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Reader UI of the Week: Remarkably minimal custom-made healing UI


There are several kinds of UI. Lately on Reader UI of the Week, we've looked at several that do specific jobs, that are functional, even those that fulfil particular requirements for specialized players. This week's UI is, instead, one that is supremely focused on form. That is not to say, of course, that Kait neglects the functional elements of the design, indeed, he does an excellent job of integrating the elements he needs to perform his role, whilst still making a supremely pretty UI.

Unlike our usual submitters, Kait has sent us a video of his UI in action, which you can see on the header, and watch on his YouTube channel along with videos of his other UIs. Kait has also sent in three pictures, one solo healing, one raid healing, and one of the custom designed talent pane. Let's get into Kait's email.

In the past I've always struggled to make healing UIs look good. I think it's because there is no way around the dominant candy bar block that is the raid frame. There's no way to have your raid frame more ergonomic than a tight block of rectangles, and no more practical place to put it than center stage. As such healing UIs can tend to be sort of samey.

So for this UI I focused on one of things I've always loved about healing specs, all the sparkly spell effects. I think deep down a lot of people fall in love with a particular class or spec because of it's aesthetic, and for me a large part of why I like resto druid is being able to pump out endless bursts of gorgeous green, shiny, live-giving spells.

The things this UI has in common with all my others are:

  • anything I don't absolutely need to know, I hide. My definition of "need" is if something is not going to change the way I react, where I move my character or the buttons I press, then i figure I don't need to know it.
  • action bars entirely hidden. I keybind everything. To anyone who doesn't keybind like this the UI might seem ineffective, but only as much as not looking at your keyboard as you type is ineffective

I injected some eye candy into the 3 things you track very closely when healing as resto: the Harmony buff, Swiftmend and Wild Growth cooldowns. Those are the orbs above the player and target unit frames. With the big central one (the Harmony buff) I used green nature healing animation mixed with fire; I wanted to portray the fire that burns inside the healer, igniting their soul to do what they do. That buff is supposed to stay up the whole time too so I knew I'd get good mileage out of it.

I also wanted to add something totally new to this UI, and after I found out that with a bit of custom code you could make a WeakAuras 3D model show your own character model, I was on a mission to make a Talent window that was similar to the one in Borderlands 2 where your character stands and looks at their Talents like it's written on a wall. With some help from a guildie and some guys on the mmo-champion forum, I got there in the end.

Addons used:

Stuf Unit Frames
Grid & Clique
Bartender (for all the hidden bars)
Satrina's Buff Frames
Tidy Plates (clean plates theme)

Good Things

There is absolutely no denying that this is a seriously pretty UI. Kait has got the hyper-minimalist look down to a fine art, as can be seen from his other UIs on the aforementioned YouTube channel. And this UI is no exception to that pattern, Kait has done a great job of culling unnecessary elements, leaving literally the bare essentials on the screen. As I'll get to later, he might have actually been too brutal in this, but the result is a very, very minimal UI which allows a fantastic view of the actual world around him.

I love the orbs. I don't actually play a healing druid, so I'm not overly familiar with the cooldowns he's talking about, or how they work, but the green spell effect-styled glow around the central one is just so pretty. If you missed it, you can see it best in the Raid Finder image. Regular readers of this column will know that one thing I am almost excessively picky about is the consistent use of fonts, and may have noticed that Kait doesn't actually use the same font for all his UI elements, the standout difference being the target name at the bottom of the screen, beneath the player and target unit frames. But it's OK, I'm fine with it. I really don't mind at all. Why not? The font everywhere else is consistent, and this font crops up again in Kait's amazing talent window. It's like an accent color in interior design, and it looks great.

This good things section is at risk of running away with me, but another element I really like is the way Kait has presented the buffs and debuffs. This is a healing-specific UI, so we shouldn't look at it through the eyes of DPS, who would need their player-applied debuffs displayed rather differently. If you're interested in that, do check out Kait's moonkin UI. These are great for healers, particularly a HoT-based healer like a druid, and from a PvP perspective, too, in order to offensively dispel buffs from enemy targets. They're out of the way, but obvious when you need them.

Lastly, I couldn't possibly write about this UI's good sides without covering the talent pane. He says in his email, above, that it is based around Borderlands 2's look, and it definitely has some similarities, within the bounds of WoW. I think it looks great, and am seriously impressed with the weak auras character model! Is there anything that weak auras can't do?

Not-so-good things

As you can tell from the good things section above, I'm quite the fan of Kait's UI. I would even consider downloading it for my own use, if Kait made it available as a package UI. However, there are some minor things I'd mention, the first of which is the minimap. If you check out the pictures linked above, it's in the top left corner, beneath the target buffs. It's hard to spot, because there's no background image. I'm not sure if this is deliberate, or accidental, but it seems that with the amount of work Kait has put into the UI, he wouldn't have missed this by accident. I suppose it allows him to travel towards his team-mates, as they are indicated by the dots, and still gives him the quest arrows, but I use the minimap all the time, and would miss the background images that I use to navigate.

I also wonder about the complete removal of buttons. It's quite possible that I'm just being too closed-minded, and clinging onto the crutch of my button bars, as, like Kait, I keybind absolutely everything. I found myself wondering what I use my buttons for, and whether that could be replaced by something else, and I mainly use them for visual checks on cooldowns, as I use OmniCC, and to see if abilities went off, which is also essentially just visual cooldown checks. Kait uses weakauras for this, and maybe I could too, but the absence of any bars at all is perturbing! What do you think?

And please do send me your UI to!
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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