Ok, I have a mail icon for the message system. Whenever there is a new incomming message , the system will count the number of UNREAD messages & show that number on top of the mail icon. It look like this:


The problem is that the mail icon has a very limited spaces. So if the number of UNREAD messages is 6 or 12 then it's is ok, but what if the number of UNREAD messages is like 7856656? then there is no space to show that number on top of the icon.

or we can do like stackoverflow did, that is if number is> 1000 then it will show 1K. However, if we do like that, then user won't be able to see if there is new message comming cos 1001 or 1023 or 1560 all were interpreted as 1K.

So my question is:

What is the logic of showing the number of messages that the user has not read?

4 Answers 4


If someone has a 1000 unread messages whether they have 1001 or 1002 won't make much of a difference to them as in most cases it is a sign that they're not active.

Sometimes the user have to do their part which is in this case to check mail or mark messages as read to get the full use out of an interface.

So displaying 1000 as 1k is ok since it is reminder to the user saying "Hey there are somethings we need you to take a look at."


I think it is for the power user. If I have more than 10 unread messages I would freak out. I greatly enjoy the icon so I don't have to go to that tab unless the number changes. So for someone like me, who is constantly using email as a communication tool and like a clean inbox, the icon is extremely useful and greatly enhances my user experience.

It is doubtful that someone who has thousands of unread messages even looks at that icon. In fact it is likely that they don't regularly check their email at all, let alone have it open in a tab in the background.

  • 1
    I have actually 8129 on my iPhone Mail app badge, I check my email regularly once or twice a day, most of then are notifications that help me keep track of my online life around forums, networks like SE and other personal stuff, I don't delete then to keep a record. But I guess I'm not an "average" user anyway... I guess I'm used to see that increasing number as a delta value.
    – Vitim.us
    Commented Mar 26, 2014 at 7:17
  • how many people don't delete mails like u?
    – Tam
    Commented Mar 28, 2014 at 4:04

Have a maximum number and if there is more than that, add a "+" at the end. The number should typically be all 9's. For example 999+ messages. A badge that says 999+ takes up four characters max.

To find this out btw you have to select with limit = 1000 new messages. If you get 1000 then you put 999+, since there AT LEAST that many new messages.


That sort of feature is there for people who keep their inbox clean, like me or nuwa's answer. Users who leave their inbox to build up that much either don't mark as read / delete messages, only read the headers or simply ignore their messages, in which case it probably doesn't matter if the number is displayed at all.

If you are worried about this you could try displaying two numbers: the total unread, and the recent messages received, such as 'messages received this week'. That way those users would always have a large number (like 1K) and then a smaller number, (like 14).

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