User Interface Elitism

April 23rd, 2009

uiLet me start off by clarifying a couple of terms.  User Interface is the look and feel of the game, what you see and how you interact with it.  Addons are scripts written to extend the game, including addons to modify your User Interface, but also addons to add new features and display information that is not easily available otherwise.  Now, let me tell you what I mean by User Interface Elitism

You may have not noticed, but I don’t show a lot of images of my User Interface.  I’ve written about the addons I’ve used in the past, and I even write for a User Interface blog.  But very rarely will you see a screenshot with my interface.


Because a lot of people judge you by how your interface looks.  I once read a post on a blog that I don’t normally read where the author mentioned seeing someone play on their laptop in public.  He said they were obviously a noob, because they were playing with the default UI.

My user interface has gone through many iterations.  Like everyone else, I started out with no addons to speak of.  Then I found Cosmos, then I found CT… this is where I got my start.  I quickly found action bar mods – because back in the day, Blizzard didn’t have native multi-action bar support.

But nowadays – I run with almost completely default looking UI.

With the use of handy macros, I’ve managed to fit all my used abilities into 5-6 bars.  One or two of them are ‘non-combat’ bars, full of things I want easy access to but don’t need to see all the time (fun macros, professions, rarely used abilities like Tame Beast or Aspect of the Wild).

Do you know how many bars the Blizzard UI has?  6.  I keep 4 up on display, and the 5th and 6th are just a short shift-scroll away on my main action bar.  It’s hidden, but it’s easily accessed, thus is not taking up extra space on my screen.

I do use a unit frame addon.  I use Xperl, but not to make things pretty.  I originally began using it so I could see my focus target.  That’s built in now, but I do like that xperl shows specs/types on target frames, and that’s pretty much the only reason I use them on my hunter.

My unit frames are all relatively in the default places.  I don’t move them around to the middle of my screen or anything like that.

Of course, this is different when I’m on a healer.  I do in fact move my frames to a slightly more central area (although they are still at the top), and I use Decursive to see conditions.

I don’t use any mod to modify the display of my buffs, they are in the default location showing default numbers.

I don’t use a mod to move or change the shape of my minimap.

I don’t use a HUD.

Now here is the question: Does this make me a bad player?

User Interface Elitist says yes!

I say no.

I can have just as many keybindings as someone using an action bar mod.  So why are the default action bars so frowned upon?

Yes, I’m aware that adding special action bars, unit frames, HUDs and minimap mods can let me make my UI more appealing to someone’s eye.

But you know what?  When servers came up after 3.1 went live… I got to play the game.  So many people I know spent a few hours fixing their addons and getting things to look right again.  Trying to relearn how to play when their favourite action bar mod wasn’t properly updated.  You know how long it took me?  No time at all.  I disabled all non-essential mods (pretty much everything except Bagnon for me) and I went on my merry way to visit the Argent Tournament and try the fishing daily.

Yes, I was missing some functions and information.  But everything was where I expected it, and I didn’t have to do any rebinding or anything.

I can also play on other machines with no issues.  I can hop on my boyfriend’s computer and I don’t have to worry about not knowing where anything is.

This isn’t to say I don’t play with addons – I most certainly do.

But for me, addons do one thing.

They add to my experience, rather than change it.

I’m not saying there is anything wrong with changing the look of your interface.  I’m saying that it’s a choice, not a requirement.

I have Recount and Omen to display information not otherwise displayed.  I have OmniCC, GhostPulse, Class Timer and Power Auras to remind me to do things and help me keep track of my cooldowns and DoTs.

I have AuctionLite to ease my auctioning process, and to tell me which quest rewards vendor for the most.  I even use Quest Helper on some of my alts!

So please, UI Elitists, explain to me why my default User Interface makes me a worse player than you.  Tell me how it affects my DPS.  Tell me why your 3D portrait is important, and why knowing I have 23:41 left on my flask is better than just rounding it to 24 m.

Tell me why it matters where they are placed on my screen if they’re all keybound anyway, and why it makes a difference if I have 3 rows on the bottom and 2 on the side, instead of 6 rows in the middle of my screen.

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  1. 6 Steps to a Fresh UI
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12 comments to “User Interface Elitism”

  1. But you know what? When servers came up after 3.1 went live… I got to play the game.

    Hey, so did I. All that needed to be updated to get the SES UI up and rolling was an update to DBM and Prat. :P

    But then again, I feel each person’s UI is something that they should build to fit their own needs, and nothing more. If you don’t need it, don’t use it. I like what I’ve built for myself and wouldn’t change it for anything. I hope that everyone can get to that level of familiarity with their UI.

    Sure, for healers, some mods can actually have a profound impact on their HPS or their reactivity (Grid and Clique come to mind), but aside from fringe cases like that, a UI is meant to be your portal to the game. No one else’s.

    Rilgon Arcsinh’s last blog post..The Matrix of Evil

  2. My UI is totally custom… Not so much because it helps my performance (Though it does a bit – I’m terrible at watching multiple parts of the screen, so I’ve been trying to gather things in the centre, hence use of MetaHUD), but because I enjoy tweaking it and making it look nice.

    Your UI is something that’s meant to work for you – if that’s mostly default, then I can’t see a problem with that.

    Some people will just jump any chance to be superior assholes.

    Faulsey’s last blog post..Bye Bye, Master’s Call!

  3. Elitists will be elitist about anything really; even the correct way to tie your shoelace if all else fails. I have a friend who spends weekdays at his place, and on weekends visits his parent where he plays on their computer. He doesn’t want to clog their computer with addons and so plays with the vanilla UI. He plays just fine and had no problems jumping straight into the game after the patch.

    I’ve set up my UI “just so” to suit my shoddy eyesight, and shaky hands, but that just makes things easier for me and isn’t absolutely necessary. Definitely a pain on patch days when so many things break and it’s days like that that I’m envious of my mate without his addons :) Having a pretty UI definitely doesn’t make me a better player, it’s just a help to me visually for the most part.

  4. I’m actually in the middle of my own default UI revival and I almost like the game more going back to the default.

    And you ARE right – patches? No problemo – no agonizing over getting things fixed, trying to make the game playable. That feels nice again.

    Anea’s last blog post..In which things get naughty

  5. I never understood the UI elitism either. I use X-perl, omen, recount, and all essential raid addons. My actionbars are the regular default ones though. With all my macros, i dont have any issues. I’m still one of the top dps in any raid group I am in.

    Usually the ones calling others noobs for using mostly default UI’s have just lost perspective of the game. Its kind of like high school again. “You have to use this interface or your not cool and can’t hang out with us.” Please.

    Play with whats comfortable for you. If someone critizes you for your UI, then you probably don’t want to be playing with them or blogging with them, whatever the case.

  6. I do like looking at other people’s customized UIs, they can be quite innovative and pretty! I’d use one if it wasn’t so much work and if I was sure my computer had the extra capability (and having a bigger monitor would also help). And if it was easier to bring to other machines.

    You’re all exactly right – it’s about what works for you. Which is why it’s great that UIs can be customized.

    3.1 wasn’t so extreme – but even what 3.0 or Wrath hit, I was fine to just go on doing my thing. And that’s important to me!

  7. Hear, hear!

  8. One of the things I really like about the hunter class is the multi-tasking. That said, my UI is not stream-lined or organized – I have bars all over the place. All four corners of my screen are in use. I can’t stand custom UIs that put everything to one-side of the screen. They make me concentrate on that one part, and that detracts from my multi-tasking, at least in my experience.

    Negathle’s last blog post..A good start to the week

  9. I admit it, I’m a complete addon ho, but I’m not an elitist about it. I need my shiny addons, but if somebody else can work without ‘em, more power to you–you’ll be up and playing long before I am on patch days! (Which reminds me, make sure I get Grid sorted out before the raid tonight…)

    My wife plays a feral druid and pumps out a solid 3500+ dps on raids while not only using a bone-stock UI, but she clicks half her abilities too. Take that, elitists!

    Linedan’s last blog post..Random linkitude

  10. Oooh, a clicker! I tease some people who I know are clickers, but really it is just as much as a choice. I do feel like personally I am more efficient using my mouse for movement and my keyboard for abilities, but that’s just the way my brain works. It works differently for other people. I’ve been playing this way since day 1, and it’s what I’m used to!

    I’m glad to see so many people feeling the same. I was afraid there were more elitists out there (I’ve come up against at least a few in recent history, which prompted the post).

    And there are obviously several kinds of addon users. People with none, people with basic raid addons, people who have specific addons they use for certain functionality (that’s me!) and people who love to add a custom look and streamline to their own particular tastes.

    It’s nice hearing from others of all the kinds of addon users!

  11. Been waiting for this post and I absolutely agree!

    I’ve been playing for a loooong time and I’m used to the default UI.

    Hell, call me crazy but I LIKE the default UI. I love those little gryphons.

    The only mods that I have trouble playing without are Necrosis and TotemTimers. Even then, not so much for the functionality they provide, but they let me keep dozens of buttons off my bars. Having to find those spells in my book when I’m without them is a bit troublesome.

    Samodean’s last blog post..Create Your Own Azeroth: Patience

  12. I have to admit, when i first started playing I loved the superawesome custom ui. Then i lost it all 2 times and got superfrustrated. I now rock xpearl because of the health check, and a bag mod. And i change the default UI scale to considerably smaller than it is normally. Other than that, everything is the default, and perfectly servicable.