Ok a couple of notes before I paste this in: Twil and Juju are my two main toons and this was something I wrote up for my guild. It's more of an opinionated review of different custom UI's I've used/tried over the last 4 years. So please, if you feel I have any info wrong, let me know.
What is a custom UI? In a nutshell, a custom UI is a player made full UI (user interface) replacement. They are made to replace the default blizzard bars, artwork, and map. Some even add a broker. There are three different types: a standalone, compilation, and a do it yourself (I know of only 1 of this nature).
Standalone Custom UI’s:
Examples: ElvUI, Gui:gUI (both can be found on curse and wow interface), MonoUI (found on wow interface).
A standalone UI is one created for the sole purpose of that particular users preferences. Some of the folks that create these types of UI’s put the on one of the websites for their guild’s use but found that other WoW players started downloading them- eventually leading to improvements of their original work.
The drawback of a standalone is that- unless you have LUA knowledge- you really can’t move some of the aspects around to the way you prefer. ElvUI and Gui both allow you to move/hide certain aspects of the UI around- except the main bars- those remain static unless you are able to locate the coding and adjust it from there. All three of these come with a Grid like raid frame layout (requires either mouse over macros/Clique to use)- these frames can be hidden so you can use Vuhdo or Healbot.
Standalones are perfect for someone that doesn’t mind the look/feel of the UI and doesn’t have my ever constant “must move this over here” syndrome.
Examples: LUI (found on wow interface), various user compilations on curse.com.
These are the most flexible- and the most common- of the custom UI’s. Basically a compilation is just that: a compilation of various addons that are put into a certain format/slight tweaks made for that users needs. The big difference between this type and a standalone: you are able to move any aspect of the UI to suit your needs.
For instance, with Juju, I use bartender, coolline, a broker, skinner, kgpanels, and Vuhdo. I can basically take my setup I have right now and create a folder with the addon/settings for just the guild or anyone elses use with the look/feel of her setup. If you don’t like having something in a certain spot, or you want more bars, you can just go into the addon itself and adjust thing to the way you would want them. Don’t want Coolline? You can turn that option off.
Very, very flexible. It’s similar to the next type of UI as far as the do it yourself thing goes, however you would have to use those certain addons in the package.
Ok I’ve gone over the two easiest types of user UI’s: Standalone and Compilations. Now onto what I like to think of the more advanced type of UI: Do it yourself.
Do It Yourself:
RDX (this is only found at wow interface under the title OpenRdx)
I’m going to say this now: I love this particular type, but at the same time it can be confusing if you don’t understand the format or are a perfectionist when it comes to having things just right. This was made with raiding in mind.
It was created so that guilds would have a way to trade their setups in game. There is a share option via an in game control panel.
This replaces literally everything that is on your screen - bars, raid frames, player frames, chat frames, map, cast bars etc. It comes with it’s own kind of recount and it’s own combat logs. All elements can be turned on and off individually. You can even set things up depending on the situation you are in- solo setups, party setups, raid setups, BG setups, arena setups. It also comes with it’s own decursive.
When you first log into the game after downloading this, there is a window that should come up asking you what blizzard frames you want to close. You can either manually check all the ones you want closed or you can hit the choose all option. Make sure to hit the save button. Your screen will reload when you do this and you are left sitting there with basically a blank setup (but still a chat screen). From there you can use one of the predesigned ones or start making your own.
The big drawback: it takes time to set up (unless you just use the premade formats that come with the UI itself). Another drawback is that it can occasionally get buggy (for instance, if you are say a rogue or a shammy the timers for your personal weapons buffs doesn’t work) . Lord forbid you forget to go in and reset all your setups- let’s say you want the same setup for everything. If you don’t go into a certain screen and set everything for your one setup, it will change according to the group size (yes this can be a pain if you forget to do this).
If you don’t like any of the pre defined setups, you can always make your own. There’s a screen you go into to either copy another setup and rename the copy to what you want- then adjust each frame from that. Or you can start from scratch (which can cause a headache if you don’t know what you are doing). Sig- the guy that created it- has recently added a new option of being able to import your own artwork into the mix.
As for raid frames, you don’t have to use them, however if you choose to do so, you can make them look any way you want them to (you can even use the Diablo looking orbs!). There is an option to setup your spells- kind of like what Vuhdo has. The biggest drawback as far as these go for me is that I cant set them up according to someones role in raid/party (in our raids it’s not so much of an issue, but in a PuG trying to figure out just which DK is the tank can be a pain).
This one I don’t consider as user friendly as the other types of UI’s.
All in all, it comes down to one thing: user preference. The huge drawback as far as user defined UI’s go is when there’s a patch (since Bliz seems to love to break our addons every patch) and you have to wait for the creator to update what they have.
When you use a compilation you should be able to update the addons one by one every patch, since addon-authors *may* be quicker on updating then compilation-authors, since comp-authors have to wait until (or will wait at least) all single addons got updated. Manually you could be faster...
Your thoughts are merely correct, though...
I could never stand to use a compilation, since I want control over my whole UI at any time. On the other hand there is no visual addon (visible in combat) that is not out of my hands atm. I can really understand your "this should be moved here"-habitude, since I find myself moving things here and there...
I really consider uploading my current setup when it is finished, but I can't really imagine anyone who would love it. An UI is so personal, that every player should be able to adjust every aspect of it. And my personal addons don't have any ingame-config, so I don't feel really comfortable with uploading the UI in whole.