This week, we're going to take a look at Amaus' user interface, which includes some impressive pre-planning as well as layout control. I've preached over and over that the first step in interface creation for players new to old should be drawing a picture of what you want and where you want it. Not only does it give you a sense of scope, shape, and size, but the drawing gives you a template to work from when you finally get ready to move each addon into place. When the real deal starts to happen, you'll be glad that you had that drawing.
Amaus' UI: healer UI, Grid-based, handling children
Lay it on me, Amaus:
My life is a balancing act. I've found that a clean, highly customized interface is my most important tool in balancing the dichotomy of being a die-hard raiding healer and a full-time, stay-at-home father of three. Being able to seamlessly track the debuff count on my main tank and maintain my mana regen through precise cooldown management, all while feeding/burping my 2 month old daughter, and defusing the battle raging between my five and three year old sons requires a UI setup that is consistent, timely, and precise. I've worked hard to position the various elements so that the most important information is kept central and concise, while keeping the more obscure and less important not far from reach. I've also tried to minimize unnecessary eye movement, meaning I don't want to have to look up in the top left of my screen to get my holy power count, then off to the side to see my raid frames, then to my action bar to see how long I have left on a cooldown. Having the most important elements arranged near my characters feet helps me maximize my reaction time to environmental hazards.Thanks for the email and the submission, Amaus. You may laugh, but UIs designed for dealing with kids as well as playing the game are not uncommon. Many parents enjoy World of Warcraft, and fashioning a UI around being able to quickly gain bearings and situational awareness on a fight right after your attention is pulled away by kids is a huge boon to playing while parenting.
My UI is also built on the concept that at any moment a small child might come and request to sit on my lap, requiring that my healing quickly becomes a one-handed affair. All the necessary (live or die) abilities are double redundant with 75% of all my abilities controllable or hot-keyed through my mouse. I simply couldn't play without Grid and Clique and my R.A.T 7.
I think my Grid Setup is quite different from the normal rainbow explosion you see on most raiders screen shots. Each character's health (when at a normal 100% state) is displayed as a solid light gray bar. The text color of each group members name denotes their class (pink for paladin, blue for shaman etc.) instead of the color of the health bar. The center icon on the bar shows any dispellable debuffs, the six small corner indicators on the right side show healing information originating from me personally (beacon of light, illuminated healing, etc) while the six small corner indicators on the left show healing information originating from the other members of my healing team. (rejuvenation, power word shield etc.) The biggest difference I've implemented is that the color of the Health bar (usually light gray) shows me fight specific information through a color system. (I add new spell information with each content expansion) If one of the tanks puts up a shield wall their health bar turns red. If they have a healing cooldown (guardian spirit, pain suppression etc.) cast upon them they turn yellow. If a raid member gets targeted with Flash Freeze during the Maloriak encounter they turn blue. And so on.
A couple of other UI tweeks I've really enjoyed are:
- AzCast: bar is set and positioned in the middle of my screen to show an interruptible spell cast by my current target. Being in a 10man raiding guild with few melee players it often falls on my shoulders to handle any interrupts beyond the tanks normal capacity.
- Dominos & Stuf: I can't say enough about these two fantastic addons. Without their massive customization options, my UI would be a shadow of what it is today. From the Cast time lag indicator built into stuf's cast bar, To the auto hiding of my auxiliary action bars in dominos. I love this stuff.
- Power Auras & Tell me When: I track everything with these, from holy power to holy shock cooldowns. From the simple, Two level of low mana warnings and an audible "ping" sound when its time to recast judgement. To the very complicated visual queue I get to use my Tyrannda's favorite doll trinket. ( it displays only when the trinket is off cooldown, it is charged to full mana replenishment capacity and only if I'm mana deficient enough to benefit from its full restorative power).
Any recommendations you can make to help in my quest for the perfect UI would be greatly appreciated. I love your UI columns and always look forward to reading them.
Amaus - Eldre'Thalas
The art of planning
Planning out your UI by drawing it or throwing together a quick sketch on the computer can go a long way to not only solidifying your entire vision for your screen, but give you a general idea of where things will be placed once you get to the actual building stage. As a healer, one would expect and understand Amaus' hefty addon load, and I think despite the large number of addons everything is handled well. Each target or focus has each set of buffs, debuffs, and information compartmentalized to make for easy access awareness. In fact, a good number of the addons don't even come into play during combat, but are accounted for on the main blueprint just to make sure no other addons intrude on another's vital space.
Keeping the center free of static addons is a smart move, as usual, with healers. Power Auras always seems to work nicer in the middle, due to people's focus and where the eyes want to be, etc. Plus, it just feels good there, doesn't it?
Check out Amaus' original UI plan. You can give yourself rough approximations of size and shape for addons, as well as see if things will be too cluttered before even moving a single action bar or interface element. A little planning goes a long way and allows your vision for your UI to take center stage, opposed to hastily throwing together addons right before raid night.
Nesting vertical bars
One of the cooler aspects of Amaus' UI is his use of vertical health bars in tandem with traditional horizontal bars. Rather than waste space building the middle of the UI up towards the center, Amaus has changed his Stuf target and focus target bars to be vertical, resting next to the action bar setup. This approach not only allows for more overall symmetry, but is also clever, and I'm a fan of clever things.
Target's target bars are usually not meant for deep information. Most of the time, target's target bars are used for the snap information grabs like who and what, while not necessarily the details. My boss target's bar is really just there to show debuffs on an off-tank or to make sure the boss is looking at me. If he decides to change targets, a well-placed Taunt would be in order.
With the vertical target's target bars, you get the quick information that target's target bars afford with the space-saving awesomeness of nesting your addons up close to each other for symmetry's sake.
Amaus' Grid setup is detailed in his email above, but I wanted to spend a second to discuss why I feel Grid is so powerful in the raiding game. Grid's configuration is deep and dense, so getting acquianted with every feature is daunting and potentially impossible for many people. That's why you read this column though, right? Glean ideas off of someone's setup.
Some healers work better when health bars are plain and unnoticeable when full and prominent when healing is needed. Amaus' setup is similar to this train of thought -- keep your safe targets out of the way and push information on targets that need your attention. Splitting the healing notifications on the left and right sides is also a good idea, since the UI is being built for maximum information gathering when attention has been pulled away. As a healer, I would think these are some pretty solid moves, allowing enough time for snap decisions, even in the face of kids doing their own things.
I don't know if I would recommend anything substantial to change, Amaus, other than tightening up some of the addon placement, but that's one of those pesky preference concerns that really doesn't have any bearing on your UIs functionality. I don't know how sold I am on the vertical list of player and target buffs and debuffs, because I don't even know how I could read through a list like that in the heat of battle, cherry-picking a bar to check a duration of or to cancel.
You've got a good setup, Amaus. A lot of addons relatively under control while still keeping a cohesive vision, made possible by a little bit of planning. Hopefully other players will take that lesson to heart -- a little planning goes a long way towards not stacking all of your addons on top of each other in the corner and just giving up.
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.