I recently stepped back from day-to-day work at Cozi, the family-focused startup I cofounded with Robbie Cape in early 2005. The past six and half years were a marvelous education for me: Cozi was my first startup, and Robbie and I had the great luck (and perhaps a little insight) to stake out what has proved to be incredibly fertile product territory. It’s been gratifying to design something from the ground up, and also rewarding to contribute to the formation of a wonderful company culture. The company’s business has never been stronger, so from a business perspective, this year’s been quite an exciting time.
Still, what draws me to the office ach morning isn’t business success, it’s working on challenging user experience design problems. And it’s turned out to be harder to find fresh challenges in a project that’s heading for its seventh birthday. I think a designer who works indefinitely in the same product space may run the risk of becoming dogmatic in their response to new design problems, which potentially limits the ability to respond to users and dilutes the satisfaction of designing. Although I’d intended to stay with the startup for as long as it exited, over the past year I found my imagination sparked less and less by work, and more and more by personal projects. Robbie and I spent a long time talking this over, and ultimately concluded the company and the product were strong enough that other designers could pick up where I’m leaving off.
I remain extremely bullish about the product’s future, and am still retaining a hand in shaping the evolution of Cozi as a board observer and an adviser to its design team. But I’m no longer going into the office. For now, I’m using this opportunity to focus my attention on developing and promoting QuickUI, which I’ve now been working on for almost four years. (Among other things, I’ll be giving a talk on QuickUI at jQuery Boston 2011 on October 2nd.) I’m really curious to see whether it’s possible to create a rich ecosystem of UI controls for the web built on an easy-to-use design and development framework. I’ll likely post more about that work as time goes on.
This is actually the third time in my life I’ve made a break from my work, and each time I’ve made the break without any definite plan of what would come next. Each time, I’ve not only enjoyed the sabbatical from work and happily pursued independent projects, but ultimately found myself very happy with where I landed. We’ll see what comes up next.