Low platelet count, or thrombocytopenia, is a common haematological abnormality, with a wide differential diagnosis, which may represent a clinically significant underlying pathology. Macrothrombocytopenia, the presence of large platelets in combination with thrombocytopenia, can be acquired or hereditary and indicative of a complex disorder. In this review, we discuss the interpretation of platelet count and volume measured by automated haematology analysers and highlight some important technical considerations relevant to the analysis of blood samples with macrothrombocytopenia. We review how large cohorts, such as the UK Biobank and INTERVAL studies, have enabled an accurate description of the distribution and co-variation of platelet parameters in adult populations. We discuss how genome-wide association studies have identified hundreds of genetic associations with platelet count and mean platelet volume, which in aggregate can explain large fractions of phenotypic variance, consistent with a complex genetic architecture and polygenic inheritance. Finally, we describe the large genetic diagnostic and discovery programmes, which, simultaneously to genome-wide association studies, have expanded the repertoire of genes and variants associated with extreme platelet phenotypes. These have advanced our understanding of the pathogenesis of hereditary macrothrombocytopenia and support a future clinical diagnostic strategy that utilises genotype alongside clinical and laboratory phenotype data.