Patterns Settings

Settings

Application settings let users indicate their preferences for how an app should behave. They grant the user a sense of control over apps and services in one consolidated location.

Flow & structure Expand and collapse content An arrow that points down when collapsed and points up when expanded.

Implementing settings

Labelling

Use the “Settings” label for access to Settings.

Placement

  • Side navigation
    If side navigation exists, place Settings below all other items (except Help & Feedback). Otherwise, place Settings in the toolbar action overflow menu below all other items (except Help & Feedback).
  • Navigation drawer
    When a navigation drawer is accessible from the current screen, place Settings in the drawer. Otherwise, place Settings in an action overflow menu.

Settings are given low prominence in the UI due to limited usage.

Settings in side nav

Settings in menu

When to use Settings

Settings should be well-organized, predictable, and contain a manageable number of options. If a setting were removed, would it cause harm to the minority who would no longer be able to access it? If so, keeping it as a setting is appropriate.

Controls that belong in Settings:

  • Capture a user preference
  • Are infrequently accessed
  • Are used by the majority of users

Items that do not belong in Settings:

  • Contain information about the app, such as a version number
    (Move these to a Help screen)
  • Manage account actions, such as changing accounts
    (Place these within the main flow of your app)
  • Are frequently accessed
    (Place these in a toolbar or action overflow)
  • Are used by fewer than 20% of users

Grouping settings

For large lists of settings, cluster settings into multiple shorter lists. Arrange them according to the total number of settings in the Settings panel in your app.

7 or fewer
Don’t group at all.

9 to 10
Group related settings under one or two section dividers. For settings that can't be grouped:

  • If important, list them at the top without a section divider.
  • Otherwise, list them at the bottom with a section divider called "Other," in order of importance.

11 to 15
Group related settings under two to four section dividers. Combine sets of two related settings into a single setting.

For example, two related settings with checkboxes could combine into a single multiple-choice setting.

16 or more
Group four or more related settings under a subscreen. Apply the guidance above to each subscreen.

Grouped settings for interruptions

Related settings grouped under a subscreen


Choosing defaults

The initial value for each setting should make sense. Default choices should aim to:

  • Represent the default most users would choose
  • Be neutral and pose little risk
  • Use less battery or mobile data
  • Only interrupt when important

Writing guidelines Expand and collapse content An arrow that points down when collapsed and points up when expanded.

Writing good labels for settings can be challenging due to limited space. Use these guidelines to make your labels brief, meaningful, and scannable.

Label clearly and concisely

  • Only capitalize the first word of each label (and proper nouns)
  • Put the most important text of your label first, to make your settings easy to scan for users looking for specific keywords. Avoid using labels with generic terms such as: Set, Change, Edit, Modify, Manage, Use, Select, or Choose.
  • If a setting is part of a group, don't repeat the word(s) used in the section divider or subscreen title.
  • Rephrase negative words like "Don't" or "Never" into neutral terms such as "Block."
  • Use common words to convey a setting’s purpose, rather than the underlying technology. Avoid technical jargon unless it's widely understood by your target audience.
  • Don't refer to the user. For example, use the impersonal label "Notifications" instead of "Notify me."

Preview all labels on an LDPI handset in portrait to make sure they'll fit.

Secondary text below is for status, not description…

Use secondary text to show the current status of a setting at a glance.

Sleep
After 10 minutes of inactivity

Do.

Screen timeout
Adjust the delay before the screen automatically turns off

Don't.

Switch settings

For switch settings only, use secondary text for description, not for indicating status.

  • Limit to one sentence, without ending punctuation.
  • Convey what happens in the form of a command, starting with a verb, when a setting is enabled. Example: "Allow data exchange."
  • Use words that don't already appear in the label.
  • Don't refer to the user unless it's necessary for understanding the setting. If necessary, use the second person ("you") rather than the first person ("I").

Writing examples

Be direct and understandable.

Vibrate on touch

Do.

Use tactile feedback

Don't.

Indicate status with specific details placed within  the appropriate context.

Sleep
After 10 minutes of inactivity

Do.

Screen timeout
Adjust the delay before the screen automatically turns off

Don't.

Use keywords that describe settings accurately.

Screen lock
Pattern

Do.

If the user hasn’t set up a screen lock, the secondary text should say “None.”

Change screen lock
Change or disable pattern, PIN, or password security

Don't.

Use familiar acronyms when there aren’t better alternatives. Convey how and why an unfamiliar setting exists.

NFC
Allow data exchange when the phone touches another device

Do.

NFC
Use Near Field Communication to read and exchange tags

Don't.