Hello, friends. I hope you all had a nice three-day weekend (the Americans, at least) and ate all the ridiculous BBQ you could. I did, and it was glorious. I have a very special relationship with grills and grilling food, and we will leave it at that.
This week's Reader UI of the Week is dedicated to healers and clutter and finding the right amount of compromise to make a UI work. Clutter isn't all bad, you know. Sometimes we pride ourselves on getting the bare minimum of "stuff" on the screen. Others pride themselves on fitting the most they can. Today, we're going to take pride in making sense of simple yet substantial.
As usual, don't forget to send me your Reader UIs! I want to see everything from the most minimal concoctions to the biggest messes in need of some love. Send your submissions to email@example.com.
Naina's UI: shaman, restoration, healer, non-widescreen
What have you got for me, Naina?
I've been playing my resto shaman since the first day Burning Crusade released and have always been looking for ways to improve my UI design. The focus of my UI is to gather all the relevant information into places I'm already looking - at my character's feet. I've tried to keep the center of my screen relatively clear so I can better see if I'm standing in good circles or evil circles. Moving design elements to the bottom of my screen naturally keeps my attention focused more on where I'm standing and my surroundings.
List of Addons
Grid The heart and soul of my UI. As a healer, I find Grid to be the single most useful addon in my repertoire. I make extensive use of its aura system to place borders around players that are suffering from debuffs; it's a quick visual cue showing me who I need to pop a quick heal into.
IceHud By default, this addon starts in the center of the screen, but I've moved it to the bottom, hugging Grid. IceHud is mainly used to track my mana pool and spell cooldowns. I've tried eliminating the health bar, as it's redundant with Grid, but then everything looks lopsided, so I live with it. Healing cooldowns are displayed on the left, mana cooldowns are displayed on the right.
Decursive I exclusively use the micro-frames portion of Decursive. Using a separate addon frees up a keybinding and quickly calls to attention any debuffs that people are sporting.
TotemTimers This is easily the best totem-management addon I've ever seen. The menus for the totems are customizable, so you can take totems you never use off the bar (I only noticed shaman lost sentry totem because of the patch notes). The integrated timers are key for tracking durations without sorting through a buff bar. The second column keeps track of reincarnate, water/lightning shield, earth shield and your weapon imbue. The Earth Shield tracker shows not only who your shield is on, but it also has 'memory', letting you recast Earth Shield on your previous target without needing to retarget them.
Dominos Just a way to move my buttons around and resize them. Nearly everything is keybound, so for the most part, I can keep my ability buttons small and out of the way, on the right side of the screen.
Satrina Buff Frames The key use of Satrina is its ability to move and resize the buff/debuff icons. Making the debuff icons larger and in the center is helpful for noticing when you have said debuff. My buff bars are split into two - one in the upper right, for buffs I don't care about tracking, but need to know if I have, the other sitting on top of grid, for buffs I need to keep track of. The buffs I need to track are limited, so splitting them off from the main buff bar means I don't have to search for the icon in a sea of tiny pictures.
Deadly Boss Mods This is mandated by my raiding guild. I've tweaked it so the bars appear right over decursive.
Pitbull I really only use this to hide the default Blizzard party frames. It's as pared-down as possible, as all the information I need is in Grid. I tried to run without a personal frame, but oops! You still need something to click on to leave parties and change dungeon difficulty.
Prat A fairly standard chat addon. Used for resizing font and class-coloring the names of people who talk.
Sexymap Simplifies the border of my minimap, changes the shape and, most importantly, hides all the icons for the other addons I'm using.
TitanPanel I probably could remove this addon at this point in my raiding career, but I level alts quite frequently and use it for the coordinates.
Bagnon A bag/bank management addon. Lets me look in any bag or bank of any of my various alts. Its search function is really helpful for figuring out which of my characters is holding the enchanting materials so I can take advantage of short breaks to quickly grab needed items.
TipTac With all my addons on the bottom of the screen, I really struggled with the default tooltip location overwriting useful screen space. TipTac lets me move the tooltip to a less important location, as well as hide irrelevant information while in combat.
MovePowerBarAlt (not pictured) Lets you move those pesky icons on Atramades and Cho'gall. They go in the space between my chat window and IceHud
Thanks for the email and the submission, Naina. Restoration shaman have been dealing with enough ups and downs in Cataclysm that I figured I would do the shaman community a solid and feature a UI of their favorite class. Plus, I've been meaning to play my shaman some more ...
The Satrina question
Before I get to the meat of the matter, I wanted to quickly address the use of addon favorite Satrina's Buff Frames. Yes, Satrina's is gone for the foreseeable future. Past versions still sort of work, if the planets are correctly aligned and you rub your monitor with a combination of wyrmblood and fel-draught. (You would not believe the price of wrymblood these days.)
Options are available, however. I am a personal fan of Raven, which is a wonderful buff/debuff tracker with a wide variety of options for players beginner to advanced. I even covered Raven in my most recent Addon Spotlight Grab Bag. Raven is by no means the only option. Quartz (which many players already have) can do some buff and debuff tracking, and many players swear by their own unique Power Auras setups. Whatever addon you choose, buff and debuff tracking is an important part of the user interface, so make sure your tools are up to the task.
I only bring up this factor since Naina included Satrina's in her writeup, and I want to make sure that people have up-to-date information on the whole Satrina's thing. Until then, a little extra information never killed anyone, right?
A healer's life
When people look at a user interface like Naina's and say "that's cluttered," my first instinct is that those people have never played a healer in World of Warcraft. Even with minimal amounts of UI scaling, addon usage, and quality of life additions to the screen, healer UIs are complicated, bloated things. Even Blizzard's own Grid-style healing UI, introduced recently, is still relatively large compared to other interface elements. Having a cluttered UI, for most of the healer population out there, is a state of being and a point of fact. Can you mitigate the hurt? Of course.
Naina's UI keeps each element in its own area. The main Grid window is flanked by IceHUD bars, providing quick and easy access to potent personal information like health and mana. The Decursive mini-windows are set up directly to the right, aiding in potentially nasty dispel fights. The top portion of the UI is relegated to less crucial information like the minimap and long-term buffs. The action bars and utility set ups are within striking distance of the main action area, keeping the most important tools at arm's reach.
Could we move a few items around? Sure. Most of the bottom area of the UI could be pulled down and placed more tightly together, but that could dispute the whole "things in reach" motif. Basically, I think many healers fall into a "comfortable clutter" that is deceptively easy to navigate.
Since almost everything on Naina's UI is keybound, the main action bars are nonessential except for living on the left side of the screen in case any adjustments need to be made. Good. If you can scale down on some action bars to remove their presence, I'd say go for it. You'd be surprised at how good it feels.
There is only so much we can expect out of healer setups and UIs. You don't even want to see pictures of my original character's UI from vanilla, raiding as a priest, playing my insane game of green bar whack-a-mole. You know how some people have their own filing or organization systems? Some people know where everything is in their house, even though it looks like a bomb went off in a paper factory? This is comfortable clutter.
My biggest advice to healers with respect to their user interfaces is do whatever you want that makes you the most comfortable in your healer shoes. Healing is a stressful job in WoW these days, and your number one goal should be to create a comfortable UI that feels worn and lived-in. So you can't have the perfect minimalist setup without feeling like you're missing something. Then don't. You're the only one who really has to see the UI, right?
In conclusion, I like Naina's UI because it feels like Naina lives here. This is looking through the eyes of your average WoW player who heals to the best of her ability through the tools and layout that is comfortable. There is a kind of beauty in that, and I think I appreciate it more than ever.
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.