Hey App Maker – Your Settings Menu Is All Full of Crazy

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It’s the Ubiquitous Gear Icon

Did you download an app and tap curiously on the little gear-looking icon and see a page all full of crazy? I sure have. Lots of times. Too many times. What’s up with app developers and their settings menus?

Sometimes the menu is loaded with check-boxes and sliders and descriptive labels. Sometimes they make a list of links leading to more settings pages. OMG kill me now trying to figure out all that.

The worst are text dumps tagged on to the end of settings menu. You know the ones. Document danglers. Subjects such as: legal, how to use, glossary, FAQ, end user license, and T&Cs. Everyone of them smelling like a UIWebView pulling down pages written without regard for the mobile form-factor.

GearIcons

Mirror Mirror

Guess what, I make apps too. During this entire article I’m pointing the finger and looking in the mirror as I glance around the wooden frame glaring at you.

We Must Reduce Complexity

Building a settings menu means your app is too complex. It means your UI/UX isn’t thoughtfully complete. It means you didn’t edit down your feature set to what’s really important. It means someone took over the design bloating up your simple functional reliable work of lovely. Why can’t you make it work?

Once Its There

On your next app promise yourself you’re not adding a little gear icon navigating to a settings menu. Because once it’s there, for “just that one thing”, then it’s an empty space existing only to be filled. Just like the stack of boxes full of junk sitting in the garage, attic, hall closet, or files in a downloads folder.

Easy to Use? You Mean Like a Newspaper?

Good job Internet. You’ve killed the newspaper. Saving trees is a big deal in my book, but is your app as easy to use as a newspaper? No? Then do us all a favor and delete it from the app store and start over.

Settings menu means you gave up on your user experience. You made something too tough that even you couldn’t decide best practices and pushed the hard decisions off on to the customer. Figure out your app before shipping. Produce some straight-forward design patterns and offer up the most concise, focused, fantastic experience possible.

Get away from the computer and poke at the real world. Purposefully reach out touching physical stuff like doorknobs, magnifying glasses, hammers, and cups. Bring back some lessons and conventions people cope with every day. Reflect on that context working your app flow with paper prototypes putting in proper time to brain-sweat the details.

Options Are the Thing

Now check it out – I’m all for options. Options give users choice, add value, and hopefully return reward to you. I buy markers in red, blue, and green. I buy shirts in small, medium, and large. Newspaper options once meant to me daily or Sunday-only delivery. If you ask me, these are choices worth making and offering.

Go enjoy a coffee and have a think on this. Decide for yourself if settings are tedious but options are awesome. Hit me up on Twitter when your app comes out.

Vote to see my session at SXSW 2015!