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Reader UI of the Week: Navigator plots a course to UI satisfaction


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, and follow Mathew on Twitter.

Navigator of the Exodar not only has one of the coolest name-plus-title combinations I've seen yet (don't be sad, all of you Professor Oaks out there) but a slick UI to match. It's a little crowded, to be sure, but sometimes things are crowded. Sometimes we like a little bit of a lot going on.

Also, I'm going to assume that you're going with the Warhammer 40k-type Navigator in that you've just plotted the course and not actually piloted the ship, because the pilot has a lot of explaining to do. I think that I just strained a nerd muscle.

As for the title today, again I am fooled by my own supposed cleverness at four in the morning when the title of this particular article came to mind. Navigator's UI works for all three specs to accommodate any and every alt, as well as a large enough healing array for competent raid healing. The double chat box is also a great idea that a lot of people don't necessarily take advantage of. Let's see if we can work something out.

Navigator, the bridge is yours:

Greetings Mat,

My name is Navigator of the Exodar (seriously, check the armoury. I got the Title. :) )

I'm kind of notorious for rearranging my UI frequently, and thus far this is my favourite iteration thus far. I'm playing on a Samsung R580... a laptop with a resolution of 1300 x 768. I play as a Tank mostly, but I also have a Disc Priest that I hop onto from time to time as well as an army of alts, so I needed something that carried over from each role be it Tank, DPS, or Healer.

Before I had two different sets where the only difference was the size of party frames. Thin and minimal for Tanking/DPS, and wide for Healing but soon I got irritated when it wouldn't fix itself properly. So this is my attempt at a unified UI that will work for all roles.

1. is two separate chat windows modified using Chatter. I do this because I needed to separate actual Chats from information. The upper window contains guild, officer, raid, party, realID, whispers, and a community channel. The lower window is /s /y and /e (because I also Roleplay and found it easier to keep it down there and not be lost in the babble of guild chat), Loot information, skill information, boss emotes, general, trade, and boss babble.

2. are my action bars, modified with Bartender4 and skinned with Masque.

3. is Shadowed Unitframes. You might noticed between this and the second attached image that the raid frames do not use Shadowed Unitframes. I only use Shadowed Unitframes for Myself, Target, Target of Target, and Focus (which is what the druid in the second image is above my Unitframe - she's my co-tank).

For everything else, I use the default, yes even for healing. I find the default gives me everything I already need to know and when healing, I use a variety of macros to allow me to do what needs to be done and quite successfully I might add. I had tried various other raid frame addons like Vuhdo, but I also needed to see threat, mana, as well as allowing the Raid Helper panel to show up - something that I had issues trying to configure so that they would show up with other add ons.

Using default raidframes (and using raidframes for party frames as well) allowed me to see threat, debuffs, buffs, mana, and the raid helper panel.

4. is a cooldown monitor, ForteXorcist. I find it really helpful in (obviously) monitoring cooldowns, but Forte doesn't only do that. It also has the ability to monitor Soulstones buffs, debuffs but I haven't fully explored it past the Soulstone monitor and the cooldown Monitor.

5. is the ever prevalent Sexymap. Not much to say other than I've tried various other placements of the minimap, such as the bottom middle of the screen, but it interfered with my vision within the game.

I also use Bazooka, Skada, SocialState, TotalRP2, Broker UI, Broker_uclock, Altaholic, Adibags, Addon Control Panel, Ailo (which is a lockout monitor), Ackis Recipe List, and obviously Deadly Boss Mods.

Thanks for the inspiration over the years!
-Navigator of the Exodar

Thanks for the email, Navigator. Your interface feels like it went through the same type of process as my own. I see pieces drifting toward certain areas of the screen and recognize having done that myself. It's interesting, seeing it from the outside in. Let's go in depth, shall we?

Double chat windows

Multiple chat windows are a tricky subject when designing your UI. While having information in different panes can be convenient for disseminating information, especially from multiple channels, you potentially take up a whole lot more space than you might want to. The alternative is tabbed chat, but I find that I barely ever use my tabbing because my brain still doesn't get that there is information underneath the first tab, like I'm scared to leave. Who knows? Multiple chat windows, however, are my preference.

What's the benefit of multiple chat windows? Each chat window, with additional addon functionality, can independently filter information sent to it. For instance, Navigator relegates open and public communication channels to one window and private, guild, and some channels to another. This allows a stark contrast between what is happening in the private communications of people playing a video game and the public, character-driven elements of the character-building aspects of WoW.

This doesn't seem to be a problem for many players who keep their minimaps far away from the bottom of the screen, as a large chunk of the bottom area is not used up. Instead, that area can be appropriated to something like another chat window, bigger or more detailed DPS meters, and other random stuff you'd like to toss down on the bottom bar. With the minimap on the bottom corner or the bottom middle of the screen, a second chat window just seems less attractive, considering the space needed.

... Unless that second chat window isn't a very large chat window. Try tinkering with the size of the window to see if you even need it large in the first place. Some information hubs are great for the occasional line of very important information.

Default healing interface

I have never see the WoW default healing interface look so good. Since checking out the Mists of Pandaria beta a little bit, I still haven't had a chance to check out the group content and interface stuff, but if there will be any type of evolution in the raid healing interface, it will be quality-of-life and feature-additive.

But we're not there yet. Navigator's raid frames are very easy to see and well laid out, and they operate off of the default business. Color-coded classes, pets, summoned creatures ... not too shabby. Plus, if you're doing the Raid Finder as your primary raiding outlet, key dispelling does not seem to be something Blizzard wants to bake into the fights at this difficulty (which, let's be honest, is probably a good thing).

There are of course addons that can augment the default healing interface, and I would definitely recommend something that adds in bigger debuff warnings or gives you some more control over what appears in each box. I'm a stickler for options, and you never want to be without something needed, just in case. Be prepared, and all that jazz.

Map is an oddity these days

I want to believe that the minimap is on the way out and something new is coming that will break us free from that damnable construct. Maybe I'm being cynical for the sake of being cynical or angry at something because it can't scream back. I don't like minimaps anymore. There has to be a construct out there for relaying that type of information on top of the game world without being intrusive and giant like that damn circle.

Minimap placement is a dividing issue, along with the usefulness of the thing to begin with. Nonetheless, we leave it on our screens, taunting us with space that could be used for something super-awesome. I don't actually hate the minimap, but I believe in my heart that there is a more elegant solution out there.

Navigator does a good job with the minimap, essentially mitigating its presence on the screen. Since she's on a laptop (remember, I go by character genders), Navigator needs all the space she can get. A simple square is all you need; pretty border, optional. Then, scale it to whatever size you want. Tuck that bad boy away in a corner, and wait for the eventual minimap revolution.

Actually, don't do that. You can use the map to see quest objectives and dudes you need to kill. Ugh, guess we have to still be friends, minimap.

The end

Navigator, I like your style. It's practical, works where it has to, and isn't too cluttered after all. Lived in. Homely. It works. Comfort food. Now I'm just typing words.

Something that really struck me about the evolution of interfaces that I've seen over my tenure writing this column is the acceptance of a little bit of imperfection. I think we need that, built in -- maybe something just a bit off-center or where the colors don't match perfectly. I kind of find it liberating that it works when it isn't perfect. That's not to say anything on Navigator's UI is broken, but it feels "created by," not "created for." Good work.

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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