The KISS principle is an acronym for Keep it Simple, Stupid and is a principle where simplicity should be the primary goal in the design, and unnecessary complexity should be avoided at all costs. In other words, it emphasized making a system simple to make it work better, which otherwise would’ve not been possible if made complicated.
The focus has clearly stated that simplicity is the fundamental goal of designing something. People should avoid complex designs to make things more complicated for them to work with. The most system works best when kept simple.
Table of Contents
What is the KISS principle?
The KISS principle, an acronym for “Keep It Simple, Stupid” is defined as a design principle used by US Navy in 1960 that suggests that most systems work best if they are kept simple and straightforward.
- The goal of KISS is to reduce the complexity and cost of a system and make it easier for people to use.
- It was first used by US Navy engineers and has since become popular with software developers, designers, and engineers.
Let’s take the example of a software design to understand the KISS principle better. Consider a mobile application whose purpose is to connect users with local service providers, such as plumbers, electricians, or cleaners.
The first usability principle would be to design an interface that is simple and intuitive. This could mean creating a homepage with clear categories for each type of service, a search bar for quick navigation, and large, easily identifiable buttons for the most common actions.
An overly complicated design, such as including unnecessary features or making users navigate through multiple pages to book a service, would only confuse and frustrate users.
By adhering to the KISS principle, the app’s creators ensure that it is easy to use, thereby improving user satisfaction and increasing the chances of gaining maximum market share. Remember, simplicity fosters usability and usability is key to a product’s success in the market.
Explanation of Keep It Simple, Stupid
The KISS principle is based on the idea that simpler solutions are often better than more complex ones. It encourages teams and individuals to focus on the task at hand, rather than overcomplicating it with elements that do not directly contribute to the primary goal.
By stripping away unnecessary details and focusing on what really matters, developers can create a product that is easier to use and understand. This reduces the risk of introducing bugs or glitches, as well as simplifying training and development processes. The KISS principle is also applicable in other areas such as communication, management, and marketing.
Consumers don’t care how clever the product’s design is; the point is it should be easy and convenient to use. However, to simplify the design, KISS is not meant to imply stupidity. On the contrary, the design is associated with intelligent systems that are often misinterpreted as stupid due to their simple design. The KISS principle ensures the prevention of system failure, IT issues, and so on.
At the heart of good UX design is the kiss principle: Keep It Simple, Stupid. The simplest solution is often the most effective one when it comes to an end user’s experience with your product or service. While doing UX research, you need to understand what that means and how to apply it when creating design elements for your project.
For example, if your key goal is to make a mechanic’s training program easier for technicians to navigate, you need to consider the basic mechanic’s training principles and how to integrate them into the design. This is where the upsides of KISS stand out—by utilizing the kiss principle, you can make sure each element of your design serves a purpose and takes into account the user’s needs.
Origin of the Keep It Simple, Stupid Principle
In the US Navy in 1960, Kelly Johnson formulated the KISS principle while working as a lead engineer for the Lockheed Skunk Works, Lockheed Martin’s advanced aircraft program for different combat conditions.
Johnson founded the KISS during a long software engineering career of designing systems using simple tools and skills. Designing a jet aircraft only with simple tools can be very challenging. The term ‘Stupid’ in KISS is referred to the relationship between the things that fall apart and the sophistication available to repair the parts.
When to Use Keep It Simple, Stupid?
The KISS is one of the integral components of good design in software and technology. Technology is something that is not always well-understood by the general public. So for any given product type, the users might have many similar options to choose from.
For example, there are many ways to save money on internet safety tools and products. There are huge lists of separate ways to accomplish the aim to prove that the market offers many options that most users can’t comprehend without the need for expert help. And in this market, if one can only deliver the products, then it becomes easy for one to achieve success.
Even companies like Amazon have listed KISS as one of their core principles. The company states, “Leaders expect and require innovation and invention from their teams and always find ways to simplify.”
One of the benefits of KISS is a deep understanding of why something is occurring. If one doesn’t incorporate the principles of simplicity in the design, one will likely suffer from product conflation. Deploying a product with a strong focus saves the developer precious time and resources.
Applying the Keep It Simple, Stupid in your designs is not as difficult as it may seem. You must have the vision to create a simple product for your users. You must emphasize the user experience. Even if applying complexity is the necessity, the sole aim should be to enhance user experience.
How to Use KISS (Keep it Simple, Stupid) As a Design Principle
Follow the below-mentioned tips to apply the KISS in your designs –
1) Have a vision
The prime requirement is to have a vision of creating an easy-to-use product. You are creating that product for your users, and your goal should be to give them a friendly user experience.
2) Prefer graphics and visuals
If you are presenting information, then try to introduce graphics and visuals as much as you can. Our brains can easily comprehend information in visual form. Even if the information is complex, you can make it simple to understand through graphics.
Ensure that they are clutter-free. Whenever you are creating diagrams, try to spread out things as much as possible.
3) Neutral and basic are not bad
People often have this myth that going classical is not good. Things that are more neutral and classical are always less fussy than modern and complex ones. You don’t need to make it boring; rather, you can go for certain evolutions in that.
4) Prefer user-friendly software
When you are leading the design team, make sure that you prefer software that is user-friendly and promotes similar content. You and your team will find it easy to manage things with such software.
5) Always plan your work
To create simpler products, you need to have a roadmap for that. Unplanned things often lead to complexity. Plan for everything and every phase in your product’s design and avoid complexity to the maximum.
You created your product, but it is always wise to have a relook. If something goes wrong, you can fix it there. You can subtract certain functions that are causing the complexity of your product.
Tips to Apply the ‘Keep It Simple, Stupid’ Principle
Some of the ways to apply keep it simple, stupid principle in different business areas are –
Applying the KISS to projects involves setting up goals that are achievable in a reasonable amount of time. It’s important to identify the most essential aspects of a project and carefully prioritize which tasks should be taken on first, so you don’t end up wasting time on unnecessary activities.
When setting up processes, it’s best to make them as efficient as possible by utilizing the Keep It Simple, Stupid principle. This means streamlining processes and eliminating any unnecessary steps that don’t add value to the end result.
When creating products, it’s important to keep things simple and intuitive. Focus on the key features that will make a product successful and eliminate any complex or extraneous components that aren’t necessary for the product’s success.
With marketing, the KISS can be applied by focusing on a few key points that will have the biggest impact, rather than trying to cover too much in one campaign or message.
When writing reports, it’s important to keep your language clear and concise. Stick to the facts and avoid going off on tangents. Additionally, make sure to keep your audience in mind and tailor the content to their needs. This will ensure that readers don’t get overwhelmed by a long report filled with unnecessary information.
A Caution Note while applying KISS Keep It Simple, Stupid
There is no doubt that simplicity is an admiral goal that can enhance a user’s experience. But note that it is important not to let this simplicity adversely affect the design’s objective. For example, DSLR cameras are more complex than the camera found in the latest model of smartphones. Now, the complexity of the DSLR camera can be resisted when it exists for the person who uses it for one’s own sake. And in such cases, the complexity can enhance the user’s experience.
DSLR, although is more complicated than a normal smartphone camera, it provides more options to photographers. A consumer, when buying a DSLR, accepts the fact that it will have additional functionality. Keep It Simple, Stupid principle has been applied here, which is kept in line with the user’s expectations.
Usage Examples of Keep It Simple, Stupid
1. In film animation: Renowned animator Richard Williams shares the concept of the KISS principle in his book “The Animator’s Survival Kit,” while Disney’s Nine Old Men delve into it in their definitive work “Disney Animation: The Illusion of Life.” These invaluable resources offer profound insights into the art of animation. One challenge inexperienced animators encounter is the tendency to “over-animate” their work, where characters exhibit excessive movement and actions. Williams advises animators to follow the principle of “KISS” – Keep It Simple and Straightforward.
2. In Software Development: In the realm of software development, the KISS manifests itself in various philosophies and practices. Consider the “Don’t Repeat Yourself” (DRY) principle, a tenet of minimalist design that encourages the elimination of redundancy in code. Similarly, the Unix philosophy, Arch Linux, Slackware Linux, Chartjunk, Reduced Instruction Set Computing (RISC), Rule of Least Power, There’s More Than One Way to Do It, Worse is Better” or “Less is More”, as well as the “You Aren’t Gonna Need It” (YAGNI) principle, etc are some examples of KISS in software development.
3. In politics: In the political sphere, the concept of simplicity manifests itself in minor political parties such as the “Keep It Simple Solutions” (KISS) in New Brunswick, Canada. This party embodies the KISS in its approach to governance. Halfway across the globe in South Africa, the ethos of simplicity in politics is encapsulated by the “Keep It Straight and Simple” Party. This party advocates for a streamlined governance style, devoid of unnecessary complexities.
4. In popular culture: In the realm of popular culture, the KISS principle finds representation in cinema. A typical example can be found in the Filipino neo-noir film “Segurista”. In this film, Mrs. Librada, portrayed by Liza Lorena, applies the Keep It Simple, Stupid principle as her approach to selling insurance.
Simplicity should be the key principle of every design. The products that are easier to use are likely to be more in demand in the market. However, it is also important that the simplicity should not be compromised with the functionality of the final design.
Also, think about the user experience at the time of designing a product. It will give a clear perception of what the company expects from its product.
What are your thoughts about the effectiveness of the KISS in making better product designs?
1) What are the alternative concepts of the KISS Principle in history?
The KISS principle origins have many similar minimalist concepts, such as-
- Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) who was an Italian engineer and artist has been quoted- “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”
- Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (1886-1969) who was a German-American architect who was also one of the greatest pioneers of modernist architecture once said- “Less is more.”
- Albert Einstein said- “Make everything as simple as possible but not simpler.”
- Bjarne Stroustrup, a Danish computer scientist who created and developed the C++ programming language has said- “Make simple tasks simple.”
2) What is the relation between KISS Principle and Consumer?
When a consumer buys a product or avails of a service, no one cares how many years were spent designing or making those products or services. The consumer’s main concern is how easy it will be to use or whether the products are affordable or not.
Products that are simple to use along with easily readable instructions sell more in the market. One should follow the KISS while creating a product or upgrading it to an existing one as it helps brands to gain maximum market share.
3) What are the variations of KISS (Keep it Simple, Stupid)
Different variations of the phrase are –
- Keep it simple, silly
- Keep it short and simple
- Keep it simple and straightforward
- Keep it small and simple
- Keep it simple, soldier
- Keep it simple, sailor
- Keep it sweet and simple
The acronym of KISS is often used by many in the US military and software development.
Liked this post? Check out the complete series on Marketing