Let's build a great switch button

First publication date:

Switch buttons (and alike) are very popular UI widgets. Semantically, they should behave like regular buttons, but with a binary state. Let's see how we can progressively enhance the good old button with web components to get the expected behaviour.

Extend built in button

When creating custom elements, you can extend the HTMLElement class and build a brand new element, or you can extend a built-in HTML element. This is a great way to enhance regular HTML elements. The downside is that Apple has stated that they won’t implement this part of the spec. Nevertheless, you can use a polyfill to work around Safari’s issues. Another technique is to wrap the base element within a custom element that adds the expected behaviour to the child target but it adds unnecessary DOM nodes.

class UISwitchButton extends HTMLButtonElement {
    connectedCallback() {

customElements.define('ui-switch', UISwitchButton, {extends: 'button'});

// in the html <button is=ui-switch></button>

That’s it, you have defined a new more specific button. If for some reason, Javascript is not available, or you are on Safari with no polyfill, the element will behave as a regular button.

Component API

You don’t necessarily have programmatic access to the HTML element, and it is a better choice to think of its API in terms of attributes. In our case, we only need a checked attribute to describe its binary state. You can also add a property (checked) that reflects on this attribute, for programmatic access. To communicate a state change, the button can fire a CustomEvent (e.g. switch-toggled):

class UISwitchButton extends HTMLButtonElement {
    static get observedAttributes() {
        return ["checked"];

    get checked() {
        return this.hasAttribute("checked");

    set checked(value) {
        this.toggleAttribute("checked", Boolean(value));

    constructor() {
        this.addEventListener("click", (ev) => {
            this.checked = !this.checked;
                new CustomEvent("switch-toggled", {
                    bubbles: true

    connectedCallback() {
        this.setAttribute("role", "switch");
        this.setAttribute("type", "button");
        this.attributeChangedCallback("checked", null, this.checked);

        // updgrade property
        const {checked} = this;
        delete this.checked;
        this.checked = checked;

    attributeChangedCallback(name, oldValue, newValue) {
        if (newValue !== oldValue) {
            this.setAttribute("aria-checked", this.checked);

There are a few important things to note:

// we  create the element before it is defined
const el = document.createElement("button", { is: "ui-switch" });
el.setAttribute("is", "ui-switch");
el.checked = true;
customElements.define("ui-switch", UISwitchButton, { extends: "button" });

In many cases you don’t need to be so rigorous, but these are good practices anyway. You can find more good practices on web.dev.

The good thing about inheriting from the button element is that it directly gets all of the button’s default behaviour, notably in terms of accessibility: form element, focusable, keyboard support for Space and Enter, disabling support, default button styling, etc.


You can easily style the switch button with CSS, using the [is=ui-switch] selector together with nested CSS to encapsulate its rules and manage the specificity correctly.
For this example, we use the ::before and ::after pseudo-elements to add on and off labels (I have always found confusing not to have the current state) and to draw the thumb.

[is="ui-switch"] {
    --control-color: black;
    --height: 1.5em;
    --_inset: 2px;
    user-select: none;
    aspect-ratio: 2 / 1;
    height: var(--height);
    border: var(--_inset) solid currentColor;
    border-radius: calc(var(--height) * 2);
    color: var(--control-color);
    background-color: inherit;
    position: relative;
    isolation: isolate;

This gives the default layout of the component. user-select prevents the label from being selectable, size and theme colours can be controlled with css variables. We set the position to relative to be able to position the thumb.

Let’s add the thumb and the label in their default state (when the switch is off):

[is=ui-switch] {

    /* ... */
    /* thumb */
    &::before {
        --_thumb-size: 1em;
        content: "";
        aspect-ratio: 1;
        width: var(--_thumb-size);
        border-radius: 100%;
        background: var(--control-color);
        inset: 0;
        position: absolute;
        margin-block: auto;
        margin-inline-start: var(--_inset);
        transition: margin 0.3s ease-out;

    /* label */
    &::after {
        content: "off";
        position: absolute;
        left: calc(100% + 2 * var(--_inset));

We give the thumb a perfect circular shape and match the colour to the css variable. For the thumb position we can use a combo of inset and margin. We then overwrite the left position with an internal _inset offset. We could have just used the css inset property and changed the margin-inline-start property to move the thumb around, but we want it to be animated and this is not possible on margin with values like auto (we need numbers). This is what the transition is for.

For the label we set the content of the pseudo element ::after to off and give it the right position.

Finally, when the switch is checked (and therfore has the checked attribute - or aria-checked=true):

[is=ui-switch] {
    &[checked] {
        &::before {
            margin-inline-start: calc(100% - var(--_thumb-size) - var(--_inset));

        &::after {
            content: "on";

We only have to change the margin-inline-position and the transition will be activated.

You can see the result in the following CodePen. I have added a variant to show that the look and feel can easily be changed

See the Pen switch-button by RENARD (@lorenzofox3) on CodePen.

We have left the focus style untouched, so it follows the same design as regular buttons.


In this short tutorial, we have seen how to enhance a built-in element with web components. Even if Safari does not support it, a polyfill is available, and this technique offers many advantages in terms of progressive enhancement, resulting in a lightweight yet very portable component.