Meet Simplify, a Chrome extension that promises to clean up Gmail's cluttered interface
In context: Web-based email clients have certainly changed over the years. Though they used to prioritize functionality over aesthetics, Google — despite touting the benefits of simplicity and usability — has managed to clutter Gmail’s interface quite a bit. The service’s latest redesign, in particular, fills the screen with more visual noise than ever before.
Though some people undoubtedly enjoy having the additional information on-screen, Gmail’s flashy colors, menus, and red notification dots have become exhausting for many others.
If you fall into the latter category, we have some good news for you now: former Gmail lead designer Michael Leggett has created “Simplify,” a Chrome extension that cleans up all of the previously-mentioned nonsense and more.
The inspiration for Simplify was simple: Leggett got tired of working with an interface that, as he describes it, looks like “Lucky Charms got spewed all over the screen.” If the above example causes you to fear that perhaps Leggett went too far in the other direction, don’t worry. Although Simplify does hide the extra clutter, it doesn’t remove features entirely.
Instead, several of Gmail’s on-screen elements have been tucked neatly behind drop-down menus or shifted into different parts of the screen. Except for the logo, anyway; Leggett has strong negative feelings where that’s concerned. “Go look at any desktop app and tell me how many have a huge fucking logo in the top left,” he told Fast Company. “C’mon. It’s pure ego, pure bullshit. Drop the logo. Give me a break.”
Furthermore, many of Gmail’s ordinarily-obtrusive colors have been toned down or outright eliminated, giving the interface a much more muted, professional feel. Whether or not you prefer that is obviously up to you, but judging by the extension’s 15,000 downloads less than a month from launch, it’s clear plenty of people do. Fast Company says the tool is being downloaded by 500 new users every day.
Those are impressive numbers no matter how you look at it, but Simplify’s growth has certainly been aided by its completely free nature. It has no ads, and it doesn’t track you in any way – if you don’t believe that, you can inspect Simplify’s code for yourself on Github.
If you want to test Simplify for yourself, you can visit its official website or Chrome Web Store page to do so. Unfortunately, the tool is not available for Firefox users at the moment, and it’s not clear if it ever will be.