What we tell ourselves

June 6, 2010 at 2:34 pm (Healing Mechanics, Raiding, Uncategorized, User Interface) (, , , , , , )

When it comes to User Interface there are really two aspects to it. The first is getting the right addons, the second is configuring them the right way. Players care very much about the first, but less so about the second. I know most players use DBM, but I haven’t the faintest idea how 99% of players set their DBM up. So I want to talk generally about making sure you have the right sorts of addons, and that they are in the right places to get you important information when and where you need it.

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What do I need to know?

There are three things you absolutely need to know when you are healing a fight.

  1. What spells to use
  2. Who to Heal
  3. Where you should be

A good healer is constantly keeping these three things in mind. What spells do I have? Who do I need to heal? Am I safe? Typically I think about them in that order. This way I know what spells I have available right as I go to heal somebody. It’s not a big deal if you order yours differently, but it is important to have an order and to go through them each in turn.

These three points cover the basics, but there is a lot more detail to each of them. I’ve colour coded it so that it’s pretty. Also because it’s important.

What Spells to use?

What’s off cooldown
What Spells are everybody else using?
How much mana do I have?
What abilities is the boss about to use?

Who to Heal?

Who’s in range?Blue - Cooldown Addons, Orange - Unit Frames, Red - Boss timers, Green - the World What life is everybody on?
Who is being healed already?
What buffs do they have?

Who is about to take damage?
What abilities is the boss about to use?

Where should I be?

Is there fire?
Are there adds?
Line of sight?

Who’s in range?
What abilities is the boss about to use?

So when it comes to setting up our User Interface we know the sorts of things we want to know and we can start to think about where we want to position our addons.

How should my information be arranged?

Looking at what we just said it seems that, regardless of what I’m thinking about, whether it’s spells, targets or where to stand, I want to know what the boss is doing. That is common to all of the above. So if I am using DBM I want the bars and alerts to be somewhere clear and central so I don’t have to constantly be moving my eyes across the screen to see them. This is a core part of my interface.

When it comes to who to heal my focus is mostly on my unit frames. My unit frames ought to clearly show buffs and debuffs as well as incoming healing so I know what other healers are doing. If I don’t know who the other healers are healing I waste my time and theirs. Most Unit Frame – Grid, Vuhdo etc either show incoming heal or have a plugin for it.

My Unit Frames ought to be near my Boss Timers. It also should be relatively close to the center of my screen so I can quickly glance at the world around me to see player locations, check line of sight, and what other people are doing. If I know where a player is, and what the boss is doing I know whether they are going to take damage or not and I can prepare for it.

When I’m trying to work out where to stand I’m looking at the world itself. Where is the boss, what is he doing? So again, I want the center of my screen to be nice and clear allowing me to quickly take in the situation.

Putting this into Practice:

So the right way to set up your User Interface isn’t like this:

You have maximum travel distance for your eyes. This really discourages you from cycling through “What Spells, Who to heal, Where to be” You want to encourage yourself to take in all that information, not make it hard for yourself by spreading it out.

Equally this isn’t Tetris, you don’t want a UI like this:

Think about why you are looking at a particular part of your screen. If you are looking for a particular reason, keep it near other similar things. And feel free to experiment with this.

An Example: For the longest time I had my DBM alerts split in two. In one place I had Boss abilities which were about to happen, and in another abilities with more than 10 seconds left. That made sense to me because I felt imminent abilities were more important and should be clearly set apart. However, after playing like that I’ve realised that usually I want to see how long I have to a particular ability. If I’m looking for a specific ability then I have to search two places instead of one. If I’m regularly doing this then it makes much more sense to put all my Boss Timers together in one place to make it easy to find the one I want. I thought I had things set up right, but after a bit of practice realised there was a better way to do it.

So putting these things together your UI should try and be laid out something like this:

This results in the minimum eye travel time. Everything is close together and relatively central without obscuring the screen. This gives you the maximum information and, because it’s close it encourages you to look at things rather than getting too focused on just one part. Having it hovering around the center of your screen also improves your peripheral vision. You might just notice the boss is about to do something, or the fire under your feet, even if you aren’t actually looking at it directly.

Also you are able to look at a discrete part of the screen and get all the information you need to make a quick decision about a particular thing rather than checking two or three places to work out what spell to cast.

Whilst it’s important to know what’s going on, don’t confuse knowing what’s going on, with having a lot of information. If I give you a book on a subject it will take you hours to understand it. If I give you a single page you can take it in at a glance. You won’t understand as much as the person who read the whole book, but you’ll be able to use your limited knowledge much more quickly. Not knowing something might hurt you 5% of the time, but at least it won’t be distracting you 95% of the time. Information is only useful if you’re aware of it, otherwise it’s worse than nothing.

The same applies to sound affects. Having addons which beep, boop and BONG for 20 different important abilities is probably less helpful than having 1 addon which beeps once for one crucial ability. Yes it’s telling you less, but you’re probably aware of more.

So the two takeaways here are really the following –

  • Think about why you look at your different addons, and try to consolidate where you place them.
  • Think about what an addon is telling you and whether it’s doing more harm than good. Less information which you pay attention to is better than more information which you don’t.

My plan next week is to talk more about particular addons and what they can do for you to actually help.



  1. BobTurkey said,

    Is the last image missing or is it just me?

    Gobble gobble.

  2. SpotHeal said,

    The intricacies of double checking a blog post from the computer you update the files from…

    Should be fixed now?


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