Keep it simple stupid

The KISS acronym has become such a cliché that we so often ignore it. After all why “keep it simple” when we can play with the latest cool bit of technology.

I often feel somewhat isolated from the web community. While everybody else is writing about AJAX and CSS techniques, I am talking about the humble hypertext link and building better forms. For a long time I have felt that as web designers we lose interest in the mundane and would much prefer to spend our time pushing the boundaries of CSS or integrating the latest Javascript widget.

You can therefore imagine my delight to read an excellent article by Gerry McGovern in which he wrote the following:

"Again and again, I meet web teams that are excited by the exceptional task, and are bored with the common task. The common task on a website may indeed be boring and often inconsequential to you because you have completed this task so often. You have learned it inside out and to you it seems simple. It seems like there is no more work needs to be done on it.

The exceptional task is much more likely to be exciting and intellectually challenging. Beware. Every time you add an exceptional task to a webpage, you make the environment more cluttered; you make it more difficult to complete the common task."

I couldn’t agree more. We need to be careful that we don’t let our attention to the basics slip in our desire to constantly push the web forward. I can understand that we find the common tasks boring. However, the very fact that they are common means that they are by far the most important, simply because users are encountering them more regularly.

  • Hi Paul,
    I couldnt agree more with all of what you just wrote and I am guilty of getting so into the latest tech or newest javascript code i put into a site that I almost miss the target launch of the site. Almost!!
    Anyway I see your point without the basics how can the web move forward as it is these common tasks that allow the web to work. The Hypertext link all be it now in virtually every software you use is not fully exploited in websites. I know you have roll overs, folding menu trees, colours, even sweet titles ( a great bit of useful code to clearly define links and a title msg – Thanks for the link you sent me ages ago for this script paul) but I feel that the common tasks such as hypertext links can be utilised more then they are in reality the foundation of the web.
    However I am still new to the web industry and these are just my thoughts and opinions but I do feel that more could be done for the hypertext link to make it ‘breathe new life’

  • I couldn’t agree more. Reading around on blogs lately I feel like many designers are starting to overlook the basics of web design and starting to overanalyze the new “trends” of web design that users don’t care about.
    I read a blog entry about “The New Blogsphere and Web 2.0” and thought the whole time, my family members who are avid internet users but not designers wouldn’t know the difference (nor care) between the “Web 1.0 Blogsphere” and “Web 2.0 Blosphere” described in the entry.

  • Mercedes

    Yep, I quite agree. One of the things you need to do as a web manager is to keep even the most dull tasks at least bearable for the team. I try to share out the more interesting tasks to break up the day with idea creation even if there’s nothing new to build.
    I’ve noticed that there’s alot of talk about why do we need guidelines (WAI etc.) because “we’re all grown up and know what we are doing”. Yes, some of us are, some of think accessible and standards at the planning stage but alot of of developers are distracted by the shinny new thing and forget that they are building sites for users not developers.
    Anyway, guys, you should do a UCD podcast – now there’s an area that alot of developers need to really be thinking about. There’s nothing like a user test a day to keep the boredom away….

  • I quite agree with you.
    Being a lover of mundane things myself, I can’t understand how designers tend to overdo their XHTML & CSS, littering it with all the latest trends.
    As you said it: Keep it simple.

  • I used to make my site flashy, but then I realised that KISS had a point. My website turned out awful. So I made it simple again!

  • Building simple pages makes it easier when needing to build new pages.