Maritime has a pretty neat user interface! Take it away.
Maritime, warrior from <Knights of the Runes> on Azjol-Nerub (US) here. I love the reader UI series. I've been tweaking my UI from very early on in WoW's history (anyone else remember Cosmos UI?) and have gotten some good tips from your articles, like lowering the alpha value on scrolling text for a less jarring visual impact, and reducing the number of bars in my threat meter so it can share some space for another addon. I was recently inspired to do a very light integration with kgPanels. More on that later.
My primary focus is PVE, switching frequently between tanking and DPS. I run on a large widescreen monitor, and many choices made in my design would not work on a smaller or 4:3 screen. I aim for consistency wherever it's practical. I've settled on one texture for every bar in my UI, and one font, except where I found that font simply didn't work.
Aperture: I start with my viewport mod, because using it has a huge impact on everything else in the UI. Also because of the alphabet. I really like being able to have a separate area to place much of my UI without obscuring the world view.
Auracle: I've never seen much discussion about this awesome buff mod, which is a shame, because it fits a couple of specific use cases so well. Auracle is composed of separate windows, which are made up of one or more trackers. Each buff/debuff tracker can work with multiple buffs, based on the effect of the buff without regard to caster or class. For example, as a warrior, I want to be sure that I (and by extension, the rest of the group) have an attack power buff, but I don't much care if it's my Battle Shout, another warrior's Shout or Blessing of Might from a pally. It is also easy to set it up to make it obvious when a buff or debuff is missing. On my warrior, I display for my frame AP and health point buffs, and for my target an AP debuff.
Bartender4: I do something a bit different here. The buttons on the right are all keybound to my numpad (I've actually removed the numlock key so I don't accidentally toggle it), and most of my play is with both hands on the keyboard (I don't PvP much). I have both the top and numpad bars switch when I change stance. This enables me to have access to (and see all the cooldowns of) all my warrior's abilities w/o having to use a modifier. The trade-off is that a few things I want access to in combat share bars with stuff I don't need, like crafting, so the bars are always on.
ButtonFacade: Makes Bartender and Outfitter bars look nicer and consistent.
Cascade: Damage log for when I need to figure out how I died.
ChocolateBar: Top bar is for data, bottom bar is launchers.
Cowtip, modified by CowTipLuaText: A nice clean tooltip display.
DXE: Boss mod.
ElkBuffBars: I prefer the bar-style buff display, especially since getting the widescreen monitor.
kgPanels: I like using clear boundaries to define my UI, but I've used kgPanels in a couple of places. Most obvious is giving a background to the top ChocolateBar. More subtle is the faint fade between zones in the bottom part of my interface. The final piece is the white bar between the fifth and sixth raid members. The SUF raid layout I use doesn't divide by groups, so I attach a white bar to the bottom of the sixth (and 11th, 16th and 21st) raid frames so I can more quickly asses how many slots are still open. I'll bet some readers would be surprised that kgPanels can be used for informational purposes.
MikScrollingBattleText: I like seeing the numbers fly by!
OmniCC: Plays nice with Bartender for an easy-to-read cooldown display.
Outfitter: Essential for keeping track of and easily switching between my numerous outfits.
PowerAuras: See the blue circle under my target frame? Each piece of the circle represents a stack of Sunder Armor. The pieces are yellow when there are less than five stacks, and when the there is less than 10 seconds before SA expires, the circle goes red and I get a countdown as well. I also use a PA to inform me with a sound and visual cue when I get a free Slam proc when I'm DPSing. My kitty alt uses a whole slew of PAs to keep track of my rotation.
Prat: My preferred chat mod. I like having two chat areas for better parsing of info during raids. Sometimes I wish I could live with just one and get some of that real estate back for something else, like my raid frames, but when on busy nights in my large guild, a single window just scrolls too fast.
Quartz: I only use two of Quartz's bars, as the player cast bar, which you can see in my solo picture. I love having the cast bar span the whole width of the screen. A recent bonus I've discovered while leveling a shadow priest is that having a long cast bar, coupled with Quartz's latency mod, makes it easier to time your next cast. I also use Quartz's target cast bar. I get a better display of interruptible casts than the one that come in SUF.
ShadowedUnitFrames: Best looking UF out of the box and easy to configure.
Skada: Hidden when solo, threat meter when in combat, damage meter out of combat.
TargetCharms: A simple marking tool.
TidyPlates + ThreatPlates: LOVE this addon pair. They revolutionized multi-mob tanking for me.
That's most of the stuff you can see. There's also a long list of various utility addons I have that don't really pertain to interface design. I hope you enjoy my UI and find enough of interest here to share with your readers.
Thanks so much for the email, Maritime. The images that Maritime sent will make addon position-ists very excited, since the legend used is excellent at showing you what addons go where.
Shapes are important
The hallmark of Maritime's user interface to me might not be what you were expecting. For the most part, Maritime's UI works well in a very utilitarian fashion and works without obscuring the main window to such a degree. What stood out for me was the shape of the action bars to mirror the keyboard layout chosen by Maritime. Not enough user interfaces, in my opinion, take a cue from the layouts that are right in front of us all.
Two aspects of the keypad action bar are of highest importance for me. First, the shape. Second, the function. Let's start with shape. I like shapes. I really like shapes. You should be using more shapes!
Why all the shape love, you ask? Dynamic shapes are eye-catching, fun and unique. Most people, myself included, use action bars in the shape of the referenced input device -- my keyboard's 1 through = keys are represented as straight bars on my screen. The hand-eye coordination is key to fast ability activation. Shaping the action bars, coincidentally, aids in that.
The reason that the shape of the number pad is effective in Maritime's user interface, at least in my eyes, is because the keyboard layout works very well in the WoW
interface. You've already allowed yourself a keyboard-esque area for your interface at the bottom of the screen -- why not continue the in-game/out-of-game representation?
The second aspect I love is that I keep forgetting the number pad exists. I'm that guy! Right now, on my warrior, I tank with my left hand and move with my right hand on the mouse. On the paladin, I would tank with my right hand, use the left hand to apply seals and judgments, and have to move my hand off the keyboard for mouse movement. Opening up the number pad means a whole new wealth of buttons available for the right hand. And I keep forgetting they exist. Thank you, Maritime, for reminding me that 18 lost buttons are on my keyboard, ready for the binding.
View port or not to port
Before I close this edition of Reader UI, I will disclose my controversial opinion about viewport addons. I don't like view ports that physically shrink your viewable window and add an area specifically for your interface. Again, the wonder of user interface customization is that everything is personal preference. My opinion definitely has a reason, though.
Back in Ultima Online
, you had the option to make a separate, black area that did not obscure the interface where you could leave health bars, bags and other interface elements. For UO
, this worked, since screen and game resolutions at the time did not necessarily act kindly to full screen setups. Frankly, it looked sharper smaller. As time went on for me, I found the real challenge of creating a user interface was less about the substance and more about the style -- integrating the user interface over the game world without pushing things into their own gated area. My interface was more like a cockpit. This has stuck with me through 10 years plus of massively multiplayers. I still recommend using viewport addons that change your viewable area if that is your thing, however. There are plenty of good ones out there.
Thank you again for the email, Maritime. You've given your fellow readers a few awesome things to think about when crafting their own UIs. Sometimes, Reader UI can be about these concepts rather than placement. Personally, I love these analytical issues that user interface creation brings up. Fun times!
See you guys next week!
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, or visit Addons 101 for help getting started.