What Is a Toggle?

A toggle is a switch that can be set to one state or another. It’s commonly used in technology, computing, programming, and communication to provide users with a way to switch between different settings or modes. Toggle switches often look like sliders, and they typically use visual cues to indicate their current state. They can be activated by pressing or clicking them, and they are usually deactivated by removing the user’s input. Toggles are also used in software to implement features that can be turned on and off as needed.

For example, a team might use a feature toggle to develop and test out an algorithm that’s resource-intensive before it becomes part of a major production release. Using feature toggles can save time and money by allowing teams to get valuable feedback from real users without investing in expensive infrastructure and resources that would be required to support the full production code base.

In addition, it allows teams to test and refine a new feature while keeping other parts of the system running as normal. By applying the right logic to a toggle, they can enable or disable a feature as necessary to ensure a positive customer experience. This kind of feature flexibility can help teams make better product decisions that result in more satisfied customers and improved company performance.

Toggle configurations can be stored in static files or in a centralized database, and many organizations choose to implement some form of admin UI for managing their toggle configuration. This UI makes it easier for IT, product managers, and testers to manage and view their toggle configuration, and it can also help ensure that toggles are configured consistently across servers.

Most teams recommend testing the toggle configuration that’s expected to go live in production, including any toggles that are flipped On. In addition, it’s a good idea to test the fall-back configuration where all toggles are flipped Off. This can prevent unexpected regressions from making their way into production.

In general, the label for a toggle should be clearly defined and intuitively convey its function. For example, “on” or “off” may be appropriate for a toggle, but other terms might not be. If the label isn’t intuitive or doesn’t convey its function, it should be rewritten. In addition, toggle labels should be short and concise to minimize cognitive load. The label should be clear and descriptive, preferably using natural language that can be read aloud. Similarly, if a toggle switch relies on color to convey its meaning, it should follow WCAG’s guidance on the use of colors in digital interfaces.