This post is the first in a series, “Theory of UI.” In the current post, I’m discussing very basic principles to get players thinking about what is necessary when designing their custom UI.
The UI. It’s how we interact with the game world, and remain aware of what happens to each of us, as player characters. It feels like every forum for classes eventually hold a few threads discussing player’s UIs.
And it makes sense, I mean a super slick interface can greatly increase your performance — it’s like hitting the keys harder!
I’m going to outline how my UI evolved over the last year, and how simple guidelines can help improve your performance.
Keep in mind: the number one rule of UI creation is functionality for YOU. The specific placement and omission of certain elements works for me, and it may not work for anyone else. However, the ideas and practices for why certain elements changed can be applied to any UI.
Here’s a brief screenshot of my of my 3.0 UI:
As you can see it has several common elements of most custom interfaces: the bottom display with all information moved, customized unitframes, recount, Omen … the list goes on. However, I noticed that I constantly forced myself to look at the bottom “bar area” instead of on my toon where the action is playing out.
I didn’t like this. I had to move things up, and strip down what wasn’t necessary. Keeping information easily accessible while also organized took a lot of work, and I went from the version above to this:
In this latest layout, I’ve moved everything up to the middle of the screen, and removed the standard “black bottom bar” common in a lot of custom UIs. But why did I do this? To keep my eyes focused on the area of the screen that I naturally drifted to — the center. My health, my cooldowns, timers, etc. they’ve all moved in to the center of the screen. This brings us to UI rule No. 1:
Move important information where you’re already looking
Simple, no? If you find yourself looking to the center, put timers there. If you can mouse-over heal by looking at the upper right corner, put your Grid there. The idea isn’t to artificially make an area for timers and unit frames, but to find the area you’re already staring at and making it more useful.
This also means you need to know what is important. DoT or HoT timers, short duration buffs, procs, debuffs … these are probably what you’re looking for as a rogue.
And that brings up the next principle I found hardest to implement:
A functional UI keeps unimportant stuff out of your way
Be honest, do you REALLY need visible buttons for your professions or trade troll macros? Or can you slap them on a mouse-over bar you keep tucked way over there away from the DPS hotkeys so you don’t accidentally spam BWD with your guild’s recruitment macro.
And this brings us to the final concept of UI design, the most unique, arguably the most time consuming, but also the most fun:
Rule No. 3 — make your UI look cool! From textures to fonts, to colors … the UI look at feel is your very own sandbox.
Shameless ego plug of a demonstration with my 4.0 UI:
That’s why I have those wacked out unit frames (inspired by the hunter Kripparrian), and the Button Facade skin. It’s why people create those awesome Power Auras and transparencies.
Getting your interface fancy can make you appreciate and increase your enjoyment of the game because instead of dealing with that stock UI, you’ve got an artistic masterpiece.