What do we mean by KISS? Simplicity in digital | KISS digital

Mateusz Zguda

A co-founder and managing partner of KISS digital.

Adam Kubiczek

A co-founder and managing partner of KISS digital.

Przemysław Ćwik

Senior Editor.

24 June 2020

What do we mean by KISS? Simplicity in digital

postMainImage

If there's a chance to do something the simple way, go for it. This formula works well not only with everyday challenges but also with IT projects. At KISS digital, from day one it has proved useful for creating advanced technological solutions – without overcomplicating the whole process. What is "keep it simple, stupid" principle? Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. This idea of Leonardo da Vinci has been shared and followed by many creators. Not only in the realm of design but also of software development.

What does keep it simple mean?

It is common knowledge that minimalism, austerity of form, preference to avoid excess and complexity have been present throughout the ages in a variety of cultural contexts. Ockham's razor, Japanese Zen philosophy, Ikea furniture are but a few prominent examples. No wonder – many of us hold dear the idea of choosing simple solutions over the complex ones.

At least in theory. Because in practice we have a natural tendency to complicate things and see problems as more troublesome than they actually are. When choosing KISS digital as our company's name, we were aware of this inclination. So we decided that the effort of overcoming it will constitute the keystone of our work.

Who came up with "keep it simple, stupid"? Or: what KISS is actually about

KISS principle, despite its friendly connotations, is an acronym with military roots. The phrase it stands for, "keep it simple, stupid", served as the motto (allegedly coined by Kelly Johnson) of American military aviation engineers in the early 1960s. It postulated that the aircraft be designed simply enough for an average skilled mechanic to be able to repair them in field conditions using simple tools.

At KISS digital we don't have much to do with the army. Our projects are completely peaceful. However, we demonstrate certain combativeness – or courage, at least – in facing complex problems. We believe that for every complex issue there is an effective solution, and it's worth to look for it with simple tools.

Why? Because it is in simplicity where several IT industry-specific characteristics converge. These are:

As a result, the KISS paradigm allows us to create projects that are attractive to our clients, our clients’ customers and ourselves.

How do we implement "keep it simple, stupid" principle at KISS digital?

We apply the "keep it simple (stupid)" principle on several levels of our business. For instance, in:

In communication – well, that's quite obvious. We try to keep it short, simple and straightforward. Accurate information plays a key role in IT and business in general. The message should be meaningful, legible and useful. Free from ambiguity and excess data. In practical terms, when we talk about something, we want our interlocutor to comprehend what we mean and do something specific about it. The KISS principle is essential for effective teamwork and efficient performance of tasks. It's also useful in external communication – when we want to provide the recipient with information, inspiration or explanation. The point is not to reduce the message to technicalities, but simply to avoid excessive means of expression and stay focused on the goal.

As for the relationship with clients – we also don't want to make it too sophisticated. IT is full of complex stuff, difficult to grasp for the people “from the outside”. Following the KISS principle, we make sure that when dealing with our clients we stay focused on the effectiveness and functionality of solutions and their commercial value. We analyze the needs and expectations of our clients and then provide them with a technological answer – without engaging them for debating secondary issues.

However, we apply KISS primarily in the field of technology. In this area we are guided by two key assumptions:

1) we develop software with the utmost care for the clarity of architecture,

2) we make effort to achieve our objectives with as much time and resource efficiency as possible.

This means that we use ready-made and proven solutions wherever possible. Thanks to our long-standing experience we use these resources effectively. In short, we know how to avoid reinventing the wheel. The gain is obvious: we save our clients’ time and money.

"Keep it simple, stupid" principle in (technological) practice

The "Keep it Simple, Stupid" principle is our basic design concept. But it also works as a "guardian angel" – when we let ourselves be fooled by the temptation to make things more complex than necessary. Such situations are sometimes hard to avoid – it's just you need to be swift about handling the issue.

As in the case when the front developer recommends using React to create a landing page with a registration form. KISS then suggests that such things can be done easier: in HTML and CSS, possibly with a slight touch of jQuery.

Following the KISS principle, we built (the effort of a sole developer!) an ATS system for managing candidate applications in just two days. We still use it today. Delivering a full-blown version of such tool would consume up to fourth months of work and require involvement of several developers. However, we chose not go heavy on aesthetics, UX and additional features. The key objective was to get the system to perform all the essential tasks without excessive complexity and we managed to achieve it. Other features were unnecessary, so we decided to "keep it simple, stupid".

Another practical example of KISS principle at work worth recommending is... the use of PHP. The language is frequently perceived as going out of fashion and criticized by some developers. However, it provides proven solutions to many problems for those who know how to make use of its potential. KISS suggest there's no point in looking for a substitute solution when you have the fully operational one at hand.

KISS principle: the perfect tool to avoid perfectionism

There is one more thing to clarify. KISS is not an ideology, but a practical tool to support current activities. "Keep it simple, stupid” is not about making everything simple at all costs. It would constitute an additional effort and contradict the whole concept. The aim of KISS is to find simple solutions in a natural way. Which means being able to step back when things get too tricky, look at the problem from the proper perspective and rethink priorities. Give up the less important issues that burden the project, in favor of the vital ones that determine its success.

In IT, there is always an infinity of possible solutions. Lack of limitations may fuel perfectionism, which makes it difficult to focus on the crucial issues, slows down certain activities and may jeopardize the whole enterprise. The KISS principle prevents us from falling into this trap. It advocates simplicity over complexity, thus reducing the potential for errors. In this sense, it helps to achieve perfect results as opposed to perfectionistic ones. The former simply satisfy the goals of clients and users, while the latter – often just the visions of these goals.

If you are looking for a partner who will implement your project with focus on rational approach and reasonable use of resources – let's talk!

Mateusz Zguda

A co-founder and managing partner of KISS digital. Responsible for the development strategy and cooperating with clients and partners.

Adam Kubiczek

A co-founder and managing partner of KISS digital. Has a long-term experience as a software developer and a team leader.

Przemysław Ćwik

Senior Editor.