Another week is upon us, and another Reader UI of the Week to pour our wit and comments into. It's patch day (maybe), and I know that you are all itching to get back in game, fire up those surveying tools, and start making some extra cash with archaeology. Well, I've got news for you, buddy(ies). All the cool kids are going to be hanging out with our new best friend, Shadowspirit Diamond. Send all of your auction house outrageous price complaints to resident auction house expert Basil Berntsen.
This week, we let the UI fly with an interesting setup from Aycaramba (henceforth known as "Ay") that removes all semblance of anchorage and lets the user interface go where it wants to. A totally undocked UI is something I've experimented with in the past and never really stuck to. Let's see if Ay can give me a little insight.
Let's take a look:
Hi there McCurley,
I am Aycaramba from Anachonos-EU. I'm a long-time reader and even longer-time addon freak. I've been tweaking my UIs seriously for the last two years or so and I think I start getting the hang of it. This UI is for my restoration shaman. It was designed for the new Cataclysm raiding and focus on awareness and ease of access. I've been running a solid-centered-grid style of raid frames all through Wrath and decided to get some extra visibility.
Some things I struggled with was getting all the clutter out of the way and still keep all the functionality available when I needed it. I used Kong for mouseover fading and made heavy use of the other conditional fadings available in my addons. Now I only see what I want to see in any given situation.
Some key mods to make this work are:
Pitbull 4 All the unit frames and all of the Blizzard frames removal is done by Pitbull. I use raid frames faded on range to see who is out of range. I have a few short Dogtag snippets of text added to show on the raid frames who have my Riptide HoT and the remaining duration as well as charges on my Earth Shield. I also added Dogtag checks for HoTs from other healers as well as Power Word: Shield. These are visualized by the dots in the lower corners of the raid frames.
Clique All my active heals are bound to mouse clicks, so I don't need to use my keyboard for anything else than positioning and some backup spells. I run with a very simple three-button mouse (left, right, thumb) and make heavy use of modifiers. To me, it has made me more intuitive and quicker to react than when playing with keybindings on my keyboard.
Dominos I don't show many action bars, but when I do, I use Dominos. Normally I only show a small bar with my often-used cooldowns and situational abilities. I keep this bar there more for checking cooldowns than for clicking abilities, but it happens. Tremor Totem and Mana Tide Totem are nice to have quick access to. The rest of my bars are shown only under certain conditions. I have a few large bars shown when I press ctrl where I keep my various non-combat stuff such as consumables, trade skills, mounts etc. I also have my classic bars with actual in-combat abilities shown on mouseover. I never show these.
Other mods that makes this look and feel as it does:
HudMap At first, I found this to be too much and too in my face. Now I just love it. The totem range indicators and chain heal visualizing is just great. Also, seeing where to run to pick up a dying out of range raider is also priceless.
Satrina Buff Frames My go-to buff handler. I keep all my long buffs in my upper left and all my long debuffs in my upper right. Any shorter debuffs on me or my friends are shown in the raidframes.
Sexymap Even thought it's not shown in the screenshots it's there -- in the lower right, hidden when I don't need it. With HudMap, I have no use for a map in combat and simply let it fade out. It is activated on mouseover and stays visible for 10 seconds. Works great for everything but a long archaeology trip, but then it's only a click away. I use Buttonfacade to style these as well as my Dominos-bars.
Kong My main man. Before you tipped me off about this little beast, I was never really happy about how things looked. There was always something I wanted to get out of the way and couldn't. Well, not anymore! I use it heavily to get everything out of my way: Minimap, Recount, bars, totemtimers, Broker addons, etc.
One last thing I'd like to point out is my chat frames. I use Prat for some small tweaks to them, but what is more important is how I have split the channels between frames and tabs. I cannot believe how so many players lets all their channels mix together in a single tab. My setup is a seperate "Personal" window where I have guild, party, raid, battleground and whispers. This is all the messages that are actually specifically addressed to me in some way or another. In the lower frame, I keep the rest of the stuff. A tab for "1. General" and all login/logout messages, etc., one tab for trade, one tab for loot and of course a combat log.
Enjoy, and thanks a lot for an inspiring and always excellent column!
Thanks for the email and submission, Ay. Let's jump right in.
Undocking the user interface from the bottom of the screen is a potentially scary act to take. We're comfortable with our information at the bottom of our field of view. After all, that's where our information is when we're driving a car, right? Bottom bar UIs work, but it could be fun to experiment.
Ay's approach is to take the crucial elements of the healing interface and put them front and center, resting just below the character. Everything else, if it is marginally considered to be superfluous for the purposes of healing, is hidden until mouseover. This type of approach requires user to understand every aspect of their own personal needs and UI elements, as well as possess an intricate knowledge of their keybindings. Since Clique is the primary keybind addon, most of the shaman's healing arsenal is easily attached to the mouse, making action bars almost irrelevant.
I talked about Kong in an Addon Spotlight some weeks back, and the reception to the addon has been wonderful. Utilities that have such a simple purpose but work so well get a big A+ in my book, and Kong is no exception. If you're running a setup where a good deal of your user interface is "there, just because," start hiding stuff. If you feel like you're looking at too many numbers during raiding, start hiding stuff. If you're the kind of person who absolutely has to have these things up in combat, have them only show up during combat. Slowly but surely, you will find your way into a slimmer UI.
Radial unit frames are cool
Ay's unit frames is one aspect of the UI I wanted to point out specifically, because the simplicity of the setup knocked me off my feet. As a healer, Ay gets a lot of use out of WoW's focus target system, as well as the regular targeting needed to quickly and accurately heal raid members. Some of the issues that present themselves when dealing with unit frames are size and positioning. A delicate balance needs to be reached -- you want a hefty unit frame to accurately and quickly know what percentages and values your target's health is at, but small enough so that your field of view isn't overburdened with unit frames.
I think the balance, for the most part, has been reached with Ay's setup. The player frame makes up the core of the little target array, and the focus sits just above it, always, as almost a sliver of a health bar. That's enough, really -- Ay only needs to know what the focus' percentages at before hitting a macro of keybinding that will take care of the focus target's life emergency. The rest of the unit frames, with their respective buffs and debuffs, radiate outwards. The Grid frame provides a nice anchor to the radial unit frame setup. I like it.
The one issue I have with Ay's setup is the free-floating chat. I am the type of person who has a terrible time reading small chat that is flanked by unpredictable environment colors. Orgrimmar's skies look drastically different than the color scheme of Twilight Highlands, for instance. Sometimes similarly colored text and texture meld into one unreadable blur for me. Hence, I've always put some kind of background color or opacity to my chat windows.
Here's where Ay's UI could be genius, however. We've been hiding stuff left and right. There's no reason that chat panel stuff couldn't be hidden during combat or raiding as well. Raid environments tend to be darker, lending themselves to background-less chat boxes. Outside of raids, the background could easily be removed.
I very much enjoyed Ay's UI and the use of UI elements that feel like they are anchored to the player instead of the screen. For a healing user interface, I think the whole setup is competent and well thought-out, especially the radial design of the unit frames. Good show, Ay.
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.