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I am in a dilemma over deciding user favored way of displaying unread messages count, currently, there are two ways in my mind, like Facebook Messenger and like Instagram, Whatsapp, and lots of other applications.

So how Facebook messenger does this is, it shows you how many unread chats you have rather than actual messages, so if Bob sent you two messages, and Alice sent you 1, all of which you haven't read, Messenger would display that you have 2 unread messages (badge over the chat icon in tab bar), to be honest, I prefer this way, avoids the clutter of not knowing how many messages are form distinct chats, it's more informal in short.

But what surprised me is the fact that lots of other very well-established applications such as Instagram and Whatsapp which are very chat-centered, use nondistinct unread messages, so if Bob sent you 5 messages and Alice 2 you would be shown 7 unread messages. And the thing that surprises me more is that all of these three apps are made by one company and have to be based on some research which might show that as much as I prefer the first approach, lots of users do not, I want to ask is there one that I can rely on to make a decision? or do you have any opinion on it? I do not have lots of experience with UX.

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    The three apps just belong to the same company but they are not made for the same company.
    – Danielillo
    Aug 6 at 6:36
  • Still they must share the research at least
    – Iliaaaa
    Aug 6 at 10:41
  • I think the main difference is that one gives the information about unread conversations while the others are about unread messages
    – Danielillo
    Aug 6 at 11:21
  • Yes, but i wonder which one of those is more favoured by average user
    – Iliaaaa
    Aug 6 at 11:23

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Often you hear discussions around the design team talking about things like: "Why don't we just use Material Design?" And this is an interesting conversation to be had because it can tell you a lot about the mindset of the designers and managers. While it is true that Google has come a long way in its design practice, it is still important to keep in mind that they developed solutions to their own problems, and your users might not have the exact same problem (but they might, so always do your homework/research).

Even if we aren't talking about a major company but a competitor in your own market, you could still ask: "Why don't we just copy their design?" At the end of the day, how you approach design and how you choose to justify your decisions says a lot about how much you care about the users.

For your app, you should consider if it is better to focus on the individuals (which might be better for a productivity type of app since you might have many messages), or whether you should focus on the messages (which might be better if content is more important). By that I mean whether your users will prefer one or the other, or perhaps allow them to configure the option but still have a sensible default setting.

It doesn't always just have to be one or the other, especially if you want to allow users the flexibility to make the decision that suits them the best rather than only giving them one option or the other.

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