information architecture – Where is the best place for settings in a product with a lot of them?

Suppose you have a software product with five modules. Each module has its own settings to configure. There are also settings around admin functions like User Account Setup.

The settings won’t necessarily need to be configured by someone in an admin role, though an Admin will be able to see and configure all settings. (Example: A finance manager can edit settings in a Finance module, but not an Auditing module.)

Some of the module settings might need to be adjusted frequently based on pattern observation (example: auditors setting thresholds for fraud detection), while other settings will be “set it and forget it”.

Where is the best place for settings to managed?

  1. Place them as close as possible to user tasks? For example, settings for Module A are configured in Module A, settings for Module B are configured in Module B, and maybe there’s a small Application Settings section for everything that’s not specific to a module? This could create a logical, convenient place for configuration tasks. It could also be a nightmare for an Admin who would have to memorize where various settings are stored.

  2. Use one settings section for everything? The advantage is that the user always knows where to go when they need to configure something. The disadvantage is that it might be less-than-ideal for a user who is frequently tweaking module settings.

  3. Place most “set it and forget it” settings in a Settings section, regardless of their module, but allow smaller sub-sets of settings for the frequently adjusted ones? This seems like the most user-flow-based approach, but I get nervous about providing ambiguous places where users might look to do things.

Or, is there a better approach for this?