Welcome, friends, to another Reader UI of the Week. It has been an exciting week for addons ... sort of. User interface customization has been enabled on the Cataclysm beta servers, and addon authors are working hard to create some awesome new mods. Hopefully, in the near future, we will be getting some cool new user interfaces coming out of beta, as well as addons and changes.
In the meantime, we've got some awesome user interfaces to cover. Today's reader submission comes from Aanye on the Cenarius realm. Using Fizzik's UI as inspiration and a set of UI-defining requirements, Aanye has gone and made a very capable and very slim laptop user interface for himself. Let's take a look.
Take it away, Aanye:
You could consider my UI a "reader response" to the Fizziks' Mk. 2 UI. I had always been afraid of becoming too dependent on custom UIs: patch comes out, I log in for a raid, all hell breaks loose and nothing works ... Not an ideal scenario. I only just started playing around with them to accommodate my data broker fixation ... But when I saw Fizziks' new UI, I was inspired. I set out to build my own UI, with a few requirements:
- Compact I play on a laptop, so pixel space is limited.
- Top and sides uncluttered Most of my toons are tanks, and I like a wide, open view of the room.
- Modeled after the stock UI layout I wanted to keep action bars compatible with stock in case the UI ever breaks.
- Sexy Like Fizziks' UI. 'Nuff said.
After weeks of tinkering -- and driving my wife crazy, as it's taken me twice as long to do anything in-game because I'm always messing with an addon -- I finally got it just right.
The key addons:
- Dominos w/ ButtonFacade
- ChocolateBar (with lots and lots of data sources)
- Healbot (used for heals, cures, and raid frames)
- Who Framed Watcher Wabbit
- Baggins (not pictured, but single-handedly the most useful add-on I've ever installed)
Aside from just looking cool and having a cinematic feel (which I really dig), this has actually improved my playing a bit. Most of my time, my eyes are trained on the bottom-middle quarter of the screen, so my eyes aren't "seeking" as much as they used to. I was afraid I'd get tunnel vision while tanking, but I find this actually makes it easier on my eyes for spotting movement or alerts like stray adds, extra pulls, peeled threat, etc. And having the cast bar, target health and action bar so close together has really helped my damage and rotations on my DPS toons. And with the exception of player/target frames and stance/pet bars, everything is more or less in its default place -- so when the next patch day rolls around, I should survive.
I gotta thank Fizziks for his truly awe-inspiring UI. And my wife, Llaewynn, for putting up with my tinkering between pulls. :)
-- Aanye, Cenarius
Thank you for the submission and email, Aanye. It is so awesome to get emails like this one, because it shows what this column is all about -- helping the WoW.com community inspire one another to improve their gameplay experience. There is nothing better than hearing that a profiled user interface pushed people to work on an aspect of their game that they were hesitant to work on before.
Aanye's UI is compact and well positioned -- and with good reason. Taking my (hopefully) sage advice, Aanye started out with a set of goals and guidelines about what his interface should be and built from there. Boundaries are key!
Whenever you see a shot like the interface screenshot above, the "before" picture from Aanye's submission, your mind immediately tells you that this is a default user interface will little to no customization. If you notice, all of those types of interfaces look exactly the same. One thing that these interfaces have in common is clutter that is not dealt with in a coherent manner. Clutter is fine, so long as the clutter is managed correctly.
There are three excellent ways to manage clutter. Each of these examples are illustrated in Aanye's before and after pictures, which is very helpful and fortunate! You'd think I would have written it that way.
Addon usefulness and importance
The first is that, after incorporating an addon into your interface, you don't exactly know how much you will be using it, referring to its information, or its importance relative to other addons. The big offenders here are usually Recount, Skada or Omen -- many people do not, in the beginning, know how little they will be checking their DPS and threat meters. In the before shots, Aanye's DPS and threat meters are much more prominent, larger and closer to the center, because in the beginning, I'm sure Aanye probably thought those would be important addons, since DPS and threat are important variables to watch during fights. After a while, however, you realize that the DPS and threat meters are important -- but not front-and-center important -- so they are moved to the bottom right, flush against the new action bar setup. The trick is to use an addon for a while before moving into its permanent new home, since you'll have a better idea of where and when you are reliant on said addons.
The second tip is that spacing is always important, especially when dealing with your unit frames. Aanye originally used the default unit frame setup, which works for some but is vastly inferior, due to the information these unit frames provide. Customization is also extremely limited and the spacing is awful. Look at how much space the default unit frames take up! It's ridiculous. You deserve something that takes up a lot less space.
Once you switch up your unit frames, you'll notice an immediate change in the amount of screen space saved. The entire upper-left side of the screen becomes free to use for other purposes or just a more streamlined setup. Aanye has decided to go with a simple rectangular setup for the group, while moving the player frame and target frame to the bottom, above the action bars. The default unit frames are some of the biggest space-wasters you can find -- change them to regain lots of space.
Keeping style, shifting substance
Keeping the general style of the default user interface is a great guide for building your own custom setup. The differences you make, however, streamline the substance of the UI and refine the style and positions. Take the two side action bars -- Aanye keeps the bars from the original UI but sizes and scales them down, applies some better shapes and textures, and keeps the general feel but changes the look. Keeping the theme of the default UI isn't the sin -- keeping the inefficiencies, however, is the mistake.
Thank you very much for the submission, Aanye. Great job! Your UI is a clean, all-around slick setup that does exactly what it sets out to accomplish. You set your goals and met them wonderfully. Even better is that you were inspired by your fellow community members. If you are ever inspired by the UIs you see here, let me know -- we love success stories here at WoW.com, and knowing people are getting some real good help from the columns warms my happy little heart.
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.