KISS Web Design
KISS is an acronym that means “Keep it simple, stupid.” Simplicity works, in technology. KISS Web Design is applying that principle to the practice of building your web site. While I’m the first person to pontificate about web design being more about communication than technology, it still comes down to technology when you really do the work. So keeping it simple still matters.
If you go out and search for “KISS Web Design”, you find people talking about the actual design, so I’m not going to re-hash what everyone else says. I’m just going to say, “Yep, they ae right”, and add my own take on it.
I believe in a simple web design because of how it lets you change your site as your needs change. The level of effort to change and maintain your site grows exponentially as its complexity grows. It is like a house of cards — If your web site is a simple layer of cards on a table, you can move them around as needed without having to think much about it. But if your content is built 10 layers deep, structured upon itself, making change to your site is no longer as simple as just moving a card across the table… you need to bring it all down, figure out each piece individually, and build it all back up again.
That isn’t simple. And you can avoid those nightmares by remembering the KISS principle. Keep it Simple.
Not Just for Coding…
Web developers KISS when writing their code, just as a best practice, but this applies to how you create your content as well. Lets use WordPress as an example – WordPress comes with a basic editor for writing your posts, but most people want something with more capabilities. You can choose from simple adding toolbars to the editor, to installing plugins that completely replace it with drag/drop Page Building tools. Which ones of those sounds better? The drag/drop tool that lets you build really fancy pages? But wait… What happens when you want to redesign your site in 6 months? Can those pieces of content be copy/pasted into new pages? Or do you need to re-do every drag/drop you just did? Every click you just made. Every piece of text you just typed.
When you are working on a site, think about what you are really doing. And think about having to do it again every month. How much would you really enjoy using your current toolkit if it wasn’t a novelty, but a recurring task that you had to do all the time? Now let me ask the question again — which sounds better: A text editor that accepts copy/paste from other editors, or a click-heavy drag/drop plugin?
Simple != Trivial
KISS Web Design does not mean that your site cannot be rich in content, or deep in information. It means your tools should be easy to use, your structure should be easily shuffled, and your information should be easily moved within the site. The pieces of your site should be easily changed without having to change it in multiple places. You should be able to change menus, or re-organize your site without spending hours on the logistics of doing so.
The more content you have, the harder it is to make it simple. It takes time and effort to make a large amount of content work together in a simple way. Despite all my other complaints about WordPress, its built in functions for Categorization, and setting up menus and page to organize your content work pretty well for this. A basic out-of-the-box WordPress site, without going crazy with plugins, can be an effective, simple, content management tool.
Again, the criteria you have to think about is how much effort it take to re-organize. As an example, when I started posting about web design and things to do in Utah a week ago, I made new categories for them, and new pages. I put those items in my menus, and although I haven’t published it yet, I am going to be adding them to my main site menu. I also re-designed my WordPress theme to match the colors of the main hikingdave.com site. It was a non-trivial re-structuring of my WordPress site, which has been running for 5 years. And it took me about 20 minutes. That, to me, qualifies as simple, and a success of KISS Web Design.
(See, I’m not totally against WordPress… I’m just against the abuse of WordPress plugins.)