Positioning of settings should be governed by one thing: how often?
As demonstrated in this older post settings, apart from the obvious, their own applet in the settings application, can also reside in three other places: A welcome app, the status menu, and directly in the settings application.
So I asked you how often you use some of the settings I found in the following platforms, Symbian, Maemo, Harmattan, Android, and an old iOS I happened to have around.
First a note: a possible question is “Would you ever need to do this and that?” and probably most of the answers would be “Never, I would be happy with the default value”. But if I learned one thing since 2009 in the maemo community, is that however strange and rare a request can be, someone will come up and ask for it, because it fit’s his own specific usage pattern, or wants to do it as a means for something else. To quote myself in a reply to gerbick at the Jolla thread @tmo:
Great example, but I have to call in question how popular this truly is on a mobile device.
I ask out of curiosity and a true lack of numbers.
That is precisely the point of a device like the N900 and that’s why we love it. The ability to do things that are not popular.
It’s not popular to have an option to play sound on both hw speakers and headphones and I wouldn’t put it there if I was designing a phone. But guess what? I needed it and it I could do it with the N900.
It’s not popular to want to drop cellular functionality altogether when wifi is available but it prolongs my battery life significantly and my usage pattern fits perfectly to it.
I have seen all kinds of weird “features” people have implemented on this board that for 99% is a “who would want that” feature.
I don’t believe in daedalic settings applications with obscure settings that will make the casual user feel lost. I believe however in customization as our phones are the most personal devices, and I believe in about:config. Thousands of options, searchable, there for the tinkerer to exploit, but away from the public’s eyes. And if you ask a tinkerer, he will probably tell you that it’s easier for him to search for a value in a configuration file or about:config, than clicking around in menus anyway. So that is a golden solution that keeps everyone happy.
Back to the survey
Each setting has it’s own graph that demonstrates a usage pattern, but those aren’t directly comparable. For example most people manage applications once a week while the users of powersaving mode are almost distributed over the five options, with a significant percentage on the continuous and at least once a day options. Who wins? I thought I’d transform those answers to something more literal. I assigned a number to each category, proportional to the minimum number of times it occurs each year. That is 1 for Once, 12 for Once a month, 52 for Once a week , 365 for Once a day, and 1500 for Continuously. The first and last values are somewhat arbitrarily chosen but I think they serve the purpose fine. The result is divided by the number of answers and depicts the number of times an imaginary average user uses that setting each year.
The winners here are clearly the networking options, with users modifying either the network they are connected to, or the state of the wifi radio about 500 times/year, 200 more than the times they modify their ringing volume. Some people prefer changing profile however and others just change the volume, so maybe it’s an unfair comparison. Even if we take the maximum of the two columns for each user the number remains less than 400. Next comes the 2G/3G toggle, online presence, power saving and ringing volume/profile.
The popularity of profiles, in addition to just modifying the volume which is the current trend in smartphones, gives me the idea to create a 2D control that has volume and mood axes, or otherwise combining volume and profiles in one control.
Because every user is different and the values we will choose as most important even after conducting a survey will not be perfect for everyone, it is good if the various settings could be pinned either to the status menu, or the main settings screen. The long-tap function in settings does nothing, so it can be used to pin items.
Wifi network selection with switch should go in the status menu, along with the profile, online presence, power saving, and bluetooth. Even if bluetooth isn’t used so much, it’s used in mostly “urgent” conditions, when somebody wants to send us something, when we are already in pairing mode and want to switch it quickly, or when the phone is already ringing and we want to route sound to the headset. This urgency makes up for the not-so-often usage of bluetooth.
4 items are between 100-200: Brightness, applications, GPS, and USB. We’ve already established that applications should be relegated to their own app (see previous post) so we are left with 3 items to populate the main screen of settings. Because flight mode is on the verge of 200, and it is by definition just a switch, it should make it there too. All other items should have their own applet, or be nested conveniently in other applets.