What Is a Togle?

A toggle is a control that allows users to change one setting or another and has two outcomes: on or off. Toggles are used in almost every aspect of computing where there is an options or preferences list. They are more efficient than radio buttons or checkboxes but they can have their downsides if they are not implemented correctly.

Often developers use toggles as an easy way to perform multivariate (or A/B) testing by placing a toggle switch within a code path and then consistently sending users down that path. It can be useful for data-driven optimizations but it is important to keep in mind that the toggle switch should only be applied when the user can directly see an immediate effect and when the current state can be understood by the user based on other signals.

It’s essential to always have clear, direct labels for toggles and to avoid using color alone to signal a change of state (for example red vs. green). Color can be misleading to users with vision impairments and is also affected by societal and cultural conventions. It’s also helpful to provide state descriptors next to toggles so that users can quickly understand the current state.

Savvy teams view Feature Toggles as inventory that comes with a carrying cost and seek to minimize their number and the amount of time they are active in production. It’s common to have a team member on a release schedule responsible for adding a task to remove the toggle from the backlog as soon as it’s no longer needed and some teams even go as far as putting “expiration dates” on their toggles and will fail a test or refuse to start an application if the toggle has not been removed by a specific date.