Boggle toggle

Let's talk about the ubiquitous web toggle, 🀾 / đŸ€Č etc.


Say we see this toggle,

Keep your money

And we select it. Now it looks like:

Keep your money

Good. We can rest assured that we are now keeping our money.

But what if select it, and it instead now becomes:

Donate your money

Oh my gosh! That's not what we want to do. So we hurriedly deselect it.

And what if now it is too late? Our money is already gone!

No way to tell which kind of toggle

So how do we know what will happen? The only way is to toggle the toggle to find out. But as we saw, that might be disastrous.

Yes, if we are looking at a paper note next to our grandma's light switch, we can be sure that it won't "helpfully update itself to represent the new state" when we flip the switch.

But on web forms, settings menus, etc. the best we can do is "toggle a few of the less dangerous items to get a feel for which kind of toggle the authors are using." Alas, sometimes there are both types on the same page anyway!

So these days, due to the mixing of the two types of toggles, the toggle's reputation is ruined. Which authors should we blame?

Just like who is to blame when aliens don't know if they should pack a right or left hand drive car for their visit to planet Earth? That's a lot of drivers to blame. Maybe the aliens should delay their visit until the situation settles.


The only way out of this nightmare is for authors to make sure both choices are visible at the same time:

Keep your money
Donate your money

Looks clearer! Sorry we can't use the space saving toggle anymore.

(Yes toggles could also look like ◐ / ◑ , ◧ / ◹ , ⟃⫐ / ⫏⟄ , âȘœâ« / ⫏âȘŸ , [-_] / [_-] , ○ / ● , etc. Even though it is 2023 when I wrote this, I used checkboxes in my examples so that users with even 1990's browsers can still read this article.)

Dan Jacobson

Last modified: 2024-01-14 05:26:21 UTC