Co-Creator Of The Defunct 'Inbox' Creates Browser Extension To Fix Gmail

People have opinions about things, and that they are mostly based on their experience and preferences. This is also true for the co-creator of Google's discontinued Inbox app.

Inbox was Google's beloved-yet-discontinued email app. It was was brought by the same people who brought Gmail, "designed to focus on what really matters," once said CEO Sundar Pichai at the time.

Michael Leggett was the co-creator of the app, and a former lead designer for Gmail. To his opinion, the modern Gmail has become too cluttered, saying that "It’s like Lucky Charms got spewed all over the screen.”

And for that reason, he wants to simplify it, by releasing a Chrome extension called the 'Simplify Gmail'.

The extension was launched on April 2nd, or one day after Gmail's 15th birthday, which was also the day Inbox was formally discontinued.

"It’s a survival mechanism,” he said. “You look at bad UI all day long and probably get used to tuning it out."

With the extension, Leggett makes numerous small tweaks to Gmail’s web interface:

  • Hiding the left and right sidebars behind a pair of menu buttons.
  • Minimizing the search bar by default, and moving it from the center top to the top right.
  • Moving the Compose button from the top left to the bottom right.
  • Moving core functions, like delete, to the top bar.
  • Eliminating color-coded labels.

The prominent change is the removal of the Gmail logo.

"Go look at any desktop app and tell me how many have a huge fucking logo in the top left," explained Leggett. "C’mon. It’s pure ego, pure bullshit. Drop the logo. Give me a break."

In the end, Gmail users with the extension are left with a nice, clear view of their primary inbox - and not much else.

Leggett's with his extension, is simply an utilitarian approach to Gmail, to highlight that not everything there is suitable for everyone. The extension mirrors the strategy Leggett adopted while he was still working for Google, and when he used the experimental Inbox to introduce features and encourage the company to change the Gmail service.

He said that Google's insistence on adding other services to Gmail eventually led to the creation of Inbox, the project he led.

And here, the extension essentially changes the crowded and complicated Gmail into one beautiful interface where every button just seems like it’s in the right place, at least for those users who want to get the bare Gmail with core features upfront.

"Simplify is mostly some CSS plus a little JavaScript to apply the CSS. There are no trackers. No data is sent or shared. And no ads ever. Promise. All of the code can be inspected here on GitHub," he said

The Simplify Gmail extension was a personal project for himself and some acquaintances, and it wasn’t the first such extension he’s built.

Previously, Leggett has developed over a dozen extensions that redesigned websites around the web to his liking.

"I’m not the world’s best designer by any means," admitted Leggett. "But when something bothers me, I feel a need to do something about it."