Keep It Simple, Stupid!

I responded to a recent question on Quora this morning, What are the best web design tips or guidelines for non-designers? (see ).

If I could share one tip it would have to be “simplicity.” While this sounds simple, it often isn’t. We design not for ourselves but for our audience. If it isn’t simple they will miss something. Web designs need to be clean, functional, and efficient. Since our pages are a combination of images, fonts, colors, and graphics … if it isn’t done right the user could be overwhelmed.

simple_webImage CC, Alan Levine Flickr, November 27, 2008

Check out the no frills concept of a zero clicks site, The site isn’t up any more but it would give the user their local weather forecast (detects location via IP address).

Users hit the back button and return to the Google search when 1) they don’t believe in the source and 2) can’t find what they need fast. Overly complex sites often cause this. So to make sure that this happens there needs to be:

  • intuitive navigation that makes sense to the user
  • content organized on the page so a user can scan, e.g., titles
  • readable design in terms of text contrast with background, font choice, etc.
  • white space, but it doesn’t have to be white so a user can rest their eyes

Always consider the user’s experience! Everything must add value to the site. If it doesn’t “add value” then it is an “ad” i.e., an advertisement that will distract the user from doing something that they need to do. It is always about the user and their needs… which in a sense are very “simple” to them. So let’s make are designs that way as well.

You may not be familiar with the adage, “Keep It Simple, Stupid!”

In the 1960’s the United States Navy came up with the KISS principle to remind their engineers that most systems work best when kept simple, and to avoid over complicating things when it comes to design. The KISS principle isn’t meant to be associated with stupidity, rather it applies to very intelligent systems that achieve success at their maximum simplicity.

–Brand Image Media (2013)

Do you think that this idea of simplicity applies to Web Designers? Is it fundamentally the same concept across professions?


About DaveHallmon

With experience in web, graphic, and instructional design, Dave maintains a balance between what is efficient and effective in every message. He always focuses on the why and how rather than "just doing it" to get the job done. By day he works at a leading university designing online courses that support 9,000 students in 64 countries. He works directly with faculty to brainstorm, design, and develop their online instruction utilizing the Adobe suite. He also teaches for the university as an adjunct faculty member in the area of web design. By night he is a devoted husband, father, freelancer, and adventurer of the outdoors. His other interests include LifeHacker, Science Fiction and Hayao Miyazaki movies, Settlers of Catan, and coffee with friends. He currently lives in St. Louis and has an M.S. in Instructional Design and aspires to pursue a professional degree in content marketing and strategy. Visit the links below for more information about his interests and design work.
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