Reactions on Gather



Redesigned Gather's reaction experience to encourage and increase engagement in meetings and conversations.


Responsible for research and design of the feature. Prototyped micro-interactions and worked closely with engineering to execute the details.



Aug 2022 - Sep 2022
Launched in September

New and improved emote hotbar

With a 1-click emote bar, users can effortlessly wave, cheer, or thumbs up their teammate when the moment calls for it.

Raise your hand

Participate more in meetings and never miss a raised hand with the improved raise hand feature.

Express more emotions

Along with your favorite emotes, users have access to the full emote menu for a wider range of emotion.

A new place to view reactions

Catch all shared emotes in the new designated reaction feed and trigger a Community Reaction when multiple users share the same emote 🎉 ❤️.


Enhancing communication in the remote work era 💻

Emotes have entered the chat

Working remotely, the opportunities to collaborate, socialize, and make genuine connections with your team are difficult to come by.

Emotes have been a universally impactful tool in conveying emotion, personality, and non-verbal cues in online interactions.

How Gather uses emotes to engage teams 👋

Gather is a digital workspace for bringing remote teams together

These virtual office spaces are designed to bring your team together in one place to hold meetings, collaborate 1:1, spur spontaneous conversations, and host team socials.

Conversations are held through video/voice chat with an avatar representing you in the virtual office space.

Using emotes in a Gather office

The first iteration of emotes launched over 1.5 years ago with a simple hover menu and 6 preset emotes. Shared emotes were presented above a user’s avatar in the space and by each user’s video in meeting, full screen, and screen share modes.


Greet others

Greet another user in the space with a wave to say hello and start a conversation


Engage without disruption

Engage in a conversation without having to unmute or clutter the chat


Give input

Raise a hand to ask a question or vote on a discussion topic in a meeting

However, Gather’s reaction features were not originally designed with clear use cases in mind. Our team wanted to explore how to improve these features with more attention to personal expression and group engagement.


How can we increase engagement & feedback in meetings?

Why is this important?

A team that is actively listening, supporting one another, and making team decisions will not only lead to better employee retention, team synergy, and camaraderie but better work outcomes.

We believe the reaction feature can help promote this in meetings.

But only 10% of Gather users emote


Users are missing the moment to emote

Sending an emote was not top of mind or was tedious due to the emote menu selection interaction. Preset emote options were difficult to switch in the moment.

Users didn’t feel the impact of emotes

It was difficult to see emotes shared in larger meetings, especially in screen share mode.

Defining the scope and direction 📝

High-level Goals

Help users instantly send the appropriate emote that reflects what they are feeling in the moment.

Present shared emotes clearly to the speaker and audience in all viewing modes.

Opportunities & Considerations

How can we motivate others to send emotes and create a cascading effect of participation?

Considering the work environment, how can we bring fun and energy to meetings without being distracting?


Dissecting the emote menu 🔍

Legacy emote menu design

In Q1 of 2022, the design team overhauled the navigation system, creating one single toolbar to house user controls and functions.

While most functions were redesigned, the emote menu remained untouched and dropped into the new toolbar until this dedicated project came along.

What wasn’t working?

Didn’t enable spontaneous reactions

The emote menu was hidden unless hovered which reduced overall awareness and usage. Sending an emote through the menu took 3 steps due to the hover pop-up menu interaction.

Raise Hand was not like the rest

Raise Hand was a persistent emote while the rest were temporary. This emote behaved differently but looked like the rest. Clicking the X button to lower their hand wasn't clear.

Offered a limited range of emotions

With only 5 emote slots, users couldn’t practically express a wide range of emotions in a conversation. Sending an emote not on the preset list required overriding a preexisting one.

Where were emotes shared? 📥

On video tile

Emotes were displayed on the user’s video under their name tag

Emotes could be easy to miss as they are spread across the screen around lot of visual distractions

In larger groups, user videos were hidden in the carousel resulting in no visibility of shared emotes or raised hands

On map

Emotes were displayed above the user’s avatar on the map

Easy to see everyone’s reactions at a quick glance but could be hard to see who is emoting if crowded with avatars

Most meeting conversations were not held in this mode, but rather in meeting or screen share mode

Design proposal

Sending reactions 💬

Changing the form factor

With the launch of the new navigation system, the full length toolbar opened up more options for the design of the emote menu.

However, my early design ideas led to variations of same old pop-up style emote menus. I felt I wasn't addressing the desire for a 1-click emoting experience. I then started to explore a form that fit into the toolbar itself and the rest was history.


Pop-up Menu

Hidden and required 3 steps to send an emote

Not as scalable and blocked some of the canvas

Can only send one emote at a time as menu closes after each emote is sent


Hotbar Drawer

Share favorite emotes in 1 click

Menu is open by default to encourage emoting but can be collapsed if desired

Enables emote spamming similar to the hotkey function

Differentiating Raise Hand

I separated the ‘Raise Hand’ feature from the rest of the emotes by creating a new section within the hot bar and assigned it an icon button rather than using an emoji.

Adding the full emote menu

To address one-off emote situations, I added an icon button for ‘More Emotes’ that launches a pop-up menu with the full library of emotes. This menu includes the edit function to customize the emote hotbar.

Displaying reactions 👀

Proposing the Reaction Feed

The existing emote placements work for certain use cases, but for not larger group meetings. In this case, shared emotes are scattered and possibly hidden from everyone’s view.

I proposed adding a localized visual feed of all emotes shared during a conversation and ideated a bunch of concepts.


Must easily recognize who sent the emote; Display name was more recognizable than avatar or initials

Must be able to display multiple emotes at a time to enable button spamming and show emphasized emotion

Must be easily scannable; Stacking vertically was easier to read at a fast pace


I landed on reusing the user video name tag design as it mirrored what users are used to seeing on the platform, kept the design components consistent, and saved development time.

I chose to display up to 4 user’s emotes at a time as it felt like an easy amount to scan and has a small footprint on screen.

Finding the Reaction Feed a home

Explored many different placements for the reaction feed on the screen and tested them in the different viewing modes.

I opted for anchoring the feed in the left bottom corner of the screen as this area was free from any existing UI and avoided blocking screen share presentations and user videos.

Reaction Feed – Meeting View

Reaction Feed – Screen share View

Prioritizing Raised Hands

To bring more visibility to raised hands, I added persistent visual indicators on the video tiles and participants list, as well as moved up the position of their video in the carousel list. The reaction feed features the raised hand emoji temporarily like a normal emote.

Raised Hands – Meeting View

Raised Hands – Screen share View

Introducing Community Reactions

In collaboration with the Art team, we created a full-screen visual effect that would appear if multiple users in a conversation shared the same emote in a given time frame.

To start off, we designed the effects around 2 popular preset emotes: the confetti popper 🎉 and the heart ❤️.

Combining all the individual bites of positive energy into a bigger shared reaction 🥰


Making reactions feel sleek & magical.. ✨

Outlining the components

Working off the new Gather navigation design patterns, I designed the components, states, and visual indicators.

Fine tuning the micro-interactions

Prototyped micro-interactions for the emote bar in Figma and paired with Emily (Eng) to bring them to life.



Ready to explode with emotion



A release of high energy emotion


Raise Hand

Persistent and unmistakable from the rest

Architecting the Reaction Feed

Worked with Josh and Emily (Eng) to determine how emotes are fed into the feed, especially if users are spamming at the same time.


After launch, we saw a 50% increase in users emoting 🔥

Looking at 8 months of data -


of all users emote

Up from 10% from the old emote design. Shows an increase in awareness and interest in emoting during conversations.


emotes every week

The number of emotes shared every week jumped from 200k to 800k on average. The visibility and spammability must of made emoting addicting.

Both input methods outperform old model

Emote bar usage skyrocketed with no drop off in keyboard input usage. Even though keyboard shortcut indicators were removed, keyboard input usage for emotes only increased.

Tweaking Community Reactions (CR)

😐 11%

of emoters experience a CR

This was lower than expected which may point to a discoverability issue

We realized it was much easier to hit the threshold to trigger the Community Reaction effects in smaller group conversations compared to larger meetings.

In April 2023, we made adjustments and the number of emoters experiencing a CR increased to 23%.

Demand for more emote slots

We received great interest from the community and within our own company to increase the number of emote slots available. Users wanted more options loaded into their hotbar to react with!

So we increased the number of slots from 5 → 7