New Series: UI and You

Patch day.  As sweet of a feeling as it is, if you’re an addon junkie like myself, it can be a nightmare.  With every new patch, addons can stop functioning properly, cease to work, cause in game errors or even crash your game.  I’ve been wanting to do a series on User Interface modification, and with the likelihood of needing to revamp your UI because of 3.1, now seems like as good time as any.

UI modification is an art form, one that can show the beauty of simplicity and the chaos of clutter.  Getting your UI perfect is probably a Utopian idea that you may never achieve; however, getting it close to perfect is obtainable, if you’re willing to work at it…

–  Planning your UI  –

planningBefore you make any changes to your User Interface, you need to decide what types of information you want your interface to tell you, and roughly where on your screen you want that information to reside.  A good starting point is to list the information your want, and create a sketch of where on screen it will go.

Your next step is research.  You need to either decide if the built in UI can support your needs or if you need to find addons to replace the default interface.  Searching with Google is hit or miss most of the time, and finding the perfect addon on an addon site like Curse can be difficult.  My best advice is to go to blogs about your class and search for the addon tag.  Generally, you’ll be able to at least steer yourself in the right direction that way.

–  Tricks (andTools) of the Trade  –

Getting all of your addons can be a pain, but it doesn’t have to be.  WoWMatrix is about the single greatest thing ever for getting new addons, removing addons, and keeping your current addons up to date.  Using the search feature you can type in the name of an addon, and if it’s supported (most major addons are), it will come up, along with any other plug ins that can be used with it.  You can delete unneeded addons with the click of a button, and it will automatically check the versions of all of your installed addons on launch.  One click and they’ll all be updated; another click closes the program while launching WoW.  Read this.

Now that you’ve got all of your addons installed, double check in WoW that they’re enabled.  When you’re logged in and actually fooling around with your UI, you’ll want to find a nice quiet corner of Azeroth to use.  I personally prefer Exodar, being an Alliance player, as it’s almost always deserted (I do my DPS testing here too, and I’ve neverseen another player at the combat dummies).  I don’t know the least populated Horde City, but Shattrath is fairly deserted as well.

Now that you’ve found yourself a nice and relatively quiet workspace, it’s time to start working.  Your User Interface should be a helpful presence, not a hindrance, so make sure you’re not cluttering the center of your screen.  It’s usually best to use your UI as a frame around your playing screen,  while keeping the most important information closest to your character.

Instead of tackling the interface as a whole, it’s often easier to take it one part at a time.  I like to work in a relatively logical order, getting certain things in place before I work on other things, for example:

  1. Action Bars
  2. Map
  3. Unit Frames
  4. Chat Box
  5. Threat Meter
  6. DPS Meter

If you’re particularly concerned with the spacing of your addons, there’s an old addon called Align, that will place a grid on your screen to help you with the placement of your addons.  I usually eyeball the relative position of everything, and then use Align to snap everything into place.  I normally only have to move things a millimeter or two to get everything perfect, but it does actually make a difference when you do.

UI modification can be fun, and very helpful to your gameplay.  Starting with a plan and research to select your addons is a solid start to a good usable interface.  Following that up with neatly well placed addons can really help your gameplay, and sometimes make you feel like you’re playing a new game. 

Well, I think that’s all for today, but I’ll be sharing some more specific ideas with you in future posts under the tag UI and You.  Enjoy the new patch.

– Sam

5 Responses to New Series: UI and You

  1. Cottoirin says:

    Nice article.

    I want to point out though that apparently WoWMatrix will no longer work do to actions taken by curse.com and wowinterface.com. It’s a shame because WoWMatrix blew the curse updater out of the water.

    Here is the link:
    http://www.wowinsider.com/2009/04/14/curse-wow-interface-band-together-to-block-wowmatrix/

  2. samueltempus says:

    /facepalm

    This really upsets me. I understand where the Curse and Wowinterface are coming from, but since they can’t come up with a decent way to do it on their own, they should have found a way to work with WoWmatrix instead of shutting it down.

    – Sam

  3. Cat says:

    Recently bit the bullet and fired up AceHUD and Dominos. Awesome!

  4. I should have taken a screenshot of my FUI (F**Ked User Interface) after patch day.

    You guys would be ROFL your asses off. Seriously after patch day my UI looked like the inside of a Shake and Bake box. I had to spend a whole day reconfiguring and disabling addons.
    /sigh

    As for Curse keeping all their wisdom to themselves…/facepalm Stupid idea. Nice blog btw Sam! Good stuff.

  5. samueltempus says:

    I am still working on this, although, having to manually install half of the addons I use and then configure them, kinda slows down the whole process. Maybe I’ll have the time to work on this project this weekend.

    – Sam

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