The web app I am now working on as a pilot project for my learning has a very complex settings page. It has 18-20 main categories and tweaks about 200 configurations within these categories. There are 2 access levels, one is a manager and another is owner. Owner can see all changes, but doesn't necessarily have to configure all of them. Manager can see only select tweaking options and has to configure things by himself.

Right now I am using a vertical tabbed approach. How can I improve it further?

Here's the screenshot for reference


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With that many options, probably the most important addition would be a Search facility.

However logically and consistently you manage to group your 200+ options into 20 categories, you are going to get users who know (roughly) what they want to set/alter, but cannot immediately see which category it might fit in. Having a search mechanism where they can enter colour and see settings for Background colour, Text colour or Header-bar colour etc. would, I think, be very useful.

Ideally, the "search domain" would include not just be the labels used for each of the options, but also any wider "help" text that might be available (e.g. any mouse-over text, sections from the documentation).

  • This is a great addition to my brainstorming session. Thank you for answering and your time.
    – Johneh
    Aug 6 '19 at 15:13

Ok, 18-20 categories are available, it is worth determining who is needed in those categories at the moment. I think the situation when the user browses 200 categories is unlikely.

In this situation, you can only display what is used - or sort according to the most to less useful.

For more accurate advice, I need more information:

  1. What do these settings apply to?
  2. What categories do they contain?
  • 1
    It is a complex set of controls that modifies the entire web app in many areas. However, the sort idea is a good point. Thank you. :-)
    – Johneh
    Aug 6 '19 at 15:14

This case sounds to me like developers decided from their own point of view which options shall be offered. This may lead to cluttered, overloaded UIs and is not necessarily what users are able or willing to enter. More options lead to more confusion. Not every bit of an application needs to be tweaked.

In this case I would go one step back first and question the information architecture:

  • Are all these options useful for users to reach their goals and accomplish their tasks?

  • Are the categories designed and tested with users? Card sorting and tree testing come into my mind here.

Your problem could be easier with less options. Anyway, I agree with the proposals for a search feature and sorted categories. You find an example for the search feature in the Preferences dialog of the Eclipse development environment.

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