|Part 1: Introduction and Basics |||Part 2: Gathering Components |||Part 3: Building the UI |||Part 4: Examples|
So you are interested in taking the default User Interface (UI) that Blizzard provided and molding it in to your own creation. You could have taken the easy way out and just downloaded some UI Compilation, but that would have left you with something customized for someone else.
There are two major advantages to taking the time to build your own UI:
There are a few things that you should take care of before you begin downloading mods. These steps will help you use your time as efficiently as possible, and will help keep your headaches to a minimum. This process is one that I use for every piece of design work I do, from Flash animations to revamping websites, from posters to business cards. Having a set process will help keep you from feeling overwhelmed and make it less likely that you will forget an important element.
Should you already have mods installed on your machine, please take a moment to make a backup of your Addon and WTF folders. Should you change your mind after starting on your new UI, you will need that backup to revert to the way things were.
As with any other design project, the first thing that needs to be done is evaluating what the current problem is. Why do you want to customize your UI? Is it because you have started raiding and need various meters to track aggro, have your started PvPing and need a way to track casts, or do you just want something different than the default UI?
By taking the time to write out the current problems you have with your UI and what you want the new UI to do, you will be able to create a more acute set of search terms for your mods. There are thousands of mods available to you, and the more you can "weed out" from your searches, the greater chance you will have in finding the best mods for your specific needs.
After you have defined what you want from your UI, you need to define what you want the UI to look like. One of the best ways to get ideas for various layout options is to see what others have done.
If you are not sure what you are looking for, fire up Google and search for WoW UI Compilation. This will give you a wide variety of UIs that others have put together. From there, you can begin to narrow your search depending on what you like. As you are browsing for inspiration, take note of mods that you like. Most compilation authors will list the various mods they use. Use this to your advantage. You can also browse through WoW related forums, and look for threads where players post pictures of their UI's. These are very popular and will give you a wide variety of options. To start, you can look at one of the more recent threads on Allakhazam.com.
Do not fall to temptation and simply settle for something that someone else has made. While something may look close to what you want, you will find yourself spending more time trying to tweak that UI than you would if you just built one yourself. While this process may seem to take a long time, as you become more familiar with UI customization, it will streamline itself.
Now that you have a firm idea of the style you are looking for and a general idea on some of the mods you are looking to use, you are all set to begin sketching your vision. The purpose of taking the time to sketch out your ideas is so that you will be able to keep yourself from getting distracted inside the game. By sketching before you enter the game, you are able to know where everything belongs and you will reduce the likelihood of forgetting an important mod.
Log in to the game, hide the interface (default: Alt+z), and take a screen shot. From there, move the screen shot in to a image editing program (Photoshop, Corel, MS Paint, etc.) and begin drawing boxes as place-holders for specific mods. Use different colors to represent different mod types, for instance:
If you are someone who uses key bindings, this would also be the time to plan how you are going to set your action bars up. You will know how many action bars you are planning to have visible, and you should be able to know how you want your abilities organized. This is another time-saving measure, as it will be much easier to take care of all the key bindings as you are setting up the action bars.
In the next section, you will learn about various sites to download mods from and different types of mods you should be looking for. | Continue on to Part 2