Sunday, November 21, 2010

4.0.1 Analysis: Grid vs. Default UI

I have a confession to make. Shortly after Patch 4.0.1 was released, I uninstalled Grid and all the peripheral addons that went with it. As a healer, that's big - Grid (and its other addon equals) made heals possible in the past: the bringers of information in a smooth and easy interface where healers effortlessly swapped between numerous targets in raids. Healing a 10 or 25-man raid without Grid (or any equivalent raid frame addon) bordered on the ridiculous. Patch 4.0.1 however, revamped our options in the default user interface, and I returned to give the interface another chance. I was impressed with what I found.

I healed through battlegrounds, heroic dungeons and raids with my new Gridless setup, and compared it to my past experience. While I  was healing, I was constantly thinking about its utility: Does it give me the information I need as a healer? Is it limited in use or customisable? Where does it have an edge over Grid and where did Grid trump this setup?


What Grid did for me:

To start off, here's what my setup looked like back when I had my beloved tree form and the default interface for raid frames was, in short, terrible.
As a healer, the following things were important to me: aggro indicators, incoming heals, displaying class colours, and icons showing my HoTs and their duration with brownie points if they showed stacks. Somehow, I could never get used to the system of having tiny coloured dots in the corner being indicative of stacks. If you've ever used Grid, you know that Grid never comes alone - there are a dozen other addons that add to its functionality like tracking Prayer of Mending or showing spell icons around the frame. But once you had it all set up, it worked like a charm. You backed it up and hoped you'd never have to spend hours to do it again. 

New Raid Frame Options:

Perhaps the best thing about the new default UI is that it does everything I need as a healer (and I imagine many others) in a simple, easy-to-use interface. A single page of options pretty much covers all that I needed from my previous Grid-related addons - hence, setting it up or changing it on the fly takes minutes and isn't a time sink.

A few things about these options made me smile and say "oh there we go!" when I first started customising it:
  • "Display Only Dispellable Buffs": Perfect. I don't need to go through check display poison and uncheck display diseases for starters. A neat little perk is that it has little icons to show up on the upper right corner to tell which kind of dispellable buff it is...and those icons get the message across well. No more green on top means poison whereas blue on the bottom left corner means magic. Checking that box just took care of it. 
  • "Display Incoming Heals": Very useful as a healer to co-ordinate heals with others.
  • "Display Class Colours": Useful for me - I like to know if that person with aggro is a cloth wearer or a plate wearer. 
  • "Display Aggro Highlight": Again, very important to know who's getting beaten up. It showed this as a red lining around the raid frame. (You'll see this in future screenshots). 
 Above is a screenshot of my groups in an Obsidian Sanctum 10-man raid. I checked the "Keep Groups Together" option just because thats what I'm used to. Since I like my frames small and compact, I left the adjustable height and width at their default minimum. The two grey wedges sticking it out are what show when you unlock the frames. You can use these to position your frames overall, as well as to adjust whether you'd like to them stack them vertically or horizontally.

A couple other options of note with the interface are:
  • displaying power bars (mana, rage etc)
  • displaying health text (either as percentages or numbers)
  • having seperate frames for the raid's tanks


Above is a screenshot of the raid frames while raiding. It worked pretty well for me - the aggro highlight is around the tank which is where it should be! =)  The interface automatically shows me HoT icons, stacks and duration - and a it never hurts to see each raider's role either.

The Bottomline: Grid vs. Default UI

I've talked about how the default UI meets my requirements as a healer in doing everything Grid did for me. However, Grid can still go where the default UI can no longer reach in terms of customisation.

Grid's advantages over the default UI: 
  • Customisable fonts and raid frame textures: the default UI offers no options for this apart from showing class colours. With Grid, you have a choice.
  • Customisable borders.
  • Options to place spell icons around raid frames: by default, the icons appear on the bottom of the raid frame. With Grid, you have the option of placing them at the top, bottom, or on the sides.
  • More flexibility in the height and width of individual raid frames: If you like your frames small, and the minimum values for height and width are both too big for your taste, then you're out of luck with the default interface. And I can definitely see this since I don't consider them the default size particularly small. Grid on the other hand, provides a lot more flexibility. 
 Default UI's advantages over Grid:
  • Significantly easier to set up. This, this, this. I cannot emphasise how much of a difference this makes. Especially if you heal on more than one character and you have to tweak profiles for each of them. It takes you less than 15 minutes to set it up and be on the road.
  • Easy accessibility for quick, on-the-spot changes. With a single page, its easy to change options fairly quickly during a mana break or at the summoning stone. Lets say you didn't like seeing power bars in the last fight - it was too distracting. Open options, uncheck and you're merrily on your way. Grid's interface for options is far from straightforward and definitely not recommended to mess with during a raid. 
  • Dispellable Buffs notifications more effective. I'm a visual person, and I've never been a fan of audio notifications other than my usual DBM-get-out-of-fire alarms. The dispellable buffs icons are perfect - a skull for disease, a stinger for poison - it's just plain easy, and you can spend your attention more on heals.
My take? I'm sticking with the default UI for now. Customising textures and fonts aren't as important to me, and thankfully, I don't find the default smallest raid frame size available to be too large.  The fewer the addons I have to update and deal with, the better. I have to say the dispellable buffs and the automatic icons with stacks and duration won me over. This may be because I remember the tricky business it was to get icons to show up right for me in Grid - I simply refused to be content with solid colour-coded squares in the corner of my frame. Granted that a few hours isn't an eternity but I prefer to spend more time healing than getting addons to work. With that, I will march bravely forward into Cataclysm, and heal dungeons, heroics and raids using the default UI!

2 comments:

  1. Thanks for this post! Grid had me for a long time, but the hassle to get role icons to work kinda set me off it. I didnt like the non-customizability of the default Cata raid frames though, but after reading your advantages/disadvantages the default Raid Frames advantages weigh up against those of Grid!

    Regards,
    Demartan

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    1. Haha glad you liked it! Yeah I was an avid Grid healer for a long time before I switched over too. I'm hoping that the future expansions/patches will offer more customisability to the default UI and fill in some of those gaps!

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