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Apps and their settings screens

I often try to assess my impressions of various software products. There’s this feeling, which I’ve noticed among myself and others, that some apps just don’t appear to be a “great app.” I don’t yet have a clear answer of what makes an app a great app.

One thing that I noticed is that often it’s the settings screen of an app that will make it or break it. If it’s an application for macOS, iOS or Windows, then the settings screen is almost obligated to have a look and feel of the system’s Settings (Control Panel) screen. Also, the amount of settings usually depends on how well the product team did its job, and if it found the sweet spot of glorious defaults that work for almost everyone. I didn’t list Android, Linux or any web apps because I don’t think there’s a consistent look’n’feel for these — things change too often on that front, in my opinion.

Settings screens should be purely utilitarian ones. They need to be descriptive just enough. They shouldn’t be magnets for UX innovation, unless the product is a completely new thing. A bunch of tabs, checkboxes and drop downs is all we need.

If you work on apps, please, please don’t create a custom settings screen.

Last edited on Apr 4, 2019