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If the settings don't need to be changed very often, but need to be very accessible when they need to be, is there any reason for putting them at the top instead of the bottom of the screen (or vice versa)? It would appear that there is also some differences between putting them on the left or right side of the screen, and also whether it is a web application or standard desktop application.

In the case of a desktop application which settings that are not used often, is there any argument against putting it on the bottom left so it is not out of the way, and use an icon so that it doesn't stick out or is hard to find?

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3 Answers 3

Most every OS has guidelines for settings access. Mac and (pre 8) Windows settings were conventionally accessed through a menu. Android also a menu option. In iOS sometimes the settings are a menu option and sometimes the settings for an app are accessed through the system settings app. So for a native application it's best to follow the native guidelines and conventions.

If you're talking about a web application I'd say follow the leaders like google and yahoo and amazon. I haven't noticed a settings access on amazon's sites, but both google and yahoo use a gear icon to access settings and the gear icon is usually in the top right corner of the page (naturally, all this is subject to change). I'd follow those conventions. The popularity of google and amazon sites in a sense trains people how the web works and establishes web idioms. I think you need a good reason not to follow those established idioms, so I would recommend the gear icon near the top right of the page. It doesn't take up much space and it's getting established as the settings icon.

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I'd say top right-hand side.

To summarize my response to a previous question:

If it's definitely not a primary navigation item (which should be on the top of the left hand side of the screen) but important enough for a user to know where to find it. Since people generally skim sites and apps in an f-pattern, the top right hand side of the screen seems to make sense.

The top right hand side is also where you'll (most often) find any links that relate to that "pane". Whether that pane is the website (settings for the entire site in the top right) or a post on a message board (edit, delete, hide comment), it makes a lot of sense to stick it in the right top of that area, as users will be more likeley to look for it there than anywhere else.

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It really depends on your application, you could put them anywhere. However, considering most websites seem to have it in the top right corner, visitors may expect it there. I'd say left side wouldn't be bad - but putting it at the bottom is such a big change from the norm that you may confuse people trying to find it.

This relates to both websites and desktop applications.

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