Creating the Perfect User Interface
Building the perfect user interface in WoW is no easy task. With an endless of addons, modifications, and scripts, it’s easy to get lost. So, let’s just start with the very basics of user interface building, the stock blizzard view.
When I construct a user interface I do so with a few basic principles in mind.
- Performance – The blizzard default U.I. can be considered our baseline. As far as FPS performance is going to be concerned the Blizzard U.I. will generally represent the maximum
- Information – What info do you need to know? What information is the most important (you’ll want this prominently displayed)?
- Design – Organizing your frames and bars in such a way that your view field isn’t obstructed is absolutely essential
User Interface Performance
In a day where video cards have pushed to 1 GB and having 8 gig of memory can be attained for a couple hundred bucks this might not be as big of an issue for you. Even so, I’m a minimalist, I strive to build my user interface as lean as possible.
For a lean U.I. there’s only one option, library of functions, ace mods are different because they are all built off the same library. Meaning mods use less memory, run leaner, and faster than their counterparts.
Even better, there is a great community of addon developers who are constantly updating mods. Popular mods are updated several times a week with changes, new features, bug fixes, and patch updates.
If you’ve browsed through addon repositories at all then you know the immense amount of information available via mods. The vast majority of this information is parsed through blizzard default combat log (even if you don’t use a combat log it’s still stored). Mods are able to gather information that would otherwise buzz right pass you and rebuild it in such a way that it’s easy for you to see and decipher in the heat of combat.
Mods like Natur’s Enemy Cast Bar (NECB) is a great example of this. The mod produces bars and timers for other players (both friend and foe) casts, cooldowns, and other abilities. Allowing you to make faster judgments based off quick information.
The big problem with this mod is it simply does its job too well! By default the amount of bars it can produce is simply too much. Bars are created so quickly it’s difficult to really tell what’s going on. It’s very important to turn off unnecessary options in the mod, for example you really don’t need to see the cool down refresh on a winter’s chill every time a mage casts a frostbolt.
The overall point here is, make sure you take a look at the options in each addon you download. Information is great, but if you don’t filter out to get just what you need then you end up in a situation where you have more information than you can easily handle while still fulfilling your classes primary role.
Designing a great user interface is like art, sometimes the most simplistic creations are the most elegant. Here we have a few basic categories to consider.
- Unit Frames
- Action Bars
- Other Mods
We’ll start with unit frames. Here we kind of go back to how much information you really need. Your role in an arena match will really determine what you need. For instance, the party frames on my rogue are really point less. I basically need to know 2 things about my partner members, their health and their debuffs. So the U.I. on my rogue is literally just a health bar with debuffs below, they are are small and out of my way.
Healers are a bit different, issues like a range checker, buffs, debuffs, health, mana, and casts are all potential attributes you may want to include in your unit frames. Just remember to avoid excess information where possible. I haven’t tried it out in arena yet, but based on my raiding experienced with it, grid could be the ideal unit frame mod for healers, combining lots of information in a very small area.
Action bars are probably the most simplistic aspect of your U.I. Though, you’ve got some options to further reduce the amount of clutter in your U.I. Most action bar mods include options to change size, position, and visibility.
So for example, on my restoration shaman I really don’t need to see most of my action bars. Healing spells and many totems really don’t need to be shown since I have all of my hotkeys memorized. So basically I only show the cool down based items: bloodlust, grounding totem, nature’s swiftness, mana tide, etc.
Since unit frames and action bars are the bread and butter of your U.I. other addons and modules can simply be placed around these. Depending on the type of information these mods provide will determine their position on your screen.
Items like target’s casting bar and focus’ casting bar are very important, as such they are dead center of my screen. Other mods like NECB’s cool down times are located along the outer ring. It’ll be up to you to determine information which is most crucial to your class.
If there’s one thing I cannot stress enough it’s just…keep it simple. If you are struggling to handle multiple addons and mods and a hundred other pieces of information at once you’re probably doing yourself more harm than good.
In my opinion you’re just better off going with a more simplistic approach and allow yourself to make quick decisions based off a greater view field and more simplistic approach to PvP.
- Best User Interface Addons
- Best Unit Frame Addons
- Quartz Casting Bar Addon
- Focus Macro Guide
- Grid – Raid Unit Frames