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I have implemented your first suggestion. Messages you have not read should show up with a bright yellow background.
As for your second proposal, I'm not entirely sure if that would be possible with a web-browser based login (most people simply close their browser rather than click "Sign Out", giving me no reliable way to determine when someone has gone offline). I'll look into it if I have the chance, but I do have other software upgrades for my end of things that I'm still working on.