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Dev Juice: When should you use out-of-app Settings?


Dear Dev Juice,

I've heard all the lectures and I understand that the discoverability of third party prefs in the Settings app is near zero. I also get that it's now best practice that developers should put preferences inside applications with custom screens.

I'm writing to ask this: what use cases you see where devs should be using settings bundles instead of in-app prefs?

Thanks in advance,


Dear V

Settings bundles allow you to move options away from users, creating a virtual wall between optional features and day-to-day use. The most common scenarios for this include kiosk apps, app diagnostics, and legal disclaimers.

When using apps in public presentation, such as at trade shows or conferences, you don't want Joe Q. Public exploring a "little too far" while using your app. Moving settings prefs out of the app and into Settings helps ensure that curious users won't inadvertently trigger behavior or modes outside of your desired use scenario. What goes in Settings stays in Settings.

Settings also provides a great place to enable remote diagnostics features. Again, the idea is to prevent the user from casually entering privileged debugging modes. Doing so typically allows collection of advanced diagnostic information to help resolve technical issues. Tech support personnel can easily walk the user through the steps needed to enable (and later disable) these elements. Placing toggles in Settings instead of the app itself ensures that users are unlikely to stumble across them or enable them in error.

The most common use of Settings bundles remains, however, as a place to enshrine all legal declarations associated with the application. Those motivated to explore will discover any number of disclaimers, copyright ownership listings, etc. Placing these in Settings helps declutter the app and provides a unified location for any lawyers who need to look up licensing details.

Happy Developing!

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