Toggles

Feature toggles are an essential tool in a developer’s arsenal to help reduce code deployment errors and shorten release cycles. When used correctly, they provide a way to roll out or back features without affecting existing or legacy behavior. They are also valuable when you need to troubleshoot and stabilize your application during high-latency periods.

A feature toggle is a variable that can be set to one of two states: On or Off. The value of the toggle will change based on its current state and the current values of any other variables that may influence it. This allows teams to quickly deploy, run, and test new features without impacting the existing experience of users or negatively affecting existing metrics.

Toggles are most often used to test features that will eventually become live in production, or for product-focused experiments. They can be applied to things like changing the color scheme of an application, enabling or disabling user authentication, or implementing new features that will be released over time. However, the potential for using feature toggles extends far beyond this use case and can be utilized in a wide variety of applications.

What are some best practices around implementing feature toggles?

In the simplest terms, it’s good practice to avoid using toggles for form fields where the user needs to hit a Save or Confirm button for changes to take effect. Instead, for these types of form fields, a checkbox is typically more appropriate because it offers the user immediate results without the need to wait for a system change.

Another key best practice is to name feature toggles so that they provide useful context for someone reading them in an error message. This ensures that the person understands what was meant by the toggle’s name and why it might have caused a problem, so they can identify and correct the issue promptly.

The final best practice is to perform thorough testing of all possible combinations of toggle configurations. This can be a bit of a burden on a development environment, but it’s necessary to ensure that the toggles are working as intended. Toggle tests can be performed in combination with other types of tests, such as unit, integration, and functional tests.

Split is a feature data platform that gives you the confidence to move faster without breaking things. It’s the safe way to roll out features in production, control who sees what and when, and connect everything to contextual data. Schedule a demo to learn how Split can accelerate your releases, decrease MTTR, and ignite your dev team.