When To Use a Toggle Switch in UX and UI

The toggle switch is one of the most commonly used components in UI and UX design. There are several cases where the toggle switch is the element of your choice. Yet, in some cases, you’re better off using something else. Let’s look at those toggle switch best practices.

When to use a toggle switch in UI and UX

To design a UI and UX component well, you need an overview of the application’s general flow and navigation. When you combine that with your knowledge of design and toggle switch best practices, you can design great toggle switches.

And that’s exactly what I will cover in this post. First, we’re going to look at what a toggle switch is. After that, I will go through the following.

  • When and when not to use a toggle switch
  • Toggle switch best practices
  • Examples

Table of Contents

What is a toggle switch in UX?

Let’s start at the beginning. In UX and UI, a toggle switch is an on-off switch with two states. That means you use a toggle switch to turn something on or off. Your users can pick only one of the two options at once.

In a way, the toggle switch shows many similarities with a question with two radio buttons as possible answers.

Toggle switch vs radio button

However, there’s a difference. Where radio buttons require a positive action (like submit or save, for example), it is a best practice for the toggle switch to take effect immediately.

Toggle switches have a real-life origin, just as most skeuomorphism-inspired elements in UI design do. If you look around, I’m sure you will see that you use several toggle switches daily. Examples I can think of include light switches and water boilers.

Toggle switch best practices

The toggle switch has several situations where it is best used. Yet, in other situations, it is a best practice to use a different component.

I will share with you when and when not to use the toggle switch, but it is ultimately up to you as a UI and UX designer to figure out in which category your project falls.

Anyways. Here are the best practices and guidelines to keep in mind when using this UI design system component.

Toggle switches are great when your users need to change or update preferences and settings.

Because of this, you must ensure your users understand the differences between states, as they are essential for how the rest of their experience will pan out. Just imagine what happens when a user mistakes the on-state for the off-state of an important setting.

  • Always make sure that you create two exclusive states with clear labels. In most cases, this is either on-off, yes-no, or enable-disable. For example, ‘enable dark mode’ or ‘show preview.’
  • When you design a toggle switch UI component, follow guidelines for the platform or operating system you’re designing.
  • Always use states that are in high contrast with each other. Use the accent color of your color palette for the on-state. It will most likely equal your primary action color. Your off-state should be the color you use for disabled UI elements.

The Nielsen Norman Group also has a great page on toggle switch guidelines. If you want to know more, this is a great place to continue reading.

How to know if a toggle switch is on or off

You can see if a toggle switch is on or off by checking the position and color of the toggle. In western culture, we read from left to right. That also applies to the toggle switch. If it is switched to the right, the switch is on.

Also, it is a best practice to have the on-state of a toggle switch use the accent color of your design. Take a look at some examples below. You’ll see that the switched-on toggle is moved to the right and uses the purple accent color we use.

Toggle switch turned on and turned off

Toggle switches vs radio buttons

The main difference between a radio button and a toggle switch is the number of options you can have. For a toggle switch, the number of options you have is always two. Radio buttons can have two or more options.

In addition, a toggle switch is mainly used for settings you can enable and disable. Radio buttons are more common in forms where you have to decide between multiple options.

Toggle switch UI examples

I do not recommend designing toggle switch UI components that are too different compared to what is commonly known and seen as a toggle switch.

Users are used to a certain type of UI element and expect your website or product to work in the same way. No need to redesign the wheel…or the toggle switch!

Yet, that doesn’t mean you have to use a standard component. Instead, you can put some creativity into it to fit your branding guidelines. Keeping it within reasonable margins is what I suggest to you.

Examples of Toggle Switch UI Designs Found on Dribbble
Examples of toggle switch UI designs found on Dribbble.

Take a look at some of the design examples I’ve found on Dribbble. They are simple yet very different compared to a default toggle switch design. These examples can inspire you to design great toggle switches for your next user interface design project.

Further reading

That’s about it. Toggle switches have their uses, but only if you use them right. As an alternative, you could use radio buttons or check boxes, for example. In both cases, tooltips could help users choose.

All of these components are part of the ultimate community-built design system I’m developing. You’ll find this component over there as well. Go take a look!

Profile picture of author Nick Groeneveld, a senior UX designer and mentor for The Designer's Toolbox

About the author

Hi! I'm , a senior designer from the Netherlands with experience in UX, visual design, and research. I have completed a wide range of projects in finance, tech, and the public sector.

Take a look at my LinkedIn and Medium for more.