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I'm setting up some options/settings pages for a wordpress theme. There are a lot of options and I think splitting them up will help navigating the different controls. I'm thinking of splitting the controls in to different tabbed groups, my problem is deciding how to split the controls across different tabs. There is no obvious logical grouping, the settings are mainly unrelated to eachother and not all users will use or even understand all of the settings.

Some options:

  1. Keep all the controls on one page. This means a lot of scrolling and is visually too busy and hard to navigate.

  2. Split the controls in to very specific tabbed groups - with a lot of relatively empty tabs. From experience I think this is easier to navigate on larger screens but less so when there isn't enough screen space to accommodate all the tabs. The contrast between the large number of tabs and the few controls in each tab also doesn't work visually in my opinion.

  3. Split the controls in to more manageable sized tabbed groups. This visually seems the best option, but can mean using very general groupings that don't really help navigating the options.

enter image description here

I understand this will vary depending on the specific case and controls being grouped - so, assuming there is no obvious logical way to split the controls in to manageable sized groups, what is the best approach? What other approaches are there to splitting settings/controls?

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Your second option is the best. Follow what WooCommerce do, they have one of the largest sets of options of any plugin, and they group them logically, not caring if one tab just has one option:

enter image description here

Tab contents for usability need to be grouped logically. The label at the top needs to be able to succinctly describe what will be laid out in that tab.

From Jacob Neilsen's Tabs, Used Right:

It logically chunks the content behind the tabs so users can easily predict what they'll find when they select a given tab.

  • I do agree.. I was just hoping someone could give me a solution that would work with the thirds option which I think works much better visually! – Cai Feb 7 '16 at 18:32
  • Settings dialogs in Windows often tend to have an "Advanced" tab. If you're left with a couple of rarely used options that would otherwise take up a lot of tabs, you could consider something like that. – Vivelin Feb 8 '16 at 8:24
  • I think this this - maybe with a 'general' tab for the most common options and an 'advanced' tab (thanks @horsedrowner) - Is the best solution. – Cai Feb 8 '16 at 23:05
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Here is an option i think will be great (experimental):

Divide all the controls in two groups, common and rare use. Show only the common controls on one page, and add at the bottom an input field that will will ask the user if he needs something else.

The user will enter a search query in a natural language: "I want to change the permissions for guest authors".

This will query the entire control list and provide the related controls.

Yes i know it will require additional development, but this in my opinion will simplify the systems to most of the average users.

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    I think the search query is probably overkill in this case but I really like the idea of of splitting the controls in to common and rare use. – Cai Feb 7 '16 at 13:06
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    Agreed. The search feature is probably not necessary, but having the UI primarily support the users' most frequent tasks is a good way to go. – Ken Mohnkern Feb 7 '16 at 14:27

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