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Cisco Spark

Interaction Designer


Spark is a communication and collaboration application for the workplace. This cross-platform app enables small teams to chat, share documents and have real-time audio and video conversations.


Virtual presence tells you how likely a person is to respond. Some aspects of presence include whether a person is online, what device they are on, if they've read your message, whether they are in the process of responding to it and where they are responding from. Rather than using the conventional presence model, I wanted to create something new that did not rely on the user manually setting their presence.

I ran usability studies on conceptual designs. Next, I determined how to implement our findings into the product. I was a co-inventor on a patent for this project.​        


The Problem

To understand the current state of the art, I read papers and looked at what other competitors in the field were doing with presence. Prior research stated that:

  • As soon as someone responds to a message while they are “away”, their status lies and people begin to ignore it

  • It doesn't matter what your status is, everyone interprets “busy” as something different

  • Yellow and red are ambiguous statuses

  • Contextual presence provides richer information than current models.

  • This model understands the person’s environment at the same time as measuring a person’s response rate.

  • Context-aware presence gives more detailed information about how present a person really is in an application.


After a brainstorming session, a team member and I came up with 5 mock-ups of presence that we wanted to test to understand how users perceive personal presence and the presence of others that they work with.


Once we synthesized the data, we came up with a couple of options of how presence could be useful in the context of Spark. Although this design never shipped, we were awarded a patent (US9912777B2). 

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