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Reader UI of the Week: Zhee's UI


Finally, I return from BlizzCon 2010 with an ache in my head and a stomach hardened with Anabella hotel chicken fingers and Domino's pizza. Please, put me out of my misery. Actually, the chicken fingers were awesome -- it's hard to do good chicken fingers, and the Anabella came through in spades.

Thank all of you who came out for the reader meetup, by the way. You guys were awesome, very supportive of my MCing the night and asked some great questions while I was off the mic. It was so nice to meet so many of you, talk about all this crazy stuff and lead you guys in what I thought to be a really fun night. Anyway, we've got reader UIs to discuss, and I fully intend to do that now.

This week, Zhee emailed me all the way from the Netherlands to show off her healer user interface. What follows is a clean, crisp user interface that is functional, elegant and barely using up any screen space at all. Also, this article is being drafted on a keyboard that barely has a space bar, so if you hear screaming (or the article itself features splatters of blood), it's probably me prying my fingers off one at a time because this damn keyboard has driven me insane. Reader UI, go!

Take me to the special place, Zhee:

Hello Mathew,

First off, I'm a big fan of your blog. It's a true inspiration for me!

I would like to submit my own UI. My main character (the one I raid with) is a discipline/holy priest on Kul Tiras (EU). The UI is suitable for all my alts as well, though.

As you can see, I like a clean UI, but it must be functional for raiding as well. Most healer UIs I have seen have very big unit frames, but I like them a bit smaller. All I need to know is shown in Grid, with small indicators and icons. No big flashy bars for me.

I have hidden the micro menu (on top of Recount) and a Bartender bar (under the Quartz bar), by fading them out with Bartender. They appear when I mouse over.

On the top of my screen is a Titan panel and a reputation bar, also visible on mouseover. I like to hide everything I don't need to see all the time.

I have tried to make my UI as symmetrical as possible. What bothers me a bit is the extra block of auras on top of the Pitbull target unit frame. Unfortunately I don't know a way to smooth this out without losing the option to check my targets buffs.

I absolutely love what you can do with Pitbull, though. I have set it up to show the unit frames of the player, player target, focus and focus target, each with its own configuration.

Here's a list of the addons I use:
  • SatrinaBuffFrame
  • Button Facade
  • Titanpanel
  • Chinchilla
  • BasicChatMods
  • Pitbull Unit Frames 4.0
  • Bartender 4
  • Grid (supported with Clique)
  • Quartz
  • Recount
  • TipTac
  • eAlign
  • TellMeWhen
  • RaidBuffStatus (hidden)
  • KGpanels
  • Decursive (hardly visible next to Grid)
I'd love to know what you think of my UI. Any tips are always welcome!

Thanks in advance. :)

Thank you for the email, Zhee. Since it's just a few days since BlizzCon and I'm trying to keep everything as simple as possible, Zhee's UI is perfect for my mindset. This user interface uses a good amount of transparency to achieve a really cool effect that ties the whole thing together. In addition, the uniform spacing and sizing of the unit frames makes for a slick raid interface.

Opacity is a beautiful thing

Opacity is not a new topic in my columns. I find that the approach chosen by Zhee here is the cleanest, easiest look you can get in most UI setups. Essentially, position an addon on top of a kgPanel and set the addon's own settings to remove the border, then bring the opacity of the addon and the transparency of the background to zero. What you effectively have is letters and numbers floating in the ether. Moving this floating information over a kgPanel that does have some opacity/transparency/color to it allows you to give this "clear" addon a background to rest on top of.

This approach is particularly powerful with Recount, Omen, Skada and chat addons, as you can see in Zhee's examples. Look at how clean and solid her chat and healing meters look against the similarly styled kgPanels. What this also means is that you can block out your user interface in kgPanels, and then add in clear addons into those blocks, making resizing an easier task as you now have guides to help you with the occasionally tricky shapes.

A Grid worth healing for

This Grid is adorable. The setup reminds me of 10 iPod shuffles from a few generations back. The elongated Grid windows allow for more Grid notifications and alerts, a smaller spacing footprint, and potentially larger healing numbers and amounts available to Zhee. So many people are afraid to move away from square Grid formations that it makes me sad. Trying out new shapes and sizes can seriously up your game, and you might even stumble across a really awesome setup that you couldn't have ever come up with had it not been for a little experimentation.

Mouseovers are little gifts from heaven

Seriously. Mouseover bars and commands are the secret sauce in some many user interfaces. Setting certain bars to only show up on mouseover means you can add these hidden UI elements and save a ton of space. Action bars that are rarely used, pet bars, utility bars -- the sky is the limit with interface elements that can happily disappear from sight until they are ready to be used.

A good number of addons have the ability to be mouseover unveiled, so tinker around a bit in the options for a mouseover option. Bartender and Dominos are two of the best examples, since the action bars you can setup can easily be set to mouseover status. In fact, I'm working on a really cool Dalaran minimalist UI right now, making heavy use of mouseover bars for professions instead of Opie, because I want to test myself and see if there is a UI in the world without Opie that I would be happy with.

Anyway, great job, Zhee. It was refreshing to come home from BlizzCon, sit down at my desk, and be treated to such a simple piece of interface beauty. It almost makes up for all the Spartan UIs in my inbox.

Gallery: Reader UI of the Week gallery | 267 Photos

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.

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