Your Gmail tab just got more informative
Continuing this month’s theme of making the most out of 16 square pixels, I got to collaborate with my good friend and colleague Peter Wooley on the next version of the excellent Gmail Favicon Alerts script for Greasemonkey.
Many Gmail users will keep the application open in a tab while browsing to expedite the process of obsessively checking one’s inbox. But wouldn’t it be great if you could be privy to the arrival of new mail or chat notifications at any point in your browsing experience, regardless of your current tab?
That’s where this script comes in. I’ll let Peter explain:
- A Blue icon lets you know you have unread mail. New to version 3, the number of unread messages is indicated in the icon beyond 10!
- A Red icon means you've read all your mail (or, at least, clicked on them all).
- A Speech Bubble icon means someone has sent you a chat message.
The newest version of Gmail FavIcon Alerts brings both a visual and functional refresh. Many thanks to awarded-winning designer Tyler Sticka, who has redesigned the iconography from scratch. The updated icons are now visually balanced, evenly shaded and gorgeous. In addition, Tyler designed numeric indicators for displaying the number of unread items in your inbox. As we both avidly watch our inboxes, knowing how many messages are unread allows us to make a better decision on when to switch tabs. The indicator counts up to 10 unread messages and hides when more unread items exist. Much like the Chat alerts, you can choose to turn this feature off through the Greasemonkey User Script Command menu.
It’s always a blast redesigning something you use every day, an experience which always yields fruitful lessons. My first instinct was to switch things up and use the more vivid red icon as “unread” and a desaturated gray when there were no new messages. I abandoned this solution for two reasons:
- Having used Gmail Favicon Alerts for years, changing the colors completely threw off my learned behavior, impairing usability.
- The gray icon was markedly uglier than other variations. After all, you do have to look at this thing all day.
In the end, changing the color scheme presents little immediate user benefit, whereas introducing an unread count bares plenty. As such, Peter and I are both extremely proud of this version.
Download and install Gmail Favicon Alerts from its Greasemonkey homepage. If you dig it, why not leave a comment or write a review?
Update (2/19): Gmail Favicon Alerts has been featured on Lifehacker! Maybe they’ll integrate it into the Better Gmail extension? (Crosses fingers)
Update (3/17): Updated the imagery and description to match the latest version. Thanks to user feedback, we’ve replaced the orange chat icon with a more appropriate chat-bubble icon a la Google Talk.
Update (4/8): Updated the description to match the latest version, which no longer caps at 10 unread items. Whee!