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Reader UI of the Week: Shamanistic Simplicity

This week's submission comes from Marsailli of Waypoint, Medivh-US, who plays a red-headed dwarf restoration shaman. She has an elemental off-spec and is an addon junkie! In case readers weren't aware, your friendly columnist also plays a red-headed dwarf restoration shaman, with an elemental off-spec, and is a bit of an addon junkie. This is going to be interesting, for me particularly, as Marsailli's and my UI do almost the same jobs -- the only difference is that I do a lot of PvP, while, as Marsailli states in her email, her main game is PvE.

Marsailli sent us a few screenshots, out of combat, solo; out of combat with most elements visible; and in combat as elemental; as well as the resto in combat video you can see in the header.

Marsailli writes:
I play Marsailli -- resto/elemental dwarf shaman on Medivh in the guild Waypoint. My guild usually pokes fun at me because I've been known to /disableaddons during raid encounters and change my UI more frequently than my socks. There are a few things I know you'll probably discuss, so let me just disclaim this entire interface!
  • I've relied on two primary fonts: Arial Narrow and Friz Quadrata. They're both fonts included in the default interface and I've continued using them. Why? Because they're easy to read and I'm terribly near sighted. I've used Arial Narrow for all of the important info with a Thin Outline turned on to make it easier to read. You'll undoubtedly notice that Quartz does not use Arial Narrow – the reason is that Quartz doesn't offer outlines for fonts. I also like the mix of both fonts as the inclusion of Friz provides some consistency with the default UI pieces I've kept (character pane, chat tabs, and other panels).
  • I realize I have at least three spell timers showing all at once. That's because I prefer certain information displayed in certain ways. Like Riptides displayed using icons directly on Vuhdo's unit frames AND as bars in ForteXorcist. I tend to look all over my screen during an encounter, so a little bit of duplication is good for me.
  • I also dislike really dark UIs such as ElvUI, GUI, etc. I've tried nearly every single pre-made or compilation UI out there and well... they're not for me. I've used the Flat texture in pretty much all my addon components since it results in a nice, solid color background.

I've decided recently that it's more important to me to be able to be an effective player than having the prettiest UI. So some things you'll see could be improved, but I like them that way because either I'm used to it and too crotchety to change it or I'm offered information in a way that works for me.

I've chosen Dominos over Bartender for one big reason: Dominos will show whatever keybinds you already have made. I use a Razer Naga mouse and have my keys bound as can be seen in the Elemental screenshot. I bound them using the default keybinding menu. While Bartender will "honor" those keybinds, the buttons won't actually display the hotkey text. Of course, I could play my shaman why my eyes closed, but sometimes I need to see the hotkey text. If you use Bartender and use Bartender's keybind feature to show the hotkey text, it overwrites whatever was in the default keybind menu (as you are technically keybinding "bartenderbar1button1" instead of "actionbar1button1"). I also prefer the XP/Rep bar customization in Dominos than that of Bartender.

I'm using Shadowed Unit Frames for Player, Target, ToT, ToTT, Focus and Focus Target frames. I just like the way they can be customized. I've used them since Wrath and I'm familiar with where all of the options are. I also really like that I can export my layout to a text file for safe-keeping.

Vuhdo: I download it and love it, then it does something weird (like not updating properly when people drop mid-combat*) so I hate it again.
*Yes, I know the default raid frames do this, too. It's an issue with the compactraidframe code in the API.

Spell timers: I use ForteXorcist for the cooldown bar, splash icon and spell timer bars. The spell timer bars have been filtered to not show things like flasks, shields, weapon imbues, or other long-term things. I use these spell timers to mostly track some cooldowns (Lava Burst in Elemental spec) and heals/buffs on people who are not me. I use Raven to replace the default player buff & debuff frames. I also use Raven to add short-term buff bars above my player frame for things like Tidal Waves, Windsong, etc. I also use Weak Auras to track Ascendance and totem cooldowns. Some people are still freaking out about shamans with the change to totems. But honestly? I only really need to track the cooldown on the four shown in the screenshot below while healing in PVE (which is what I do).

Notable Points

Marsailli and I have rather different approaches to solving very similar problems! It's always interesting to look at the UIs of other players who fulfil very similar roles to your own, and seeing how they address the challenges your class faces, how they prioritize differently, and how you might learn from that. Marsailli, as she states in her email, leans toward the function end of the scale rather than focusing of form, pursuing a UI that does its job well instead of something that's pretty but not that useful, but in my opinion, with a few exceptions, she's managed to get something pretty good-looking to boot!

Good Things

Reader UI of the Week Shamanistic SimplicityI like the Weak Aura set for the five major resto cooldowns a great deal, it's a simple way to monitor those cooldown in one bunched set, and I would definitely love to get the string for it so that the rest of us can easily use it. My approach to this is to have the four totems bunched together on my ever-visible action bar to the right-hand side of the screen, but this is a neater solution. As I take the Primal Elementalist talent at level 90, thanks to advice from Joe Perez, WoW Insider's resto shaman columnist, I would probably add the two elemental totems to this set, as both are good cooldowns to keep monitored for healers thanks to Empower and Reinforce. It would also be possible to set this up in TellMeWhen, or even just Dominos or Bartender, if you weren't too fussed about the color filter on the buttons.

Reader UI of the Week Shamanistic SimplicityThe spell flash in the middle, indicated by the battle pet heal icon in the OOC screenshot, is great, too, caused by ForteXorcist. It's right in the line of sight on the video, and I'm wondering whether Marsailli has used ForteXorcist's filters to stop it spamming certain spells, or, if not, whether she might like to. I find that, if a flash icon like that is flashing all the time, my brain filters it out. Points are also definitely awarded for the consistent texture use across pretty much everything, it ties the UI together really well, and almost makes up for the use of two fonts! I jest, I jest, I see why it's done, as Marsailli explains in her email! What's more, I really like the overall layout of the central block and the unit frames in the middle, though I'm really not sure about the big gap below the action bars, although we can see it is occupied by cooldown information in the elemental combat shot. The skada window and the ForteXorcist bars balance nicely, and it generally looks balanced and pleasant, and as we see to the left, Marsailli gets many a gold star for having her minimap icons only show on mouseover!


Not-so-good things

Reader UI of the Week Shamanistic SimplicityThe grid of bars to the right-hand side is first on the list. I applaud the separation of useful spells like these into separate bars, but you don't need to see them all the time! Marsailli points out in her email that she's faded these down, but in my opinion they could be completely invisible, unless moused over. Yes, they do add balance to the screen, positioned as they are opposite the chat, but I'm not sure that that's reason enough to keep them visible all the time. Worse, still, there's a tooltip overlapping them, and the Skada window! Yes, the tooltip is relatively useful in battle, while the things it's sitting over aren't, but it can be moved!

Other than that, the only criticisms I have are minor niggles. I am not a huge fan of the castbar, for a few reasons. I don't like icons on castbars unless they replace the spell name, and I'm not really sure why the written information about the target is needed. It just seems too busy, along with the latency text, and crowds the area. I definitely think that Marsailli could also remove things like Well Fed from her buff bar, and perhaps replace the nameplates with some in the flat texture she uses for everything else.

But like I say, I'm nitpicking. What do you think of Marsailli's UI?

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: Reader UI of the Week

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