User Interface Blues

Well, as the patch hit, I was prepared to do a lot of fixing for my most favorite addons. Little did I know that the changes in the patch were so fundamental that most of my addons were outright broken. And when I decided to hunt them down, I would often find them to be discontinued or replaced by “a newer, better version”. The latter of course means “more difficult to set up and get used to again”.

As a (raiding) Shadowpriest, there are a few necessary addons I cannot live without. Some of these require a bit of setting up, others are “out of the box”.

Basic design philosophy

Although I love having a UI with a lot of frills, looking good and embellished (like the default UI), it is a strain on your computer’s performance, and a distraction to your eyes. Enough crap is flying around your ears without animated batwings around your minimap distracting you from running out of fires.

My UI should therefore be as clean as possible (slick, futuristic, dull, call it what you will) and should have all relevant information in a fixed place. Contrary to popular belief, this does not all need to be centered as your eyes can easily dart across the screen (yours do all the time without you realizing) but the most important information should be centralized.

To me, this means that I want my Player and Target frames in the middle, along with my threat meter. Somewhere close I want my Focus, Target-of-Target and Target-of-Focus. This is the base around which I work.

All addons I mentioned can be found with a simple search on http://www.wowinterface.com or http://www.curse.com.

Unitframes

For unit frames I would pick between Pitbull, Perl/X-Perl or AGuf. Pitbull was not working properly for myself (showing full health bars even as the numbers tick down, disappearing target frames, etc.) so I switched to AGuf. I am still learning to cope with that one, especially since there are a lot of nice “default setups” to be found on forums, none of which work at the moment.

Unitframes should display health and power (mana/energy/rage), as well as the name of the unit and its level. I am less interested what class the unit is, but if you PvP it is very handy. Most unitframes have an indicator for Aggro, usually turning your health bar red or making it flash red. This is almost required, as it makes it painfully obvious when you have aggro, so you can Fade.

This is the most “free” part of the design, because there are so many layouts you can use. In fact, I could write a whole article on the various ways of placing them on your screen. I will keep it to a simple message “do not make it cluttered”. If it is cluttered and chaotic, you will become confused while playing, and you are going to make life hard on yourself.

Also, information overload is bad. We don’t really need “Target-of-target’s-target” or “Target of Party Pets” and such. It might be useful for a tank or healer, but for us it is just needless info 99% of the time.

Action Bars

Bartender has been recommended as a good action bar mod to me, but I have never used it. I used to have Trinity Bars, because of its ability make round buttons and arrange the buttons in a circle or half-circle. In my old ui, that was how I liked it. However, I moved over to Bongos, and now to Dominos since Bongos was discontinued.

All action bars have a very simple function: hold your buttons. There’s not really much more to it.

That said, there are a few nice “extra addons” for Dominos that will save your bacon:

RedRange adds a red shade over a button when your target is out of range for the spell.

OmniCC adds a cooldown timer to your bar, indicating the seconds until the cooldown is finished.

ButtonFacade allows you to alter the way your buttons look; there are a lot of custom skins that plug into this one, allowing you to recreate almost any button style in WoW, previous UIs or even other games.

Threat Meter

The third of the Unholy Trinity of Mods Always Required to be Updated.

Even with our new, efficient threat generation, we’d be idiots to run around without one. Omen3 is updated and works fine, but there are also some inbuilt threat meters in PitBull and the like. KLH Threat meter seems to be updated, but I didn’t like it as it was ugly and clunky before, so I doubt it will be better now.

I wouldn’t trust the inbuilt threat meter in WoW, as it does little more than say “High Threat” and “Changed targets to you” and that is it. Not very useful, efficient or precise. And those are exactly the traits I look for in an addon. I mean, face it: no one’s really using the inbuilt voice chat in WoW either right?

Damage Meter

I personally use Recount, because it gives me a very detailed overview of what I have been doing and what it did to my enemies. Also, I used DrDamage, which gives the approximate average damage caused by a spell as a number on your buttons. I really, really liked that, but it is not yet working properly in this patch. That is to say, it works, but it does not do anything.

Dot Timer

I personally like to have as few addons as possible doing as much work as they can. That is why I use DoTimer, now updated for 3.0.2, which handles my buffs, cooldowns and debuffs all at once.

It does take some time to set up, as it is really split into 3 components: DoTimer (Command /Dot), PlayerAuras (Command /pa) and CooldownTimer (Command /cd). Each of these three components can be separately unlocked and moved.

Note to users of older DoTimer versions: There used to be nice golden rings acting as “anchors” for positioning. Now you can just move the bars themselves. To find this option, after typing /dot for instance, you will see the Addons part of the interface screen opening. Under “DoTimer” are the timer settings. However, the bar settings are under the “Timer Bar” options at the bottom of the list. Confusing? Hell yes.

Just click on “Preview” or cast a buff with a cooldown to see where the bars are, and move them around.

You can also set all of these three to a “simple mode”, which means you will only see the icon for a buff/debuff and the timer for it. This saves a lot of screen real estate.

3.0.2 and UI Positioning

When designing your UI, there are a few important factors to keep into account:

  • When opening a bank tab, it has been moved slightly more to the left and may interfere with design elements there.
  • Achievements and quest reminders appear to the right of the screen, and may interfere with design elements there, which also goes for the minimap.

I will see if I can get a good design going and post it. I will also scrounge together some UIs that I find particularly well-built, and display those too. A good UI designer deserver credit and publicity, don’t you think?

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2 Responses to “User Interface Blues”

  1. Trinity is also gone the way of the dodo. New replacement by same author is macro-based, no limit to buttons or bars Macaroon. Also available is that half-circle shape you favored and round buttons via Button Facade and BT:Trinity

  2. Oh, that sounds awesome.

    Will check it out once I get a rough UI design out for myself that I can live with.

    Thanks for the tip!

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