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In an application I am working on, we have some application-wide settings that are available via a cogwheel button in the title bar. We also have part of the application, a kind of analysis, that have some optional advanced settings. The way I see it, I have a couple of options:

  1. Change the meaning of the title bar settings-button based on context. This seems a bit weird to me as there is only one context where these settings will be different.

  2. Have two separate buttons with the same look. This has the advantage of being consistent, but it may also be a little confusing.

  3. Have two separate buttons with different look, i.e. a wrench or some knobs and dials for the analysis settings. This has the advantage of distinguishing between the different options, but might be a bit confusing.

What are your thoughts on this? Are there any better ways which I havent thought of?

edit:

Mockup of the screen

the image shows a rough sketch of the screen. All kinds of navigation has been left out as well. To explain a bit further: the goal is to set up an analysis of several financial events. You may want to save the parameters for the analysis to run it again later, when the data has changed, or you may want to run it once and discard it. The analysis may be run with some options other than the events like different kinds of pricing methods etc. The settings are specific to one analysis.

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Your observations and thinking is correct.

Showing same icon as well as showing different icons might be confusing.

What I think in this case is :

  1. You can use a hamburger icon at the top (if it is possible and you have some other options to display) and you can include both the type of settings in there.

  2. You can use icon with caption like Application settings etc. if it is possible. The reason why I am insisting of using a caption along with icon here is usually Settings have the same icon and user will definitely confuse by seeing same settings icon / different settings icon.

Hence as per one of the Usability Heuristics stated by Jakob Nielsen user is more comfortable in Recognition rather than recall and hence two different icons/same icons along with caption would be the appropriate solution as per my knowledge.

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I'm not a UX expert but in my opinion, it'll be nice to have a single settings icon and display the different settings in an options-list when you click on the icon. Something like this (with some improvement) -

enter image description here

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I think your real problem is not the icons but the fact that you have two different places with settings. Integrate the advanced settings in the application wide settings. Give it it's own tab or page if needed and make it always accessible (as long as the analysis section is accessible for the user). Consider creating a menu for different kind of settings and or application sections. If you want a dropdown menu for that you can use the cog icon for the button. I don't recommend using two different icons, nor using the same icon twice.

  • I understand your concern about having two different places for settings, but the settings are specific to one "instance" of an analysis. I think it would be a bit cumbersome for the user to setup these settings somewhere outside where they are entering the other details of the analysis. – Lorentz Vedeler Jun 8 '15 at 18:36

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