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Reader UI of the Week: In your face


One thing I really enjoy about this column is seeing UIs that do things differently. I try to find a balance between pretty UIs, which I also definitely enjoy, functional UIs that do simple things well, and crazy, out there UIs that make me rethink UI design. It's always fascinating to see how someone else's mind works, when it comes to UI design, and what they prioritize, and that's why I like the last kind of UI! They make me think, about whether I should actually turn my design ideas on their head and start again.

Basoli's UI is one of the latter kind. While there are pretty elements, for sure, I don't really think this could be called a pretty UI. I really, really hope that Basoli didn't send this in to me thinking it was an incredibly beautiful UI, because if he did I probably just upset him. Sorry, Basoli! But it's a functional UI, that also makes me think about UI design. It's a little crazy, this one!

Basoli sent me several screenshots, to use his titles:

Let's look at Basoli's email:

My name is Basoli, a mighty Tauren warrior. I also play a frost mage and a death knight, as seen in the screenshots.

My visible addons are listed with descriptions:

Aura Frames: I track all my buffs/debuffs on the left side, with expiring auras as icons towards the middle.
Bartender4: I used to use modifier-key macros, but I hit the limit between 2 specs. I've been using the Bartender state-switching functionality to use the 1-5 keys with shift, control, and alt modifiers. My major cooldowns/utility spells are located in the lower left and assigned to my mouse buttons. Out-of-combat spells are in the lower right.
BasicMinimap: I love how it works, and you can assign your class color as the border
BigWigs: Works better for me than DBM, and I LOVE the fact you can save a profile.
Blood Shield Tracker: Mostly for my DK, but also can show total absorbs, useful for tracking Shield Barrier on my warrior.
Castbars: Self-explanatory.
Magic Runes: For my dk.
Masque: For button textures.
MSBT: I don't remember what it was like not using it.
OmniCC: Cooldown numbers on the buttons.
Prat: Makes my chat look nice.
SexyCooldown: Customizable tracker for cooldowns on anything.
Shadowed Unit Frames: Highly customizable.
Simple Threat Meter: Located in the center of my screen. Useful for dps/healing, not so much for tanks.
Skada: For threat (better for tanks) during combat, useful for finding mishaps/areas to improve out of combat.
TellMeWhen: Tracks anything you want it to (similar to WeakAuras). I use it for important buffs/debuffs for each class, as well as cooldown tracking in a couple different ways.
Tidy Plates + Threat Plates: Essential for me on everything but a single raid boss.
TinyDPS: Very light-weight damage meter that looks nicer than Skada (imo).
TipTac: Customizable tooltip addon.
Titan Panel: Mostly used out of combat, but as a Mac user it feels just right always having a bar at the top of my screen.

I only tank and DPS, so I don't have to worry about having fancy raid frames. I used to have my player/target frames and action bars at the bottom of the screen, but I felt like I was pulling my eyes away from the middle too much. The only changes I've been thinking about are reducing the visibility of expiring auras, and possibly hiding my frames/action bars out-of-combat.

I'm excited to hear your thoughts, if you choose my UI. I look forward to reading all your articles. :-D


Notable Points

This is a very different UI to the previous ones I've featured. And unlike a lot of recent UIs, Basoli shies away from Weak Auras, instead putting all his eggs in the basket of similar addon, TellMeWhen. TellMeWhen is what he uses to create pretty much all of his warnings and effects, and it's good to look around and realise that, while Weak Auras is a fantastic addon, it's far from the only way to monitor your abilities and cooldowns etc.

Good Things

I'm sort of torn here, I really am. I'm going to skirt around the issue I'm really undecided on for a while, then jump straight in. I like the unit frames, firstly, the specific player, target and party frames, and how their texture has been used on the player buff bars to the top left of the screen. The borders and textures, though not the fonts, are consistent, which is always appreciated! I also like party frames being right at the bottom -- given how Basoli doesn't heal my immedidiate thought was that he's set those up well for healing -- but I have to admit I spent quite some time looking for the actual action bars. As far as I can tell, from the screenshots and the email, they're all packed in to the small grids to the bottom left and right of the screen. Basoli explains that he's been using the state-switching functionality of Bartender to bind things to 1-5 with modifiers, and the remainder in the grids are assigned to mouse buttons. It's all rather clever! I will hold my hands up and say that I'm not sure I could play like that.

Now, let's move on to the elephant in the room: all that stuff in the middle of the screen! I'm so torn on this that it's going to be one of those features that bridges the gap between good and bad here. Firstly, how is it a good thing? Well, as the title of the column hints, it's very much in your face! It's showing all your key abilities and cooldowns and DoT timers, and buffs, and so on right in the middle of the screen, right in your face. So, looking at the warrior screenshot, there's an aggro warning, there's proc information, all manner of useful things you need to know, and you sure can't miss them, they're right in the middle of the screen. Again, the mage UI has timers and indicators for cooldowns, for shields, debuffs, everything. It's pretty cool, to be honest!

Not-so-good things

And now we skip into the things I find a little suboptimal about this UI. The first is something that I've also included in the Good Things list, the fact that it's right in your face, you really can't miss it. If you skip back to the list of screenshots and check out the DK tanking one again, you'll see warnings for Horn of Winter and Blood Presence right in the middle of the screen. And I really do mean that. They would obscure Basoli's character, as well as potentially whatever he's fighting. And yes, as a DK tank having Blood Presence up is pretty vital, and Horn of Winter is an extremely handy buff, but do they really need to be right in the middle of the screen like that? I suppose the occasions when they'd kill you would be few and far between, but just every now and then there must be situations when Horn of Winter drops off just as he's about to kill something, or be killed himself. It only lasts for five minutes, after all.

And I can't help wondering whether Basoli's attempts to draw his focus to the center of the screen are a little misguided, as in doing so he's rather removing a lot fof the available viewing area in that region. The icons etc. are so obtrusive, particularly on the tanking in combat screenshot, that they pretty much cover Basoli's tank.

I'm so undecided on this, but I really appreciate it being sent in, as it's given me food for thought. I'm sorry that I haven't really commented on the intricacies of this UI, but it's because I've been so preoccupied with the big picture!

Put me out of my misery -- is this a good idea or a bad one?

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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