How to cut your apps features in half using the KISS principle

When we’re designing apps, we often try to be overly creative and add too many features. This tendency is dangerous because it leads us to design things that don’t make much sense and are confusing to users. Instead, follow the KISS principle.

KISS is commonly understood to mean “keep it simple, stupid,” a phrase coined in the US Navy in 1960. The KISS principle states that most systems work best when they are simple rather than when they are made more complicated. The goal in designing mobile apps should be simplicity. Simplicity in purpose, design, aesthetic and user experience. Basically all forms of communication should have simplicity as it’s highest priority and unnecessary complexity should be be avoided. KISS can also stand for “keep it short and simple,” “keep it simple and straightforward,” and “keep it small and simple.”

Consider the following successful apps that have applied the KISS principle

  • Clear – Tasks, Reminders & To-Do Lists – A todo list that’s as easy to use as pen and paper (stated in their app description).
  • 7 Minute Workout Challenge – Fitness Guide Inc – simple, direct and the purpose is clearly defined.
  • Rise Alarm Clock – A simple alarm clock with a clever yet simple approach.
  • Snapchat – Snap a photo or a video, add a caption, and send it to a friend.
  • Instagram – It started with a simple goal. To make photo sharing easier. Since then it’s been acquired by Facebook and is used by millions around the world.
  • Yo. – This app was designed and developed in a weekend and kept intentionally focused on one thing, sending Yo’s to your friends.

I’ve even applied this principle to one of my own apps called Relax Rain. A simple and gesture based app that only plays sounds of rain falling.


What I like about this principle is its flexibility and its humor. I find it to be very applicable in quite a few situations, and referring to KISS can sometimes break the ice in an awkward situation or challenging problem. Additionally, if you’re working with a team it can help you justify committing to fewer features instead of committing to more. As Dieter Rams said “Less, but better”.

While this principle is helpful in our pursuit to keep our designs simple, it can be humbling as well. When you think you’re being smart or that your design is unique or especially creative, make sure it can’t be made simpler by measuring it against the KISS principle.

Related articles
Dieter Rams – 10 principles for good design (applied to mobile apps)
The 80/20 rule – The vital few and the trivial many

I’m working on a new book all about iOS App Design, Check it out!

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