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Thread: UI Design Discussion

  1. #1
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    UI Design Discussion

    One thing I've noticed that is the same with almost every UI is it's main set-up is like this:

    The action bars and unit frames are in the center because it's very close and provides you with your health/rage and cooldowns at a quick glance. Most people also keep their chat on the left side. I think this is due to most people being used the it on the left as it's the default. It's out of the way, but is easily readable if you need to focus on chat.
    Other UI elements that make a UI unique:
    • Minimap
    • Addons that enhance the UI
    The minimap is usually changed multiple ways. It is usually unlocked and dragged around the screen to fit the rest of your UI. A lot of people put it down at the bottom near, or in the center of their action bars.

    For addons that are a lot of addons that are used. To name a few: Art, Buffs, Cast bar, CC, Cooldowns, Damage Meters, Fonts, Minimap, Unit Frames, PvP, Viewports, Threat Meters, Tooltips, Action bars, and plenty for enhancements.

    I've just made this thread in hopes to spark discussion on how you like to set-up your UI (and why) and to see some discussion on how to accomplish a functional and good looking UI.

  2. #2
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    I use a very similar set up to what you show above, for the reasons you stated. I feel so normal hehe. Its compact.

    I have my omen to the right of action bars you have shown, and a small cheater bar with a few often used buttons, tradeskills, mount etc. Map pretty much default location.

    Mks scrolling battle text, with a "tank" notification area with things I truly care about while tanking. Big and in front. I turn off the healing reporting, names of spells to make it a little less junk on the screen. I also move the reporting areas out to the sides to free up the center.

    I use Satrina's buff bars, with my buffs top right, and my debuffs, below those. A bit more towards center and a bit larger to make them easy to read during a fight.
    Thats about it.

    To me its about not having to look around and search for the info I need while still maintaining a open field of view.

  3. #3
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    Once I started putting my unit frames in the center of my screen, I never went back. Having the information you need right away, without having to glance away from the action is great. The same thing goes for action bars, really; I just don't want to have to move my eyes that far.

    Personally, my UI philosophy has always been to show all the information I could possibly want, but to make the information that I need easily viewable, and making everything else stay out of my way. For example, I'll just buff bars for self buffs (or buffs that I control), but for other raid buffs I use little icons tucked away in the corner. I like knowing that I can see them if I need to, but they're not terribly important when I get down to business.

  4. #4
    Very interesting discussion. I believe the rule is, "the further away from the action, the less important." Which is why the chat and minimaps are in the far corners while the damage done/taken text, procs, health unit frames are closer. Everything else is tailored to your own tastes.

    The chat area is in the bottom-left because it reflects how most MMOs put their chat, so it's more versatile. The reading also begins on the edge of the screen. Kind've like reading text that's left aligned compared to center aligned in a Word Docuement (excusing where the sentence begins in center-align). But you get the point, right?

    I just really enjoy the fact that we have the option to enhance our playing experience with addons and create our own unique UI to almost create a whole new game in itself. A UI is customizeable in almost every aspect.
    Abyssul's UI, please comment or download.

  5. #5
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    Very close to what you have there. Using SBF3 I have an area on the center-left of the screen for debuffs, nice big debuffs that are very easy to see... that I have a debuff. I put another bar for debuffs on my target between my action bars and dead center of the screen. I'm currently using Debuff Filter for this, going to figure out how to do it with SBF.

    My overall design is to simplify the information. What makes my UI simple is that elements like the Minimap, bag bars, micro buttons etc. are hidden during combat. I use plain old WoW Floating Text, plain old game damage (sexed up with GDFont). I want to see my abilities, my enemy, and what debuffs I have working against me and not much else.

    I keep chat simple, I see no reason to have it be it's own UI with a ton of features. Aside from something an actual player says, the only thing I'm interested in from chat is raid warning messages that don't print to the screen.
    Quote Originally Posted by Kalken View Post
    "I'll let the dragon hit me in the face, you stab it in the ass."

  6. #6
    Interesting topic, my UI is fairly similar, except for the fact that I tuck my chat into the lower right-hand corner, because I have info I'm more interested in during a fight on the left, its still relatively minor, but its just easier to look at when I want to know. It took me a while to get used to, but I think in the end it actually works a lot better.

    I'm big on leaving the top 2/3 of my screen open so I can really see whats going on around me, although I do have some small things on the edges. I really want an inverted T on my character for all my info, but its hard to get all of it aligned exactly where I want it without obscuring my view.

    I'm constrained by the fact that I have a crappy computer and a smaller monitor, so I have to fit stuff into a smaller space, which leaves some stuff, like raid frames in weird locations, top left at the moment. I've been contemplating tearing my UI down and starting over again, but thats such a time consuming process.

    Edit: I also have an information and addon fetish which means I get a lot of crap floating around... I'm wondering how to curb that.
    Last edited by Aldragoriad; 02-20-2009 at 02:51 PM.

  7. #7
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    The most important feature for me is leaving enough room. I 'design' my ui in 3 spheres, one close around my toon with the vital information. One sphere a bit further away that is mostly open, so i can see what the hell is going on, and the third at the edges of my ui for information I only need occasionally...

    practically:

    I like to have some information centered around my character (how I wish IceHud made sense to my eyes/brain!). I keep debuffs at the left of my character, a mini action bar below my toon (panic buttons and a cooldown or two), and above and at his left are a couple of ghost pulse images to monitor procs and cooldowns. there's my health and target (of target below all of that)

    raidframes, chat, minimap, buffs, omen are dragged downwards whenever that worked for me, constantly being aware of leaving as much space as I could.

    Hope that makes sense. (The long winded explanation is in my last blog, actually) good to see some discussion about this. From personal experience I can tell that this stuff can be such a real big help!

  8. #8
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    I think a lot of peoples UI design comes from habit. From the first days you played the game you more than likely didn't know about custom UI's. So as you gained interest you started to unknowingly memorize where things were. The chat window in the bottom left corner is a prime example of this.

    I think the action bar block is a result of click players and as some have mentioned less area for your eyes to travel. I myself am a click player, I noticed early on in the game I was always setting my primary abilities to the center of the screen (on the default action bar) and less needed ones would start to work out away from center.

    Over the course of 3 years I have developed the layout for my UI. I think after a while things just become habit. You keep placing things in the same area because you are used to (comfortable with) them there. A lot depends on the size monitor you have to work with too.

    For example my UI on a 17" Monitor 1280x1024:


    Now if someday I have the money I would love to change that up a bit and get a larger wide screen monitor. I would take all the boxes in the top row and re-arrange them to the lower level to provide more game field. For me the goal of a UI is to have all the tools/info you need and to provide the most virgin screen space as possible.
    There is something so appealing about backhanding someone across the face with a shield.

  9. #9
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    I tend to move parts of my UI around frequently, but after using it for a bit you get used to it.

    When I started I had Discord Unit Frames, with my frame, target and targets target up the top in the middle. Once DUF died I swapped to Xperl, with less customisation it looked ugly sitting up the top, so I moved it down the bottom in the middle, above the buttons. This seemed to work nicely, letting me see health and, at the time, energy clearly.

    Stuck with the default chat bottom left, buttons absolute bottom middle, combat bottom right layout for ages, with the minimap up the top right.
    Then came the days of farming herbs/mines, when the minimap relocated to the bottom middle of my screen.

    Now, I like to stick to minimalistic design. In 25man encounters my PC gets a thrashing, even though it's not too bad. So for bosses that I know I'm not going to lose much HP, don't have to worry about adds, or just don't need to see anything other than whats on the screen (without addons/healthbars/etc) I ALT+Z. Smoooth sailing!

    Basic screen layout these days is:


  10. #10
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    That's a pretty nice interface you have there Bodasafa. Everything likks nice and organized and all the information a tank would ever need is right there. Did you design that yourself? If so, is it available for public use/download?

  11. #11
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    Yeah I think that you naturally put what you uses the most closes to hand - I got 2 level 80 main characters that im playing on at the moment - and on my druid Tank, my UI looks like Niian posted above with my raid frames to the left up in the corner.

    But on my Healer i got the raid frams where he got his Combat Log since I need to switch targets / have them close to target so that I can heal them
    Hybrid - Druid/Paladin

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bobinater View Post
    That's a pretty nice interface you have there Bodasafa. Everything likks nice and organized and all the information a tank would ever need is right there. Did you design that yourself? If so, is it available for public use/download?
    He has it for download in the UI compilations forum: http://www.tankspot.com/forums/f211/...boda-s-ui.html

  13. #13
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    Great! I'll definitely going to check that out.

  14. #14
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    My basic setup is very akin to the Blizzard setup, with my unitframes to the left, my own health above that. I only run 10 man raids, and have setup my raid UI in such a way that party frames and raid frames are the same size.

    Top third of my screen: Target and target of target are in the center above my character, just so I can glance at them every so often. This laso hosts my minimap, same location as the Blizzard map, mine has a sexy quarter circle look. Right next to my map is my buff display.

    Right dead center is MSBT. This displays all the information I really need to know during a fight.

    Bottom third of my screen: To the right is my chatwindow. It's just a place which feels comfortable to have it in. In the center are my Bars and casting bars, to the right I have Omen, and when needed Bigwigs proximity window.

    There's not much else visible on my screen. When I'm healing I display Healbot next to my bars. I never show recount (useless info during a fight really) and I try to keep my screen as clear as possible. That's the major thing for me. I dislike everything that clutters my screen unnessecary including artwork, panels and whatnot. Everything is see-through or scaled to very small proportions.

  15. #15
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    I really don't understand why people have their minimap in the center of the screen. That's prime real estate there that's going unused for 90% of boss fights (which is where you interface really matter the most). I personally keep it tucked away in the corner.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by shiz98 View Post
    I really don't understand why people have their minimap in the center of the screen. That's prime real estate there that's going unused for 90% of boss fights (which is where you interface really matter the most). I personally keep it tucked away in the corner.
    This. Unless you spend a great majority of your time herbing or mining, why would you give the minimap such prominence besides a sense of symmetry?

    Another puzzler is why people drag out the combat log to its own piece of screen. You can't see anything useful in it during combat, so you pretty much never look at it until after the fact (and much of the time you use recount to see how/why people died anyway).

    Lately I have even begun to question the usefulness of damage in/out displays on scrolling combat text. Unless I am looking for something in particular while fighting, they're just noise these days.
    Last edited by Satrina; 02-24-2009 at 02:46 PM.
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  17. #17
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    That minimap placement looks good in most of the UIs that I've seen doing that.

    I've seen some really interesting ideas on Wowinterface.com. If I could get away with it, I would only be looking at unit frames, and buffs/debuffs during combat.
    Quote Originally Posted by Kalken View Post
    "I'll let the dragon hit me in the face, you stab it in the ass."

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Satrina View Post
    Lately I have even begun to question the usefulness of damage in/out displays on scrolling combat text. Unless I am looking for something in particular while fighting, they're just noise these days.
    I mostly like scrolling combat text mods because they play noise at low health/mana. I do like the actual scroll areas kept as small as possible because yeah, they just create too much noise.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Satrina View Post
    Lately I have even begun to question the usefulness of damage in/out displays on scrolling combat text. Unless I am looking for something in particular while fighting, they're just noise these days.
    I agree completely. When I go back and look at my game footage, I cringe at the amount of useless spam from MSBT. Throttling or completely getting rid of many messages, reducing size of scroll areas, reducing text size, getting rid of flashy "sticks" on crits, and a variety of other methods to reduce the OMG FLASH LOOK AT ME characteristics of combat text mods is a wonderful idea practice.

    I don't have too much to add to this thread beyond what I've already said (and said, and said, and beat into a bloody pulp, and made hours of video about, and said some more), but the basic questions should be:

    1) What do you need from your UI?
    2) What do you actually have in your UI?
    3) How can you take steps to make #1 and #2 be closer together?

    Beyond that it's specifics. The placement discussion is a good one I think a lot of it is comfort and tradition of sorts, heh.

    Niian and Blood's pictures both encapsulate probably 75%+ of user interfaces (including mine). Where did these ideas come from? I don't know. Personally a lot of my UI is copied from Papaschlapa, at least the placements.

    After using one type of UI placement for a year or longer, it can be really, really hard to change. The difference between switching a UI and say, switching from clicking -> keybinding, is that the percieved benefit from changing placement isn't as obvious, and I don't really know of any solid theory that indicates one is better than the other.

    Humans are really adaptive, so we can deal with lots of weird stuff Your brain can filter out an ungodly amount of information if you want it to - I think this is partly why so many UIs get cluttered. Users won't notice that their own UIs are cluttered because they just filter everything out. Getting past this is very hard ._.

    Ok not the most well thought out post.

  20. #20
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    I don't entirely look at them much except for PvP I watch it very closely to see if they've change focus. In PvE i use it mainly to make sure I am receiving heals, and that I'm taking damage. I do glance at the right side a lot to see how much my attacks are landing for, or if I see a Parry! next to my shield slam.

    I agree that it's a LOT of extra clutter to run MSBT but to me it serves a good purpose. I dunno why I have my combat log to the right side of my action bars either... guess I didn't like the dead open space there... Maybe I'll DL grid and move my raid frames there down from the top of my screen... or just move Omen/Recount there. hrm.

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