As I was setting up Shadowed Unit Frames (SUF), I had to ask myself some questions, such as ‘what do I want it to show?’ and ‘where do I want it to show this?’ I realised I didn’t know the answers. My UI creation has been an organic process. I didn’t start with a clear idea of what I wanted the ‘finished’ product to look like. So I will attempt to answer these questions, and maybe get more out of my UI than I did previously. I don’t often make UI design decisions from the ground up, as it were, so excuse the rambling. Wait – ‘ramblings’ is in the blog title, so you’re pre-warned!
What unit frames do I want displayed?
This one’s quite easy, at least to begin with. I want my character and my target shown. Party and raid frames are unnecessary, because I use a different addon set-up for those. Then there are the more optional ones. I like having ‘target of target’. If there are a lot of mobs aggroing people, it helps to know which tank the boss is aggroing, for example. Do I want ‘target of target of target’? I haven’t bothered with this on my previous set-ups, but I think I will give it try, as SUF has small but clear frames for this as default, so it doesn’t take up much screen estate. I’ll see if I find it useful. I like having a consistent UI between characters, so I’ll keep my pet bar for hunters and warlocks. Pet target – I think can stay turned off for now. I like using focus for CCing and escort quests, so that, and focus target, will be used. A relatively new part of the standard UI (I think anyway – I don’t often see it!) is showing frames for the bosses, especially in fights where various mechanics mean that the boss health isn’t always obvious (such as splitting into two, or shared health pools). SUF offers boss frames, so I’ll give these a go. Boss targets? Probably TMI. SUF also offers arena frames, but I don’t PVP so these are obviously out.
What information do I want on the frames?
Health, obviously. I like having a portrait for character and target, but the 3D moving portraits are too annoyingly eye-catching. Mana, energy, rage (collectively known as power)- and druid mana when shape-shifted (more important to feral, but I may be feral again one day). My eclipse indicator when in Balance spec. Do I want numbers or percentage for health and mana? I think for target, I want both for health, and percentage for mana. For character, I’ll try both for health and mana, and see which ones I find useful. For the boss frames, I think health percentage is the most interesting. For all the other frames, I only really care about them staying alive, so just the graphical bars should be fine.
For the target, I want buffs and debuffs shown. For the character, I’m not so sure. When XPerl was bugged, I started using Raven to monitor my own buffs, debuffs and cooldowns. I think I like having them detached from the unit frames, so I’ll probably use Raven instead of SUF to display these. For the focus frame, I will need debuffs cast by me for CC, and curable debuffs on friendly targets in the focus frame.
Cast bars – I prefer to use Quartz for cast bar display.
All the other little indicators can stay in their default places unless they annoy me. These are things like raid markers, role indicator, pvp flag etc.
Where do I want the unit frames?
This one is tricky. For rage and energy specs, I find it useful to have my power bar close to where I’m looking, so near the centre of the screen. I tried using a HUD for warrior tanking and kitty dpsing, which I found useful for knowing when I had enough rage/energy to pull off a move. However, I found it annoying for mana specs. I prefer to use a consistent UI across characters, which is why I have reverted to using a ‘standard’ unit frame set-up. I’ve found I like the character and target frame near the bottom of the screen, on either side of my raid frames. To keep symmetry (even though they’re not always visible), I have the pet and target-of-target(-of-target) frames to the outsides of the character and target frames. Focus has generally been near the top-middle, as this grabs my attention – useful for a not often used frame. Boss frames might be a bit tricky. The default place, to the right, is where I have a couple of hidden action bars. If I bring the frames towards the centre, that’s where my quest objectives are. Maybe there will be room for them on the left below my chat frames.
Can the default UI fulfil these criteria?
Short answer: no. Longer answer: actually, I think they could. With Move Anything, I can scale and move them around. I think I can display health and mana numbers on the bars, or percentages, but not both. However, I don’t like the visual style much for functionality. The portraits and frame border are too dominant and I prefer things I can tweak as my needs and preferences change. I think a relatively simple unit frame mod can fulfil everything here, so I’ll see how SUF goes with memory usage and ease of use, with the back-up of Pitbull if I fancy something different.