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Does gender matter when designing your user interface?

Each week, WoW Insider and Mathew McCurley bring you a fresh look at reader-submitted UIs as well as Addon Spotlight, which spotlights the latest user interface addons. Have a screenshot of your own UI that you'd like to submit? Send your screenshots along with info on what mods you're using to readerui@wowinsider.com, and follow Mathew on Twitter.

Our interface today comes from lady gamer Rinjichan. I would not be so inclined to point out that Rinjichan is a woman if Rinjichan herself did not make it a subject of conversation. Why, you would ask, would a discussion of gender be relevant to a discussion about user interfaces? Plenty of reasons, actually.

Do genders approach user interfaces differently? Do men and women identify different elements of the UI as important or relevant? Go beyond the stereotypical pink bottom bar and look at the placement of addons, the structure of the buttons, and the overall layout. These are the things that interest me, as well as whether or not a user interface can have gender ascribed to it.

As always, we begin with the email testimonials and trials of the patron of the Church of Saint Lua of Latter-Day Addons, Rinjichan, as she bares her soul before the congregation.
Heya WoW Insider!

First of all I wanna say that I love WoW Insider. Your Blog is a great place for all things WoW in and out of the game. Reader UI of the Week has helped me tons on getting my UI set up for me. I have learned a lot about different addons and how they can make my game play better. I have been playing WoW for about 7 years now. Since The Burning Crusade. I, as a woman, started out in WoW like any other newbie would. Not talking to NPC's and just running around killings thing. No idea what gear, spec, talents, and all that jazz was until my friends told / showed me how to play.

So once I finally understood the game, how to play, spec my toons, and learning my playing style. I noticed one thing that started to bug me. When I was playing on a patch day or expansion release day where all the addons were un-useable. My UI was all over the place. I would spend hours getting my UI without addons set, but once I got my addons update. I would have the same problem of resetting everything back to the way it was.

This is my UI for my Blood Elf Hunter Rinjichan - Llane US. It took some time to get it like this to where with or without addons I could play just as smoothly. I hated have to reset my UI all the time. So this is the UI I finally love and it's fun and easy.

Used Addons:
Align - Helps me with a clean looking UI.
Deadly Boss Mods - Mainly used for Instances and Raids.
Dominos - Action bars
ForteXorcist - Spell Timers and Cool down timer
Grid - Raid Interface replacemnet
Healbot - For when I'm on my healers
kgPanels - I like this one over Skinner
Mapster - Map replacement. Easier to move around
Masque - Action Bar Skinner
OmniCC - Another CD timer
QuestHubber - For when I'm questing on my low level toons.
Recount - DPS Meter
Shadowed Unit Frames - I did use X-Perl for a while, but this is easier to configure.
SilverDragon - I am a Hunter, I gotta have my rare pets.
TellMeWhen - Keeps me in check on my shot rotation.
Titan Panel - One stop to see where I am at on anything I need to know.
WIM - I don't use a chat addon, but I hate to miss a whisper from a friend or guild. Perfect addon for that.

Enjoy My Girly UI!!
-Rinjichan
Thank you for the email and submission, Rinjichan.

By now, readers have taken a look at one picture of Rinji's UI and have made many preconceptions and judgments based on sight alone. What were they? Did anything about Rinji's setup seem feminine? Do you want my first impressions?

First impressions

I look at a lot of user submissions, and one of the key components in my mind to a great UI is good color choice. My first impression of the pinkish-not-really-fuschia-whatever color was not that it was related to gender but rather one of the least-used hues of red in World of Warcraft. I had assumed that the color choice was made for practical contrast reasons. The saddest part about this last paragraph is it never occurred to me until the end that someone could just like a color and want it on their UI. Absolutely nothing wrong with that, either.

My second big impression was the tidiness. Tidiness does not speak to gender for me because of first-hand experience living with all sorts of messy men and women. Rather, the neat placement of buttons and clear, clean areas gave me a sense of understanding and experience, a UI that's had eAlign on for too many hours pushing bars pixels to the left, pixels to the right.

Do men and women have different UI priorities?

Why would men and women even have differing priorities regarding their UIs? Aren't we all playing the same game with the same set of rules? Sure, but we can always approach the game differently in terms of setup. I guess the question that I'm getting at is, what about Rinji's UI is "girly"? If it's the color, is that still a thing?

I look at Rinji's UI, and I see something similar to what I personally use -- a slim bottom bar with an opaque background for supreme contrast and slick buttons that stand out and hold the whole thing together. Player and target frame placement, along with associated buffs and debuffs, stand out against the world and are positioned for quick reference. Every piece of the middle of the UI is stuck together like an Aztec wall, the weight of the stones holding the monolithic structure in place.

There doesn't seem to be anything that really defines a gender and its UI proclivities, no?

The raid shot

Here it is -- the raid shot. Gaze upon the horror of a crowded interface and horrible placement of ... oh. That's not so bad, is it? Yes, yes, let it all out now: Hunter UI, DPSers don't need as many addons, etc. True on every account. When comparing UIs, however, we live in the realm of our role, and for a DPS raiding UI, Rinji's is pretty slick.

Simple, compact raid frames and a suitably sized DPS meter? I think I'm in love. Transparent bag buttons that don't clash with the rest of the empty space? Be still, my heart. Everything is boxed up together nicely with a Titan Panel up top, like the lid to a wonderful jar of cookies.

An alternative

Rinjichan not only configured her UI with addons to be perfect for her playstyle, but she also created a configured version of the default UI in case addons don't work, a patch day is particularly nasty, or something just decides it doesn't want to play nicely in the middle of raid night. Whatever the case, configuring the default UI to its best specifications is a great idea, and then laying addons over that. That way, even if the "power goes out," so to speak, you're still capable of playing and having a good time. Don't stress yourself out, kids, it's a hell of a thing.

In fact, this is such a great idea that I'm going to do it for myself as well. There are plenty of new options for UI replacements and default, built-in features that it shouldn't be hard at all to get most of the functionality out of the default stuff. Ah, the thrill of adventure.

Submit your UI!

Do you want to bask in glory and fame while getting tips, tricks, and advice on your setup from friends and fans in the WoW Insider community? Why, it's so simple. Just send some screenshots and an email discussing or describing your UI to readerui@wowinsider.com. If everything is kosher, you might see your submission right here in the column, and I'll say lots of words about it.




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.

Filed under: Add-Ons, Reader UI of the Week

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