What Is a Toggle?

Toggle is a small piece of hardware that’s passed through an eye or loop in something like a rope to fasten it. It also refers to a switch that allows you to choose between two functions. In the world of computer science, toggles are used to bind and fasten code, much like the key that turns caps lock on and off.

When used well, toggles can help users update preferences, settings, or other types of information. When using them, make sure they’re immediately visible to the user (if possible), use direct labels, and are consistent in visual design. It’s also good to avoid using them for long forms or other areas where the user must click a Save or Confirm button for changes to take place.

If you must use them, make sure to give the toggle a meaningful name so that anyone who comes across it in error can figure out what it’s supposed to do. The best names are descriptive and concise, describing the state of the toggle as it’s activated or deactivated.

One other useful thing about feature toggles is that they allow you to release new features without having to create a code branch, which would be necessary under more traditional waterfall development models. Instead, you can write the new feature on a separate toggle branch that’s hidden until it’s ready for QA, market testing, or whatever other step it needs to take before being integrated back into trunk code.