Greetings, loyal RUIW readers. Ruu-eye-wah? Is that what the cool kids are calling it these days? Maybe just Reader UI? Excellent. I'm glad we worked this out together.
This Reader UI of the Week is actually coming to you from the past, as right now, I am more than likely out at sea eating an ungodly amount of food and telling myself that I'll work it all off when I get back -- and hey, you only live once. All lies. In the meantime, here is a lovingly crafted response to a great UI submitted by long-time commenter, first-time submitter Synnyster. In the business, I believe we call that the "put-up-or-shut-up" quotient. Rip him apart in the comments. He probably deserves it.
Let's hear it, Synnyster:
I've been a long-time reader of the UI of the Week column and also a pretty harsh critic in the comments. I'm really into the whole UI modding thing and have tried out most of the UI packages in my younger WoW modding days, Spartanui, etc.
I've seen the UIs people post, and every time I look at them I say to myself, "I could do that better," and as follows is my attempt at my custom interface.
3. Prat (with kgPanels background)
4. Quartz cast bar
5. Shadowed Unit Frames
6. Bartender + Button Facade (Square Shadow skin)
7. Skada Damage Meter
8. Sexymap (no default skin =] )
I went crazy with the Windows 7 Magnifier tool to make sure everything had an exact 2-pixel padding and used align to center my whole interface properly. If you want to have perfect pixel borders and padding, turn your multisampling down to 1x in the video options, people.
As you can see with my Dalaran screen, everything, including action bars, is hidden because I don't need them while trolling /2 Trade; obviously, the chat frame is necessary for this though. =]
Hidden actions are accessed with Opie Rings addon; for example, my spellstone, soulstone, pet summon, summon stone, professions etc. are keybound to a couple of hidden Bartender bars. FuBar is down at the bottom with quick-reference information like durability and gold.
I'll be lurking the comments if you decide to feature me and you guys have any suggestions or critique.
Synnyster, Frostmane (EU)
Thank you very much for the submission, Synnyster. When I first looked at the screenshots in the email, I was floored. As everyone well knows, I am a fan of simple layouts that look lovingly crafted for absolute purpose. Synnyster's UI oozed attention to detail while still remaining simple and "on message." The Dalaran-specific type of setup really blew me away as well and will be the big subject I'll address.
What I like about stacking
The WoW user interface and gameplay experience are both incredibly good for stacking user interface elements. So many of the ways we input and receive information can be broken down into horizontal bars; while it's not the only way to parse information, it is an effective way of saving space and setting pieces together.
Take a look at the "tower" of addons and UI elements in the middle of the screen. The bottom is covered by a Fubar, with pertinent information directly in the middle of the bar. Just over the bar is a simple row of action buttons, set to a square shape and texture with ButtonFacade to keep the smooth setting. Directly above the action buttons is a large Quartz cast bar, set up specifically to be set right above the action bar and lovingly sized and textured. Directly above the cast bar are the unit frames -- again, perfectly tailored to the width of the addons below it.
Why does this efficient setup work? Two reasons. First, the stack of addons keep Synnyster's eyes just above the bars on his character, and a quick glance down means all of the information needed is instantly available. Second, each addon is designated by a color scheme that does not clash or crash with the addon above or below it. Blue means cast bar, green means personal or target's health, "mana blue" means mana. Different colors alert the eyes to different values. Just watch out making anything red, orange or yellow, because those colors are known to induce hunger. The last thing you need are your unit frames making you get a snack during a raid.
A truly Dalaran UI
The most amazing part of Synnyster's UI to me is the slimmed-down, practically invisible setup when out of combat. Here are a few easy tips if you'd like to create a practically invisible UI while out of combat, running in circles around Dalaran, or (like our friend Synnyster here) trolling trade chat.
Opie is talked about almost universally as one of the greatest addons for reducing clutter on screen. A quick press enables buttons on demand, very similar to the menu system from Super Nintendo seminal classic Secret of Mana. I've talked about Opie before, but here's the Cliff Notes -- stick lesser-used spells on an Opie ring instead of your action bars, including professions, portal skills, etc. Having those available off-screen makes clearing your screen a lot easier for the Dalaran UI goal.
Action bar addons like Bartender and Dominos have options under each bar that designate its opacity, mouseover state and stance. By digging around in these options, you can set many bars to be visible only during combat or even mouseover, making a Dalaran invisible UI much easier. Getting rid of the action bars is a great way to save space while you're just admiring the scenery, running (again) around in circles or just hanging out.
Finally, DPS and threat meters like Skada and Recount can be configured to only appear in combat as well. Knock those into the ether while you're out of combat and you'll save even more space for roleplaying a secret half-dragon, half-naaru, half-lost-son-of-Varian. Believe me, it's better this way.
Wrapping it up
Synnyster's UI is an example of cleanliness and what can be achieved by giving yourself the time and patience in meticulously moving around pieces of the UI to fit happily together. I am a fan of the color usage, clean lines, simple setup and the very basic nature of the user interface. Nothing really seems to stand out as unnecessary, which is music to my ears. As much as people like to rag on DPS players having much less to worry about screen-wise than tanks and healers, I think there is an amazing art in doing something with so little. That sounds like a great idea, actually, for a contest. Hmmm ... a user interface contest ... Let me get back to you guys on that one.
Excellent work, Synnyster! I'm going to be working on my own UI now to get it to look as seamless and invisible out of combat, as well. I need things to look great while I'm doing laps in Dalaran on my sea turtle.
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.