Reader UI of the Week: Skulldamage's UI

Mathew McCurley
M. McCurley|02.15.11

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Reader UI of the Week: Skulldamage's UI
Each week, WoW Insider brings you a fresh look at reader-submitted UIs as well as Addon Spotlight, which spotlights the latest user interface addons. Have a screenshot of your own UI that you'd like to submit? Send your screenshots along with info on what mods you're using to

Another week, another Reader UI of said week. I've got a pretty contentious one for you guys, too, so buckle up. This week, we're taking a look at Skulldamage's UI. The general aim of this enhancement shaman's UI is keeping the number of addons active to a bare minimum, including some potentially important ones. What we have, then, is an exercise in keeping as much of the default UI as possible while having enough competency tools to raid effectively. Let's see what we're working with.

Take it away, Skulldamage:

I wanted to showcase my UI because I read the UI column every week and often see the same thing, UIs built around the idea of giving the player as much information as possible. Sometimes so much information that prolonged exposure can lead to moderate brain hemorrhaging. My UI however is built around minimalism using a total of only 7 addons (5 if you exclude Recount and AtlasLoot.) The idea is to only see the most important things I need to, and to only see them when I need to see them. For example, I don't keep the Recount window up during combat ever. I only use it to check my DPS after a boss fight and then close it. I keep my UI elements compact and close together and in many cases quite small. My UI mission statement is that if the designers spend so much time making beautiful environments, who am I to cover them up with addons?

First of all, my most important addon isn't really an addon in the traditional sense. However it is something every WoW player should have, and it's just as important as my UI elements, an authenticator. No account should be with out one, period.

Now for my UI addons:

Bartender 4 with ButtonFacade My action bar addon. I keep my action bar's very compact and small. I do this because I know where all my abilities are bound on my keyboard so being able to see them extremely clearly isn't too much of an issue. This is double good because less space taken up by my action bars means I can see more fire, void zones, poison, vortex's, whirlwinds and other pain inducing circles of badness that are often dropped beneath me when I'm trying to beat a bosses face in. Oh yeah, and ButtonFacade is just plain awesome.

Power Aura's Classic My bread and butter. This was the first addon I ever downloaded and is my most important. I use PA to help me pay more attention to the fights and less on my action bars. I have 8 individual aura's set up:

  1. Maelstrom Weapon The pink semi-circle surrounding my beautiful Tauren is my most important aura. It goes off when my Maelstrom Weapon proc reaches 5 stacks and I can fire off an instant cast lightning bolt.
  2. Ability Cooldowns The 4 icons above my action bar are my 4 main abilities. When they are off cooldown and usable, the icon shows up and I know to cast it.
  3. Weapon Enchants To my character's right, I have my weapon enchant auras. There are two of them, one for each enchant. I keep them at 75% opacity so the colors can mix if I need to recast both enchants. If it's blue I know to re-up Windfury, red for Flametongue and pink means I need to recast both.
  4. Lightning Shield The aura on my left let's me know when my Lightning Shield needs to be recast. Simple but a highly important and effective.
Cooldowns 1.3.3 I use this amazing but highly simple addon to help me keep track of my longer cooldowns, but it also helps in maintaining a smooth rotation with my core abilities.

Nice Damage All this does is let me change the font of my combat text. A small but important addon. It let's me feel like my UI is truly my UI.

I catch a lot of flak from people that I share my UI with for not using mods like Deadly Boss Mods or Omen. While these mods are good in their own right and can indeed make raiding easier, I have never come across a boss fight where I truly felt like I needed them. I also use the default unit frames and raid frames. Why? I don't know. I just haven't found a unit frame mod that I can't live without yet. And if I can live without it, it doesn't go on my UI.

Thanks for all the fish!

Enhancement Shaman Extraordinaire
<Unforgiven>, Whisperwind (US

Thanks for the submission, Skulldamage. Sometimes it is nice to talk about a user interface that does its best to incorporate what is already available, because the default WoW setup has come a long way since its humble beginnings. I sometimes think I have to say this more than I do -- I don't hate the default WoW interface. In fact, I love it, because it's the first user interface that took all the best parts of MMO UI design and perfected it. Then it went one step further and let me change it. With Cataclysm, many improvements came to our beloved UI, and it's getting closer and closer to something next-genish.

With that said, there are definite lacking areas in the general UI. Light mail functionality, little to no customization in raid user interfaces, DPS as a core fight mechanic with no built-in DPS meter, etc. All of these problems are easily solved with addons to which Blizzard itself gives approval with a wink, a nod, and a comprehensive addon creation policy.

The simple life

I like Skulldamage's setup because it's down to earth and simple, while retaining enough of the default UI that it just works. The minimap has always been a good example of this type of element -- were it not for the space it takes up, the minimap would be fine. It's always been just a tad big in my mind. Do you need an addon for your minimap to give it prime functionality? No. Do you need an addon for your minimap if you want to change its shape, performance, and behavior? Yes. If those are aspects of the element you don't need or care for, you don't need an addon for it, and that's fine in my book.

As a DPSer, interface requirements are less stringent, but there are definitely a few pieces you don't want to leave out. Skulldamage has a competent mix of cooldown tracking and Power Auras to keep tabs on his enhancement priority queue, as well as large icons for ability cooldowns. Everything is nice and centered, letting the screen real estate breathe, with plenty of room to be situationally aware of the environment around him.

Small action bars are also a great way to save space, especially if you're the type of person who has been using a certain setup for a long time. Button presses become second nature, almost muscle memory, and having those abilities take up less space can't be a bad thing. The only time I advise against smaller than normal action bars is when patches are incoming that give you new skills and such.

The raiding addons dilemma

Normally, I would say that most addons are optional and that you're on your own when it comes to many types of situations. However, I wanted to address the "no Omen, no DBM" sentiment. The core misunderstanding about mods like Omen and DeadlyBossMods is that they make raiding somehow easier. Yes, one of the components of raiding is efficient information handling, and that's what something like DBM facilitates.

However, DBM will not move your character, nor will it cast your spells for you, nor will it switch targets or slow your DPS for you. DBM is about information. It is still up to you and you alone to make movements and judgment calls on how to survive a raid encounter. DBM is only essential because, sometimes, the information provided to you by the raid encounter is not easily parsed. This is much, much less true in Cataclysm than it was in Wrath, but the fact remains that information is good to have.

Omen and other threat/damage meters are important, too, not because you want to brag about your DPS, but because fights are designed around threat management. There's a reason you want to know your threat -- encounters are based on a minimal level of threat. You'll never know if you're correctly playing a DPS class unless you know how close you are to ripping something away from the tank. In Cataclysm, this is a problem again. In Wrath, you could get away with it because threat locked on a tank easily. Nowadays, things are different.

After a quick armory glance, you just haven't been put into the situations that require something like DBM or threat management that can wipe a raid. That's totally fine. One day, however, you're going to potentially want to invest some time and energy into familiarizing yourself with those types of addons to effectively compete as a DPS and watch bosses fall.

Overall, good stuff, plenty of room to move and breathe, but remember that one day you might think a little bit differently about the addons that don't have an apparent purpose right off the bat.

See you guys next week.


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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