The Golden Rule of Design: KISS

A sincere thanks goes out to my borderline insane visual communication from my latter high school years – it all started when we had to build a scale house out of paper materials, architecturally acurate to the last detail. What I failed to see was that my fantastic H shaped house had a roof that was incredibly complex, nearly making me overshoot the project deadline trying to figure out how to build a roof for the thing!

My teacher told me something thing that really stuck, and it continues to be a good way of kick starting the creative process when I find myself staring aimlessly into space.

The rule is called KISS – Keep It Simple, Stupid.

The “stupid” part is a reflection of how many of us tend to act out of instinct – so many ideas are floating around that we want to do everything and anything. When a designer sits down and scribbles down how the design will work, perhaps only one person can make sense of it – can you guess who? The user is not stupid, the designer is stupid for expecting others to realise their vision.

Can you think of a top site that does not follow the rule of KISS? Look at Google’s phenomenal growth; once upon a time there was no Google Tools, Google Maps or Google Earth. Despite these tools being generally easy to use, what could be easier than the original Google search design that has barely changed in years? One logo, one search box, one submit button, and a few links at the bottom.

What the other major search engines failed / fail to notice, was that this very simple idea worked. This very simple idea kept people coming back over and over again to something that delivered what they wanted, without any hoo haa. Sure it helped that Google also generally returned the best results, but my opinion is its success lies in the simplicity.

Some sites have the benefit of only providing one function while others are obviously far more complicated. Take my home away from home, as an example. The initial navigation is brilliant:

Home | Articles | Books | Kits | Videos | Blogs | Contests | Marketplace | Forums [search]

They do not enjoy the luxury of having one or two simple goals for their website, but they have the benefit of very well organised content. They started with perhaps one or two of the above sections, and expanded. Now they are enjoying a thriving forum community and a rising star status amongst the web community, not to mention a huge turnover thanks to a user base that keeps coming back.

I’ve been reading “The Usability Kit” from of late, and it has a very useful set of points that I would like to share – in fact I keep them permanently pinned on the wall next to me!

  • Provide effective navigation and orientation
  • Provide appropriate functions
  • Provide access to help and support
  • Minimise Errors
  • Give the user control
  • Support the user’s prefer way of working
  • Speak the user’s language
  • Keep the user informed
  • Be consistent
  • Implement a clear visual design
  • And for good measure, my addition: Keep it Simple Stupid!

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