The word toggle means “switch between two opposing states,” like the on/off button on a computer or when switching between video screens during a Skype chat. A toggle can also refer to a software feature that enables and disables features on the fly. Using toggles allows teams to make changes and test them in production without deploying new code or having to run a full regression suite.
When used in a digital context toggles can be very useful and are often employed to perform A/B testing. In such cases a toggle is configured to consistently send users down one path or another, depending on their membership in a specific cohort. This is very helpful for making data-driven optimizations that can have an immediate impact on the bottom line.
A common toggle in web development is a Collapsible Toggle or Accordion. When used properly these can minimize scrolling and allow visitors to find the content they need quickly. However, it’s important to keep in mind that toggles must be clearly labeled and designed with clear visual cues. They should also be configured with high contrast colors and evaluated for societal or cultural implications that could cause confusion.
Savvy teams view Feature Toggles as inventory that comes with a carrying cost and strive to keep the number of toggles in their codebase as low as possible. This is why many teams have policies in place to remove old toggles, such as adding a toggle removal task to their backlog with every release or even putting an expiration date on toggles.