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Reader UI of the Week: Raiding without the clutter

Mathew McCurley
Mathew McCurley|November 29, 2011 7:00 PM
Each week, WoW Insider and Mathew McCurley bring 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 readerui@wowinsider.com, and follow Mathew on Twitter.

One of the more common criticisms that commenters and players make about most user interfaces they see anywhere, this column included, is that interfaces that are made for raiding never show their true colors. Raiding players have a huge amount of clutter on their screen, from timer bars and boss health frames to cooldown notifiers and a bunch of meters. Well, not all raiding user interfaces are cluttered messes, and it's actually easier than you think to contain the cacophony of interface elements.

Our featured UI this week was crafted by Scalions, a raiding rogue on the Stormrage server. His UI takes all of the cluttered, messy aspects of the common raider's user interface and works with those pieces to add them to the whole, rather than tacking them on as an afterthought. Let's talk raid UI elements!

Scalions' UI: rogue UI, raiding, bottom-bar UI

Take it away, Scalions:
Hi Mat!

I've been reading this column for a long time and it has been an inspiration for me to always be improving my UI. When looking at screenshots from when I first started using addons up until now I can easily see a transition from an ugly, cluttered mess to an organized interface. Many people think that a good UI requires a certain mind that can organize everything well, but in reality it just takes time. I do not consider myself very organized or creative, but over time the elements of my UI have slowly changed. Most parts are now at the perfect spot to relay information to me while I'm raiding.

With that said, my UI's main focus is raiding. When putting it all together I like to have any possible information I could use easily accessible. From target threat, to target buffs/debuffs I have it all covered. A good portion of my UI is hidden in combat or requires mouse over to see, so I will try to point out as much of it as I can.

1. Stuf Unit Frames I have to give partial credit to Fizzik's UI for the way I customized my unit frames. It was featured in a Reader UI a long time ago. I saw his UI and fell in love with the design so I attempted to replicate parts of it. It ended up not feeling quite right so I changed it to my tastes. By default it shows target class color/reaction, percentage hp and name, but with mouse over it shows total hp, total energy and things like raid symbols and raid roles. It also shows target threat percentage on top. The focus frame floats in the center-left of the screen with the focus target, and the target of target sits just to the right of my target frame, attached in the same manner as the focus frame with its target.

2. Grid There isn't much to this Grid setup, it mostly just shows names, hp, and certain debuffs that are specific to certain fights (like wrack on Sinestra or torment on H Baleroc). On my other characters they are configured to show dispellable buffs and used in conjunction with Clique for healing.

3. Bartender The three bars that are shown are filled with what I have deemed necessary for raiding. I won't go into keybindings but 23 out of the 30 buttons shown are keybound in addition to a couple hidden bindings. The middle bar turns into my stealth bar when in stealth and can also be shift+scroll'ed into another bar for random things like professions. I also have another bar to the right of it where the meters are that only shows on mouse over and is completely hidden in combat. That one is filled with mounts and macros for professions.

4. Class Timers In the in-combat picture it shows my Envenom and SnD buffs and the Rupture debuff. They are attached to the corresponding unit frames and located just below where my eyes usually rest so I can always see if something is about to expire.

5. Power Auras I love Power Auras. I could post hundreds of pictures of unique auras I have for different fights, and I would do it with pleasure. The only one shown in these is the red crossed swords indicating that my target is below 35% so I know to switch to Backstab. Normally just to the left of it is an aura letting me know when Tricks is off CD and another above those two letting me know when I have the Overkill buff and when Vanish is off CD.

6. Debuff Filter and Bison I use Bison for my buffs/debuffs and Debuff Filter for my target's buffs/debuffs. I wish that Bison could do the same thing as Debuff Filter, but I am stuck using both. Debuff Filter is useful but the facts that Masque doesn't really work with it and I can only have 8 buffs per row ruin it for me.

7. Fubar Shown at the bottom of my screen it shows me information that I can reference at a glance. From left to right it shows FPS, Lag, Addon memory usage (I believe), Raid dps from skada, server time|my time, gear repair, and cash money (that shows all character's gold on mouseover).

8. KG Panels I've had many trial runs with this addon in the past and always ended up disabling them. However, I feel like my UI is finally symmetrical enough for them to provide a little bit of style while emphasizing key parts of the UI. Without them, other parts like skada, bartender and dbm seem to mesh with the background, making them harder to glance at.

9. Combo Points Redux Keep track of my combo points and stack of deadly poison. The actual Combo points aren't shown but they are normally right above the deadly poison stacks and twice as big.

10. Everything else I'll just list the rest that come to mind that are less important to the uniqueness of my UI.
  • Skada to monitor dps, threat and everything else
  • Tiptac to show other important information
  • DBM boss timers
  • Quartz to pretty up my castbar and make target and focus cast bars very obvious.
  • Prat to configure my chatlog
  • SexyMap shows dungeon difficulty and tracking on mouse over.
  • OmniCC
  • Atlasloot
And that's that. Out of combat I like most things to be hidden to reduce the clutter. Everything stays pretty much the same in PvP except for the addition of addons like Gladius and GladiatorlosSA. Improvements that need to be made are to get rid of the Masque and TSM icons on Fubar and to make Debuff Filter look more like my Bison configuration, but all of these are faults of the addons themselves unfortunately. I really hope you enjoy this submission and thank you for taking a look at it!

Scalions of Stormrage (US)
Thanks for the email and submission, Scalions. Since the focus of Scalions' UI is raiding, and patch 4.3 is most likely happening right now as you are reading this, the Raid Finder is going to become a big deal. Having your UI ready for raiding is a great way to prep for your first forays into the wonderful world of automatic pickup raiding, no?

What once was clutter

The biggest offender in terms of raid clutter has to be the raid addon timer bars. Many different raid addons use these bars, including DBM, DXE, and BigWigs. Raid timer bars track when a boss is going to use an ability, when a boss has an ability off cooldown, or when some important event is going to happen during the fight. These bars have a tendency to grow really large and squat in the middle of your screen. While they're great when a big ability is about to happen, they're not so great for the rest of the fight when the bars are in your face.

Take a look at what Scalions has done with the bars that are waiting to fly up into the center of the screen to alert him about what's happening next. Just to the right of the chat box, Scalions has placed his warning bars snug up against the kgPanels box he created to hold in all of those addons. What's great about this setup is that the kgPanels box and the empty space doesn't look weird when out of combat, since there is a dual occupancy by the chat box. When in raid combat, that area is populated with warning bars from DBM. It's very slick, and I hope this will prompt many players to move their DBM timers and warning bars to a better location. Just copy Scalions! He totally knows what he's doing.

PlayerPowerBar -- YAY!

I know this is nitpicky and incredibly specific in terms of things I like about this UI, but the fact that Scalions has his PlayerPowerBarAlt UI element in a good spot just warms my heart. It is my personal crusade to make sure that everyone who raids has this little window/bar in a nice, happy place where it doesn't clip through other UI elements or obstruct the view of any vital information. Actually, here comes an official UI plea from me to Blizzard's UI team -- please make the PlayerPowerBatAlt its own movable piece in the UI in Mists of Pandaria. Please.

The need for an addon to move this raid-crucial UI element is not a great thing. With the proliferation of action bar addons and the widespread use of addons that change the shape of the default action bars, having to jump through another hoop to move the PlayerPowerBarAlt is one of those annoyances that could be dealt with. Yes, I know that not everyone uses something like Bartender or Dominos. Yes, I understand that not everyone has a use for a moveable raid bar. Despite all that, having the option in the default UI to move this bar would make life a lot easier. Just this bar, please? Heck, roll it out with the monk resource meter -- that thing sticks smack in the middle of the UI. I know because I have totally played a monk.

Stand out amongst the fire

One of the subtler but incredibly important aspects of Scalions' UI is that even during the incredibly annoying "everything is on fire" stage of the Alysrazor fight, nothing on the UI is consumed by said fire. Everything is stark and separated enough from the action on screen that all of the information, from the target and player frames, to the buffs and debuffs, are all still visible and recognizable. Some UIs that have been sent to me have the problem of blending in too much with the world behind them, leaving the player to miss crucial information when the world changes color on them and text or colors disappear into the background.

This happened to me once, back when I thought that I could live without a background for my chat box text to sit against. The words were dark enough and had enough contrast with the background that I figured "Whatever, right?" and went on my merry way. About 2 minutes into a Sunken Temple run, my text all but disappeared against the dark stone motifs of the dungeon, and I was ready to throw my computer out the window.

Remember, kids, contrast is good. Border up those addons and make sure you have separated your vital UI elements from the world they sit on top of by something -- anything -- so you don't make the mistake that I made.

Awesome submission and excellent UI, Scalions. Thanks for taking the time to send it in. I hope that our readers see that a raiding UI doesn't need to be a cluttered mess to work properly and with a little bit of planning you can put all the pieces together, just like Scalions did. Happy patch day, all!

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.