As the new addon and user interface columnist, I've been given the task of not only finding and informing the WoW.com community about new, useful and awesome addons, but also the unique job of taking a look at the community's user interfaces and highlighting some of the awesome creativity and innovations that the community can share. I want this column to be very reader oriented - let's go on this amazing addon journey together!
Since WoW.com hasn't done a Reader UI of the Week in a while, in lieu of a submission I thought I would profile my own personal user interface and addon set up. A few people in the comments to my first AddOn Spotlight and in some e-mails I received wanted to see my UI to get a better feel for what I find to be aesthetically acceptable and necessary. I'll keep the list strictly to the addons that are core to my game experience and leave out the fringe addons for later columns. If you have any questions or need an addon recommendation, please send me an e-mail and hopefully we can find something that sates your addon desire. Without further ado, here is what I see:
Are you in awe, yet? Look at all those buttons! There's no way for me to miss a spell since I have everything available to me. The action bars are large enough for me to select spells easily. My Carbonite and SexyMap maps are nice and big to show me the way to my next quest! I don't know why I have Tankadin there, since this is obviously a warlock's UI, but better safe than sorry, I'd say!
I'm sorry. This ordeal hurts too much to continue. Please forgive me. Here is my real UI:
Amazing, right? It's like you're looking through my eyes. It's like Being John Malkovich, with just a little bit less John Cusack. Here's my philosophy -- the user interface is a piece of a larger experience that includes the game proper and the situations you are put into. I want to make my user interface as unobtrusive as possible while still having incredible amounts of functionality and information at my disposal.
The backbone of my user interface is made up of six categories of addons: Skada/Omen, kgPanels, Dominos, Shadowed Unit Frames, Chatter (or Prat) and SexyMap. At some point I will chronicle all of these mods in greater detail (or detail has already been given on AddOn Spotlight). For now, these are the addons that allow me to create my simplistic, unobtrusive user interface that gives me all of the information that I need while not sacrificing screen real estate. All of the links for the addons I will discuss are located at the bottom of the article.
Skada/Omen, kgPanels and Dominos
Saving on screen real estate is one of the hardest things to do, especially since most addons come in what feels like the "large size" as their defaults. Save space by shrinking down addons and using the scale feature. Also, note your scale number as it can be easier to input that number than sight-guessing using a slider to make all of the addons the same scale size.
kgPanels is a fantastic addon for spacing out your essential interface "areas." I like to have my interface compartmentalized so that my brain knows, based on the situation, where to be looking on my screen. Checking an ability cooldown? Look at the bars and my cooldown addon above them. Before I used kgPanels, I was addicted to a few Viewport addons that made the bottom of my screen black or textured, allowing me to position addons inside of the viewport for a cleaner look. Over time, however, that style began to irk me. kgPanels does what the viewport addons did, but in a more flexible, less constrained way.
kgPanels is completely customizable for use with player made borders or other presets found in your addons. In the screenshot below, you can see that I have given each of my addons the same simple black border in order to make everything look uniform.
ShadowedUF, Chatter and SexyMap
Simplistic unit frames are key to my set up. I'm personally a fan of Shadowed Unit Frames because of the wealth of information the bars can show while at the same time keeping real estate costs down. My bars are a little bigger than they have to be, mostly because I don't want to strain my eyes too much. Shadowed Unit Frames allows me to have an enemy cast bar, health and mana in the same simple window. Cascading down to the right of the Target's unit frame are Target of Target and Focus, which are not visible in the screenshot.
Chatter and Prat are the two chat addons that I usually recommend, mostly because of their simplicity. Chatter is the current addon that I am using. The buttons for chat are removed, the mouse's scroll wheel moves chat up or down, and the detached text input bar allows me to fit the Chatter window snugly into the corner of the main bottom bar. The learning curve on inputing text directly in front of me took a few hours of typing, but the result has been phenomenal and less intrusive than ever. Many players, including myself, consider the chat addon to be the most important addon. In the early days of WoW, the chat system was constrained and lacking in features - chat addons quickly made communication easier.
SexyMap is my map addon of choice. Many people are turned off by SexyMap because of the first preset that appears when the addon is first installed. I implore you to tinker around with the settings and shapes and create your own map. SexyMap is basically a platform for minimap development and allows wonderful flexibility when dealing with the size, shape, border textures and icons of your minimap.
The Bottom Line
I hope you all enjoyed that little peek into my mind when it comes to user interface development and creativity. I like using smaller, lightweight and customizable addons that fit together nicely and allow the whole package to come together seamlessly. My UI took me approximately two to three hours to perfect, mostly because I was just learning these addons and their configurations. There was at least a half hour of drawing boxes on a piece of paper to get everything just right, location wise.
But this column isn't about me! It's about you! So let's see all of those inventive, fun, and awesome user interfaces that you guys have come up with. Each week, I'd like to use a Reader's UI to learn an important lesson about user interface creation and, hopefully, help everyone have a better gameplay experience as their user interface and addons work for them and not just get in the way.
- Omen (Threat meters): Download at [Curse] or [WoWInterface]
- Skada (DPS/Healing/Threat meters): Download at [Curse] or [WoWInterface]
- kgPanels (UI Artwork): Download at [Curse] or [WoWInterface]
- Dominos (Action Bar Management): Download at [Curse] or [WoWInterface]
- ButtonFacade (Action Bar Button Artwork): Download at [Curse] or [WoWInterface]
- ShadowedUF (Unit Frames Addon): Download at [Curse] or [WoWInterface]
- Chatter (Chat Addon): Download at [Curse] or [WoWInterface]
- Prat 3.0 (Chat Addon): Download at [Curse] or [WoWInterface]
- SexyMap (Minimap Alternative): Download at [Curse]
Interested in getting the most out of your user interface? Come back once a week for more examples of reader UIs. For more details on individual addons, check out Addon Spotlight, your source for everything addon-related. Submit your UI today at readerui (at) wow dot com!