Space customization for teams on Gather

WEB APP · Onboarding/Activation


Giving Space Admin the ability to instantly transform their office space as their team shapes its culture and evolves over time.


Responsible for designing the feature end-to-end, working closely with engineering to architect the template switching system.



Jul 2022 - Aug 2022
Launched in August

Create an office space in seconds

Start off with one of our remote office templates when creating your first virtual office on Gather.

These templates allow you to quickly get started with optimal office layouts, while still allowing you to customize the space to reflect your company culture and mission.

Try out different templates

First template wasn't the one for your team? Space Admin can instantly switch to another map theme and size that better suits their teams needs.

Any changes can easily be reverted by restoring a backup of the previous map template with all customizations.


Transforming the way remote teams meet online

With the shift towards remote work, Gather offers virtual office spaces that 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.

Build an office that empowers your team

Physical or virtual, an office space should be functional, visually appealing, comfortable, and inviting — all of which promote productivity and efficiency.

A virtual office space allows for full creativity control over the office design with no constraints around budget and size compared to physical office buildings.

Gather creates virtual environments with the use of pixel art to represent physical space, furniture, objects, and people.  

Companies can design their offices by using our in-house templates, utilizing our map making tools and assets, or working with one of our ambassadors to fully build out their office.

Getting started as
first-time users

Most teams trying Gather for the first time are not ready to build out their own office. They are looking for a work environment that is familiar and functional but inspiring to work in every day.

New users were taken through a quick space creation flow that generates a standardized office map so teams can get started working and collaborating right away.

1. Select use case → Remote office

2. Select office size

3. Name space + sign up

4. Enter office space

But was our office template design hurting activation?

We found a large percentage of new office spaces were abandoned within the first few days. Our team wanted to explore if there were hold ups in activation due to space design and space setup process.


Space setup problems

I sat in user interviews with active and churning users to understand what issues they are facing regarding setting up their office space.


Our template does not appeal to everyone

Office design can be very personal to each company as it is a reflection of their brand and culture. Some companies felt that our template was too whimsical or not serious enough for work.


Templates are difficult to edit or switch

After space creation, templates were difficult to edit with existing tools and could not be switch out for a different size. This led some teams to churn as it took too much time and energy to set up a new space.

Defining the scope
and direction

Learn how map design influences activation

Offer multiple template options at space creation to test if customers gravitate towards certain styles.

Removing some friction around map editing

After space is created, provide space admin with a system to switch templates out for a different one.


Try to minimize disruption to active users in the space when any map changes are made

Can we make this a multiplayer experience? Input from the team is valuable when choosing a shared workspace

How should we tackle version control and saving existing space customizations?

Identifying target users

Identifying our target users helped us shape our feature and make design decisions geared towards our primary users.


New spaces

For Space Admin that want to try out different office styles and office sizes before fully bringing in their team. Less concerned about destructiveness or disruption since there may be little to no other users or customizations in the space.


Existing spaces

For Space Admin who want to try the newly offered office styles or change the size of their office space based on their team needs. More concerned about destructiveness or disruption since it may be an active space.

Design proposal

Expanding our map template offerings

The Maps team worked on designing 3 additional office template designs in different themes using our established pixel art style.

templates include

A desk for each team member and desk pods so members of each specific team can sit together

1:1 meeting areas, small group meeting areas, and large group meeting rooms

Hallways where you can naturally bump into each other

Courtyard 🌳




Updating the Space Creation wizard

I updated the design of the office template picker by building off the existing design. I added a section for theme options and enlarged the preview image for a better viewing experience. I also added informational text to communicate that changes can be made later.


1 Template, multiple sizes


4 Templates, multiple sizes

Map saving framework

Our team discussed how we should store and update map data. We prioritized the new user experience

option a

Multiple independent maps

A space can store multiple maps, but only one map can be active at a time. Maps remain independent from each other.

Better for more developed offices with larger, custom changes that also care about preserving old versions

Similar to moving from building to building

option b

Single map with backup

A space hosts a single map that can be overwritten by a new map template. A backup of the previous state will be created.

Better for just getting started or making small changes like keeping theme but changing space size

Similar to renovating an existing building

Template changing system

Our team ideated on a few ways we could allow users to test templates in the space. We opted for a format that prioritizes new spaces and allows all users to try out the templates together. We also heavily prioritized feasibility and short engineering time.

option a

Space Simulation

Overlay or transport user(s) to a simulated space where they can test templates by walking around before updating the live space.

Simulation allows for template testing without the disrupting the real space

More design and engineering complexity

option b

Live Test

Preview template options and update the map template in the live space instantly.

Template changes disrupt the real space but enables input from other users directly

Design and engineering is more straightforward

Designing the Map panel

I designed a new tab 'Map' within the Customize panel to hold all map related editing features. This tab is only available to Space Admin to prevent unauthorized changes.

Previewing templates

Space Admin can select a different size or theme map template and preview large map images before commiting to a change.

Transforming the office

When a template change is made, all users in the space will be transported to the lobby of the new map and informed of the change via a temporary pop-up on screen.

Restoring a previous version

In the case that Space Admin want to revert back to a previous version, we save a backup of the map and customizations whenever a template change is made. When a previous version is restored, all users will be transported to the lobby of the restored map.

Empty state

Informational tooltip

Restore and Delete functions


Map change loader

Updating the map template takes a few seconds so I designed a loader to show the change in progress. I envisioned a working hammer to represent a space under construction. The final animation was a collaboration with Shaoping, our interaction designer.


Final design

Map availability tooltips

To reduce production time, we limited the number of template sizes for each new template design. I designed a disabled state with tooltips to communicate template availability.

Feature discovery
& user education

To introduce the new feature, I added badges and tooltips to educate Space Admin on where to try different map templates and the effects of template changes on their space.


Teams do gravitate towards different map styles

Randomizing template themes

After release, we quickly realized there may be some selection bias if the template theme options were positioned in the same spots and the same theme was pre-selected. So we randomized the position of the template theme options moving forward.

Map selection test results

🛋️ 33.4%

selected Cozy

🌳 30.8%

selected Courtyard

🏙 20.2%

selected Skyscraper

🏠 15.6%

selected Industrial

Our hypothesis turned out to be true. When given options, teams lean towards different styles. We also learned certain styles had better activation rates than others.

Getting experimental with map styles

Now that we have a system for delivering and testing map templates, the Arts & Maps team kicked off a new project to experiment with different map and avatar styles outside of our pixel art style.