Some ideas behind me and my work.
Hi, I'm James Clements; a design-oriented developer based in New York City. I run Old Friends, a studio that crafts flexible custom websites for early-stage startups.
We've entered an age where clever use of software allows individuals to deliver outsized value—enough to compete with much larger traditional companies—while saving time, money and energy to pursue ideas inside and outside work.
Idea At Work
While working as a software engineer, I discovered tools that felt similar to writing code but worked dramatically faster. I found time to build ideas and broaden skills instead of burning out behind the screen.
I call these projects webstacks. They're flexible custom websites powered by a stack of low-code tools and lightweight scripts.
Webstacks excel at:
✷ Marketing sites with custom design or functionality.
✷ MVPs for a subset of business models that don't need the full freedom of a hand-coded web app but justify more than a template. Microsites, editorials, dashboards, marketplaces, and blogs.
When built thoughtfully, webstacks are easier to make, manage, and change than their hand-coded counterparts. They're also built faster at lower cost. This makes them a good fit for early-stage companies that are pivoting quickly or teams that want unique sites without stealing time from their engineers.
The standard path forward would be to build an agency and land larger projects with bigger clients. However:
✷ I find learning and making more fulfilling than managing.
✷ I think software is disrupting the old agency model and making fluid teams of top talent more possible and appealing than ever, allowing for heavy-hitting solo makers to collab as needed.
With that in mind, my goal is to use the skills and ideas that surface from client work to create products. There's growing opportunity to build on top of low-code tools as they evolve into platforms—or use the tools themselves to explore side projects.
I've spent two years building Old Friends, learning from what others share online and feedback from client projects. But I haven't shared much myself, and I've felt a growing pressure to do so to hold myself accountable for thinking through things clearly and to hopefully connect with like-minded internet homies.
I believe chasing curiosity improves mental health.
Our society is set-up to encourage specialization because it's better for productivity (thank u henry ford). But human beings are naturally curious. We're drawn in many directions. We enter adulthood and this wide curiosity is squelched by the pressure to specialize and lack of free time. I think this pressure and lack of diverse experience breeds a lot of unhappiness.
Despite its problems, technology is undeniably good at saving time. This time presents an opportunity to nurture curiosity, allowing for richer lives and hopefully happier people.
It’s not enough to just save the time—we have to advocate for pursuing curiosity over productivity. This is harder than it sounds, especially with bills to pay, pressure to stay consistent, and fear of being a beginner. But we only get one chance to enjoy the cornucopia of activities this life has to offer.