Enhancing Virtual Office Experience with Personalized Desk and Social Features


This project boosts team engagement in virtual offices with personalized desks and social features. Users can claim and customize their desks, interact with colleagues using profiles, notes, and avatar gestures, fostering a more interactive virtual workspace.

Background and Timeline

After Gather Town shifted its focus to helping companies build virtual offices, I collaborated intensively with the CEO for this project in two months to address challenges in team onboarding, interaction, and presence in virtual workspaces.

Under the guidance of Design Lead Laura, we successfully launched products that remains popular to this day.


Project Kickoff: Sep 2022
Design and Development Completion: Oct 2022
Iterative UX Improvements: Nov 2022 - Jan 2023


Product/Interaction Designer: ShaoPing Chen
PM: Phillip
Engineer: Alex, Emily
Design Supervision: Laura and design team

Challenging Assumptions

This image created by early Gather designer Linda raises interesting questions about virtual desks that guided our exploration. Should they mirror reality? What do people need in a virtual workspace?

As a pioneer aiming to help remote and hybrid teams interact and collaborate better, we focused this series of projects on creating experiences around desks to address these questions.

Our Vision and Goals

Team Onboarding
Enhance sign-up rates and ease onboarding team with customizable desks and personalized settings.
User Presence
Increase user retention by personalizing delightful experiences, making interactions visible and meaningful.
Encouraging Interaction
Drive more conversation hours and reduce drop-off rates by facilitating spontaneous interactions.

Outcome and Impacts

Enhanced Engagement
Within a few weeks of launch, 40,000 desk claims and thousands of daily interactions showed early success.
Increased Conversations
Conversation hours at desks increased by 41% over the 2022 peak, enhancing communication significantly.
Strong User Endorsement
Positive feedback on LinkedIn, Twitter, and directly from users underscored widespread approval of the features.

Design Process

Frame the Design Challenge

In a parallel project led by designer Gaby on team-based invitation and onboarding, exploration of making Gather more team-oriented provided insights that guided our efforts to enhance the Personal Desk Experience, thereby deepening user engagement.

From Physical to Virtual Desks

I collaborated with the CEO to conceptualize and envision the functionalities that could be integrated into a virtual desk.

Ideation Around the Desk

I proposed ideas for desk functionality, including interactions for claiming desks, inviting members, decorating, and viewing details.

Continuous Feedback and Iteration

After extensive internal feedback, I iterated various design, spanning from immersive, game-like interfaces to streamlined, tabular layouts, to achieve our shared vision for the ideal desk experience.

Final Design Solutions

Desk Widget and Profile Card

Users can hover over a desk or click on an avatar to display a desk widget or a profile menu.
Hover over a desk to display a widget for actions and status, even the user is away.
Click on a user in the participants list or the map to view their profile menu.

Profile Details

Users can fill out or browse personal profiles.
Users can edit their profile; this image shows preview and edit views.
View others' profiles, with specific details such as positions represented by unique icons.

Desk Customization and Build Tool

Users can easily customize their desks and decorate the entire space.
Access the customize panel through the widget or navigation bar to tailor desk styles.
Users with space build permissions can use advanced tools to decorate the entire space.

Send a Wave

Users can send a wave to greet others.
Click "Wave" in the widget or profile menu to send a greeting and notify the recipient.
Prototype for sending and receiving waves.

Leave a Note

Users can leave notes on others' desks to convey messages.
Click "Note" in the widget to place items with preset messages on another's desk.
Prototype for sending and receiving notes.

High Five

Users can send a waving emoji bubble, which turns into a high-five animation when they come close together.


The Importance of Achieving Team Consensus

Despite moving too quickly and facing several major shifts in direction and decision-making, our effective communication kept the design, product, and pixel art teams aligned, ensuring timely delivery without delays.

Creating a Product Users Truly Love

The project's reward came from the many positive comments on social media and feedback received by customer team. When users love your product, they naturally promote and praise it. I'll always cherish this genuine appreciation and the sense of accomplishment it brings.