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Reader UI of the Week: And now for something completely different


While this column is still relatively new to me, one of the things I'm really enjoying about it is how it's opening my eyes to different people's UI designs. I can honestly say that this week's UI was, for me, a design that I have never seen before, nor even considered. Long-time readers, and fans of varying UIs, will doubtless have encountered this sort of design before, but for me, as the title suggests, it's something completely different! Bonus points awarded to anyone who gets the reference in the title.

Bull has sent over a good number of pictures, so as ever, I'm going to link them all here for your delectation. There's one for his out-of-combat solo UI, another for his hunter clearing some pests, his destruction warlock, a demonstration of Baggins, a throwaway Alliance character so we can see how the UI works for both factions, and finally, the original UI with a legend that tallies with Rusthoof's email. Whew! Quite a list there, Bull, thanks very much!

Let's dive straight in with Bull's detailed email. Apologies, but for space constraints, I've had to wield the editing stick a little.

I like a well organized UI. I also have what might be described as an obscene number of alts. The UI has to be able to support them all without separate configurations.

This is one of those "viewport UIs", but I disagree with the notion that they some how get in the way of playing. They keep most UI out of my way. The big bar on the bottom is no more blocking my view than is the dashboard of my car

I use kgPanels with custom scripting extensively for the UI element backgrounds. For the most part I'm using built-in game art. The two exceptions are the logo for my guild that you can see behind the chat frames and the swirly line art in the center of the top and bottom panels. The horde logo behind the clock and behind the various divisions of the bottom panel is dynamic. As you can see in one of the included screen shots, when I log in with an alliance character, the lion image is used instead.

One of the screen shots has numerals to identify UI elements:

1) Chat Frame - I use Prat to customize the heck out of the chat frame. I use kgPanels to replace the tabs with some fancy scripting. I put my guild's logo in the background just for fun.
2) Player frame - indicators like combat, pvp and rest icons are shown on the square portrait. Health and power bars are vertical on the right. Mousing over the frame shows some additional data that I didn't want cluttering up the UI all the time. To the right of the player frame, above the action buttons, I show the percent remaining HP and Power. This latter data also shows during combat.
3) Pet frame
4) Weak Auras - I design my own Weak Auras displays and put them here. In the screen shots you can see my druid's Eclipse status, my hunter pet's Frenzy stacks, my warlock's Demonic Fury.
5) Action bars - I have two Bartender4 profiles. One for pet classes and one for everyone else. The pet class profile differs in that when I do not have a pet active, the pet bar is replaced with a bar containing my pet summon buttons. I still need to be able to play the game on my laptop without any mods at all. This means I only use the standard action bars keybinds.
6) Target frame - it also has mouseover and in-combat data that mirrors the player frame.
7) Target of target
8) Focus target
9) Skada
10) More Action Bars - things I don't necessarily need in combat. These bars are faded out by default.
11) Analog Clock - I was looking for something to put in the top left to visually balance out the minimap. (I'm big on symmetry) I found the AnalogClock on, but it was slightly out of date and broken. I got out my LUA wrenches and screwdrivers and got it working again, then slapped some kgPanels behind it to make it look pretty.
12) Docking Station - lots of heads-up info here.
13) Minimap - styled by Chinchilla!
15) Watcher - Who Framed Watcher Wabbit gives me more control over the built-in quest watcher.

Notable Points

Do check out the class colored styling of all the kgPanels UI elements here. When I first looked at Bull's screenshots, my thought was that it resembled the walnut dashboard you see in some older cars, echoed by Bull's statement about the dashboard being similar to a viewport UI. However, when it changes colors to reflect the different classes using the UI, that image quickly disappears. In a way, the wooden look is quite appropriate for a Tauren Druid!

On a similar note, it's really a big plus point for Bull's UI that it works so seamlessly across different characters. While hardly world-changing, given that many UIs -- particularly full replacement UIs -- do, but for a UI that Bull has largely created from the ground up, it's quite an achievement. Sure, there are custom weakauras in there for characters who need them, but it's still largely a carbon copy from one character to the next, and it appears from Bull's screenshot of the token Alliance character that the color changing and such is completely automated. I must admit, though, I'm still not sold on viewports...

Good Things

You all know how picky I am about fonts, so it's fantastic that Bull is the same, many brownie points awarded for font consistency! Looking over Bull's UI, the only spot which I can find where there's inconsistency in the font is on his lower level warlock's XP gain. That seems to still be using the default font, but it's highly possible that Bull has fixed that already. The nameplates on his hunter screenshot are too small for me to be 100% sure whether the font is consistent or not, so we'll give Bull the benefit of the doubt there.

I also really like the symmetry of this UI, something Bull mentions in his email. The clock, while I would prefer it without the numbers, (which, I've just noticed, are also in a different font) does bring a nice balance to the UI. I appreciate the auto-hide elements too, I'm forever grizzling about un-necessary elements being on show during combat, and yet again Bull is on the same page. He's auto-hiding a lot of information, such as character names, target names, health and mana expressed as percentages, and more. All the information is available on mouseover, as are his bars and the rest of the things he chooses to conceal.

Not-so-good things

This may be me being unfair, and letting my own gameplay cloud my judgement, but it seems like the player health, and to a lesser extent mana bars, are too low in this UI's priority order. They're very small and thin, and don't really stand out a great deal, and the same rather applies for the target health and mana bars. There are also percentages visible when in combat, but to me, a numerical expression can sometimes be less useful than a big bar glaring at you. There's more space dedicated to the damage meters than to the health and mana or energy information! This, of course, could simply be indicative of different priorities, as all the screengrabs Bull has sent show him playing a DPS rather than a tank or a healer.

What's more, the player castbar is tiny, and I'm assuming the target castbar is a mirror image of it, with Bull's symmetrical leanings. The target castbar, particularly, would be far too small for me. I like big, in-your-face information that helps me to interrupt. Of course, the nameplates could well provide a duplicate target castbar.

What do you think of Bull's UI? And if you want to submit your own, please do send an email to with screenshots, detailing what addons you use, what you're happy with and what you're unhappy with or what remains unfinished in your UI.

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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