We've talked about the standard all-characters user interface before, but with my own experience moving to level up an alt over the course of the next few months bookended by raiding on my main, I wanted to talk again about building one UI for all your characters. Let's get the myths out of the way first.
The first myth about building a UI for all of your characters that I want to dispell is the fact that you can't actually do this. That's totally wrong. One UI that you build and maintain can be worked into a setup that works for all characters, no matter what spec or class. Sure, you may have to move something here or there, but if you relegate those movements to addons with simple move commands, you'll cut down on your own confusion pretty quickly.
Reader Ymer sent in his user interface that aims to be used across his bevy of alts, ready to roll for any of the four characters who decide to log in on that given day. Let's take a look at his setup, see what we can glean, and then make some general comments about using your interface for multiple characters.
Ymer's UI: multiple characters, multiple roles, multiple fun!
Lay it on me, Ymer:
Hi Mat,Thank you for the email and the submission, Ymer. When designing or adapting a user interface for use over multiple characters, one of the biggest issues that you will face is being the type of person who has multiple characters that need a similar UI. Let me put it a different way -- how many types of user interface are there, and which of your many alts will be using that interface in the same capacity as another one of your characters?
I would like to submit my UI to you for your article. I have what I feel is a pretty simple UI, however I share the same setup between 4 toons. My Shadow Priest (Ymer - Moon Guard), my Unholy DK (Jertok - Moon Guard), my SV/BM hunter (Sidetracker - Moon Guard), and my feral druid (Dourdun - Moon Guard). I use the same layout for all 4 toons as it is pretty easy to map everything I need to 4 rows worth of buttons on the Logitech keypad. Between that, my mouse and my keyboard raiding is pretty easy on any of my characters. I've listed my addons that are seen in the screenshot on the picture itself.
I'll include an un-edited copy and the marked up copy. That way if you decide to use it and don't want the one I've marked all over you have a clean copy to use.
For instance, I have two raiding characters, my main warrior who participates in heroic- and normal-mode raiding, and my paladin who heals in the Raid Finder. My shadow priest, the original priest from vanilla WoW, always lives an expansion behind and is crawling through Northrend as we speak. Another of my characters does the occasional dungeon, but I mostly forget about that character until something new comes out for them. All of my characters have different focuses that are potentially not all met by the UI I've created for one of them.
Ironically, there already is a UI that works pretty dang well for all of your classes, no matter how you customize it. That's right, the default UI. It's pretty good, has most of the UI elements you need ready to go, and even has taken massive strides forward in the raid department with the new raid frames. However, many of us demand more, so we'll talk about the extra stuff you are going to be dealing with.
Elements in common
What does every WoW UI have to have to be useful? Go on, I'll wait while you write it all down. What's that? You can't! Everyone's user interfaces require different pieces working together in different ways to be successful. What works for you might be horrible for someone else. When you load up a prepackaged user interface only to quickly realize you can't use it because it just isn't correctly configured for your playstyle, you can't wrap your mind around it. It happens to me all the time.
People can adapt, sure, but why not also clue in to what makes your UI experience enjoyable? Start by finding the common denominator in all of your characters' user interfaces. For me, it's a very specific action bar setup of a certain number of buttons existing in the same place. I make my characters fit around these boxes. If all the action bar buttons aren't being used, then so be it. I'll find new uses for them.
For Ymer, the common denominator seems to be the G13 keyboard controls and the low border graphic. These are two very good benchmarks by which to make a UI that works across all characters. Every character Ymer has needs these things. Each of his characters also have a defined DPS role, so not all of the addons that would come into play for healing or tanking are necessary.
A unique piece of gear
If you've got such a unique piece of gear like the G13 that you're going to be using across all of your characters, make that the focal point. Plan out an action bar combo that works for the keyboard and then save it to a profile. Dominos, Bartender, and other action bar mods have a profile system where you can save your configurations. After making the whole UI on one character, set the profile for your other characters to the main guy. This should set their bars to look just like the other setup.
If this isn't working, you can always copy and paste your character's folders in the WTF directory, rename it to the character you want it to be used for, and then set the profiles. I've found this way of profile sharing to work pretty well over the years.
If you've got multiple alts who play multiple roles, you can still set up a UI that works across all characters. Instead of cataloging the things that are common from all of your characters, work the other way around. What pieces change from character to character? Healers need a decent raid healing array to make sure they're on top of the whole party. DPS and tanks don't need that. So, when building the healer portion of the UI, put your healer-focused interface items in a place where nothing would be for your other characters. Enable the addon for one character and not the others, and you're good to go.
Having alts is a beautiful thing. They let our games be free and varied, providing us with loads of different options to play. Now, if Blizzard would only put in account-wide mounts and pets already so I wouldn't feel bad about neglecting my main sometimes ...
Thanks again for the submission, Ymer. I like your UI and hope it works well for all of your characters that use it. It's simple and clean, and while I wouldn't put Recount there so large, that's a minor annoyance. Good work.
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.