How Toggle Switches Can Create Cognitive Problems

Toggle is a control that allows users to update preferences, settings, or other types of information. When used correctly, toggle switches can be an effective solution for delivering immediate results. However, when used incorrectly, they can create cognitive problems. To avoid these issues, it’s important to consider when and how to use toggle switches. When possible, it’s best to replace them with radio buttons or checkboxes, as these provide a more intuitive and consistent user experience.

In 18th century English, the word toggle was originally used for a pin passed through the eye of a rope to hold it in place. Today, it’s still used for this kind of fastener as well as for a switch that turns on and off features like video chat or audio recording in a software program.

Feature toggles (also called feature flags) are an excellent way to help dev teams build new features while maintaining a stable release branch. They can be simple if statements or complex decision trees that act upon a variety of conditions, including fitness test results from other features in the codebase or variables provided by a configuration file. However, when not managed properly, they can cause confusion for users and increase maintenance costs. To minimize these negative effects, it’s important to keep an inventory of toggles low and to have a process in place for pruning them once their lifecycle has expired. This can be as simple as adding a task on the team’s backlog or building it into a feature management platform.