Last week saw Azmara from Ensidia grace us with his thoughts on how to create an ideal restoration UI. He covered macros, key bindings and the all important raid frames.
Today I’m bringing you part two of his guide. This focuses on more generalised UI design tips and how your hardware can benefit your raiding. You can read part one here.
General UI Design
Having sorted all your keybinds, setting up your macros and installing your chosen raid frames, the next step is deciding where to put everything. In truth, this is the most important part. You can have all the tools in the world but if you can’t find them when you need them, it’s irrelevant.
As a healer, the centrepiece of your UI is your raid frames. Unlike a tank or DPS, we can’t just place these in a corner out of the way. Your entire job depends upon your ability to heal the right people are the right time. You want your raid frames to be fairly central. This allows you to position everything else around them. Ideally, if you’re checking the time until the next defile, your tank’s health is only an inch or two away.
As a healer, your first priority is always yourself; a dead healer can’t heal anything. As such, you don’t want your own unit frame too far out of the way either since it provides the easiest manner of monitoring your own health. This also saves time as you don’t need to look for your own health in a group of twenty four other players.
Boss modes also deserve prime screen space. My timers are just to the left of my own unit frames. The warning messages (Defile on YOU!) appear immediately above my raid frames so they’re almost impossible to miss. Most of the boss mod addons also provide audio warnings (Bigwigs can be configured to provide a count down if you desire), so placing them more out of the way is forgiveable.
I mentioned in my previous article that action bars are almost redundant data. You really want to learn your keybinds and if you know them all, why are they still on your UI? Remove them and save some space. Another thing to mention here is clicking. A lot of people will try and argue that they can respond just as quickly as anyone else while clicking their abilities. Simply put, this is a lie. Ensidia will decline any player who is a clicker. If you’re found to be doing this after joining, you will be kicked. This may sound harsh but clicking is incredibly inefficient and it is impossible for a clicker to reactively use abilities faster than a player utilising keybinds.
The biggest adjustment when removing action bars is still monitoring your cooldowns. Personally, I use two addons to do this; “SexyCoolDown”, which is similar in function to ForteXorcist’s cooldown bar (but more lightweight) and an addon called “Filger” which tracks buffs and cooldowns (such as Riptide, Tidal Waves, Elemental Mastery and so on.) This is an incredibly useful and lightweight addon, however due to being entirely LUA based I would recommend Power Auras for those who are not comfortable with editing LUA files.
The final thing I would like to discuss before closing this article is your physical equipment. Obviously having a good PC will help your performance in raids but the one thing that is frequently overlooked are the important of good peripherals.
A good sized monitor is a godsend. I personally play on a 22″ HD monitor at resolution 1680×1050. It’s a nice size and gives you a lot of screen space to play with, much more than on a 17″ or 19″.
Another thing worth investing in is a good keyboard and mouse. I use the Logitech G15 keyboard with the Razer Naga mouse. Firstly, this gives me a whopping eighteen additional buttons on my keyboard, all within easy reach of my normal hand positioning. The Razer Naga mouse boasts and additional twelve configurable buttons in addition to running at a much higher sensitivity than standard mice (4000 DPI versus 800-1200 DPI.) While the Naga is an expensive choice, there are other Razer mice available for between £25 and £30. You’ll find these much more comfortable to use during long periods of gaming.
In closing, if you managed to make it all the way through this guide, I certainly hope you managed to pick up a few tips from it. I also hope I helped reinforce the knowledge that there aren’t any super secret keybinds and macros used by all the world class players. For those of you interested you can find my own UI updated and maintained over on the Ensidia website here.
Over at the Ensidia website you can also get the opportunity to ask questions and read guides written by some of the top players in the game, along with uploads of some excellent UIs and even some random stuff like Spotify play lists and some of the other games being played at the minute.
My final thanks goes out to Zing for providing me with the opportunity to write this guide and to everyone who took the time to read it.
Best of luck in Cataclysm and beyond!
Zing’s Closing Thoughts
Once again, I’d like to thank Azmara for producing this guide for us. It gives an interesting twist on creating a good, raiding UI from the perspective of a main spec healer. I’d also like to draw attention to two articles I published a long time ago, reviewing the benefits to be gained from using gaming keyboards and mice. You can find the keyboard article here and the mice article here.
Welcome to Azmara of Ensidia
Earlier in the week I promised two very special guest posters this week. Azmara is Ensidia’s newest restoration shaman and is gracing us with his personal views on user interface configuration from the perspective of a full time healer. He boasts a massive amount of PvE experience at the very top of the raiding scene. You can check out his armoury profile here
Due to the huge amount of time and effort he put into this guide, I’m delivering it in segments. Part one will focus on macros, key binds and raid frames. Part two, which should be out for your reading pleasure early next week, will focus on more general UI design tips and the importance of good hardware. Azmara has his own UI compilation available for download. If you’re interested or if you have any further questions regarding his UI specifically, you should head to his thread over on the Ensidia forums.
“A screenshot of your UI”
How many people are stumped by such a simple request? Why do so many guilds insist on having a picture of what your interface looks like? Surely it cant be that important to how well you perform?
Simply put, so many ask because it is that important. I’m here to talk about a combination of queries that get thrown around quite regularly for healers. Specifically; keybindings, macros, addons and general interface design. This article is going to focus on interface design purely from a healing perspective, what addons should you have, and what’s available out there to help make your job easier.
To start off I’m going to talk briefly about how you can heal. There are three major ways to actually perform healing, the most basic of which is the simple “click player, click button” style. While this is by all means functional it is far from efficient, as it requires one more action than the other two methods. I personally would recommend using one of the following:
- 1. Mouse-over macros
- 2. Clicking
I personally prefer mouse-over macros. The reason behind this primarily is that option two requires an addon and I like to run as light as possible with addons. Your mouse-over macros should look like the following:
This will attempt to cast the max rank of Lesser Healing Wave on the target your mouse cursor is over when you press the button. This is assuming the target exists and is valid. If your mouse either isn’t over anything or it is over an invalid target (an enemy in this example) it will instead cast on your current physicaltarget. Make a macro similar to this for each of your spells (it works for everything from Earth Shield to Frost Shock) and bind them in place of your standard spells and you are good to go.
The final option is clicking stuff. In order to do this you need an addon, the major 2 being either Clique or Healbot (which I’ll talk about in a bit more detail later). These allow you to bind your spells to a specific mouse click such as left-click for Lesser Healing Wave or shift-left-click for Healing Wave and so on. I tried this for a while but I prefer mouse-over macros. It really comes down to personal preference – try both and go with whichever feels best. Just try to avoid the “target player, click heal” style.
People seem to be really interested in macros and I’ve never really understood why. While they can provide some nice functionality they aren’t going to perform miracles for you. Apart from my mouse-over macros I only actually use a few macros, two of which are simply to save keybinds.
The best and most practical macro is the simple “Swift/Tidal waves” macro:-
Since neither Nature’s Swiftness nor Tidal Force trigger the global cooldown you can place them both on the same macro, and this provides shamans’ only real emergency button.
In addition to that I have:-
This is fairly self explanatory, if control is held it will cast Cleansing Totem, if not, it will cast Tremor Totem. I have a similar macro for Fire and Earth elemental. This is purely to save keybinds.
Keybinds are incredibly important for every class in any role. It is important to have a good knowledge of where all your keybinds are located and have the ability to press them unexpectedly. Personally I have around fourty keybinds all of which can be accessed without moving my hands from the standard movement keys and mouse configuration. I won’t go into detail of exactly what I have keybound where, as keybinds are something personal – what may be comfortable and intuitive for me, you may find clunky and unwieldy.
What you aim for is to have your primary keybinds bound somewhere close and comfortable to spam when needed. Things such as Bloodlust/Heroism can normally be put a little bit further away. What I will do is suggest some keys to be using;
- Keys 1-5
- Q, E, Z, X, C, R, F, and V
Don’t forget about shift and control modifiers, they are essential if you want to keybind as much as possible. Really its just important to get keybinds that work for you, are comfortable, accessible and then to memorize them. The best way to really learn your keybinds is to get an action bar addon such as Bartender, and start hiding some of the bars. Start with your primary action bar, and then start moving on to secondary bars until eventually you don’t play with any at all.
That personally is what I do, I have no action bars at all visible on my UI. This is not to show off, I know all my keybinds, and there is no need to display redundant data. Instead this frees up some oh so precious screen space for other functions.
Getting a good set of raid frames and getting them set up correctly is vital to be a truly effective healer. You need to be able to easily monitor the entire raids health, along with your own buffs and any fight specific debuffs.
There are three major sets of stand alone raid frames out there and I’ll talk briefly about each of them in turn.
Firstly we have Grid. I’ll admit from the start that Grid is my personal favourite of the three so I may be slightly biased. Grid has a fairly basic layout with an easily configurable size. On the most basic level it shows your team mates, and their health. It is incredibly simple to add any new abilities you want to track. There are several main ways to track abilities, one option is a variety of coloured dots at the corners and the other is via an icon in the middle of each cell.
As you can see the in the screenshot above I’m tracking my Earth Shield via the center icon, Riptide via the blue dot at the top left, and Ancestral Fortitude with the orange dot in the bottom right. This can be fully customized to suit how you want it all to appear. Grid also has a number of extra “bolt-ons” that you can download to give extra functionality if you desire.
The second options is Healbot. Considering its name, you’d think it would be the no-brainer addon to have in your healing UI, but here are some reasons why I think that assumption would not be that accurate.
Firstly there is a widely embraced opinion saying that using Healbot makes you a worse healer. This is something I don’t agree with, nor do I understand where it came from. I don’t dislike Healbot because it makes you worse. I dislike it because it’s terrible.
I’ll get the petty complaint out of the way first. Healbot is fucking ugly! While by all means functionality is more important than aesthetics there’s a limit, and Healbot is that limit!
As far as more valid concerns go, my primary complaint is with the way the information is presented. I found it quite difficult to gauge at a glance the health of my party members, and when you’re raiding twenty five man heroics, a glance is sometimes all you can spare each person. Healbot’s major advantage over other addons is it’s ability to display a large numbers of buffs complete with durations. While this sounds awesome at first glance, you will soon realize that it turns your raid frames into a clusterfuck of different icons and spinning timers. Combined with the unclear health bars, this makes a bad problem worse. On the example below I found it quite difficult to gauge exactly how much health the warrior has at a glance.
It can be argued that these problems can be remedied by a proper setup. This leads nicely onto my other major complaint: the configuration GUI is the most confusing and unintuitive interface I’ve seen in an addon. For example why is the buff display found under “skins” instead of under “buffs”?! It makes no sense and only served to infuriate me as I struggled to make sense of the different options.
The one praise I will give Healbot is the “test mode” option. That is incredibly useful and something I wish more raid frames had.
My ideal raid frames are simple, attractive, not overly colourful and able to display all the information I need in a clear and concise manner. It should be able to do all of this while taking up as little space as possible. Healbot is the total opposite of what I want from my raid frames! It is overly complex and horrible to look at. The constantly changing colour bars do nothing but distract you from what is going on elsewhere (also known as healer tunnel vision). Worst of all, in order to display the information I require, Healbot would occupy almost a quarter of my screen. I wish I was over-exaggerating here but I’m not; in order for Healbot to be of any use, it needs to be huge, and I just can’t deal with that.
Vuhdo is the third contender. I had never used or ever really looked at this addon prior to writing this post, but that ensures you’re going to get an unbiased view on the addon from a new user.
Unfortunately most of the complaints and annoyances I had with Healbot return in Vuhdo, starting with another truly terrible configuration window. The author has designed a completely original configuration window with custom colours. The particular choice of colour scheme is quite painful on the eyes of the average user, as blue on white is not easy to distinguish under any circumstances.
After a brief setup, I had a quick blast through a heroic dungeon for a test drive. Again, I found more of my Healbot complaints returning. There is too much information and not enough space to accurately display it all. After only five minutes of the dungeon, the frames began to become a bit of a strain on the eyes. This is a problem I’ve yet to have with any other frames.
In my opinion, Grid is definitely the best of the big three. It has a simple configuration and adding new debuffs is simple and intuitive. It can provide the amount of detail you need in a very clear way, without obscuring anything. Also, while documenting for this post, I downloaded a fresh version of all three addons and Grid was by far the simplest to configure.
Closing Comments From Zing
There we have it ladies and gents. Part two of Azmara’s post will be with you next week. This will feature some more general design tips along with his thoughts on the importance of hardware for your raid performance. From a personal point of view, I’m fascinated by UI design and to see how other people create theirs is always inspirational. I play restoration as an offspec (and love it) but I far from consider myself a healer so I thoroughly enjoy reading design ideas from those who truly are healers.
Once again, I’d personally like to offer my thanks to him for offering his insight. Remember you can download his UI here, where he is also available to answer questions or queries regarding it. Any comments left here will be forwarded to him and perhaps he’ll be kind enough to answer them.