What Is a Feature Toggle?

May 10, 2024 by No Comments

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Feature toggles are a type of code control mechanism that allows for the dynamic in-memory re-configuration of a few major code branches within your application. Often referred to as flags (although there are some differences between the two), they can be used for a wide variety of use cases ranging from simple scalability improvements through to more complex experimentation with multivariate and A/B testing.

The most common use case for a feature toggle is to enable a feature to be switched on or off. For example, an e-commerce company may decide that algorithm B is too resource intensive to enable for their entire user base so they use a feature toggle to disable it for premium users.

Toggles are also commonly used to provide circuit breaker functionality by temporarily disabling non-essential features during high latency periods, or as a way to disable features for an extended period of time while performing maintenance. The key is that once the toggle is enabled it remains enabled until a user manually toggles it off.

A toggle should be able to be activated and deactivated with a single click, so it is important that you ensure your design meets accessibility standards, including WCAG guidelines such as 1.4.1 (don’t rely solely on color to convey meaning). Additionally, toggles should be designed using visual cues that indicate their state, such as positioning and movement, rather than just the use of colors alone.