KISS needs an update.

Keep it simple stupid.

Be honest, you have uttered those words to somebody before, most of us have. KISS has been around for so long that we have all said it at least once.

KISS started out in life as a US Navy design principal and as it seems to have been first coined by an aircraft engineer (Kelly Johnson) in the early 60´s, he was talking about engineering design when he first thought KISS up.

The KISS principle states that most systems work best if they are kept simple rather than made complicated; therefore simplicity should be a key goal in design and unnecessary complexity should be avoided.

Although first applied as a principal of engineering design, the KISS principle spread and soon it was everywhere, now an old favorite of designers, software developers, marketers and anybody who uses twitter on a regular basis.

KISS is no longer an engineering design principle and on this basis, I think that is no longer fit for purpose and needs updating.

My first problem with KISS is it has the word STUPID in it, an ugly and offensive word that confuses people into calling other people stupid.

People are not stupid, we just have short attention spans.

When Kelly Johnson first uttered the words ‘keep it simple stupid’ to a team of design engineers working on the SR71 Blackbird spy plane, he did not mean that they were stupid, he meant something very different altogether.

He gave his engineers a small box of tools and a challenge that the spy plane that they were designing must be repairable in the field by an average mechanic, using only the common mechanics tools that he had given them.

When Kelly Johnson said the word stupid, he was specifically referring to the relationship between the way things break and the sophistication of the tools that are commonly available to repair them under combat conditions.

This is actually not a KISS simple idea for the average person to understand and he was first explaining the concept to spy plane design engineers.

Since then the word stupid in KISS has been misinterpreted.

We now use the word to call other people stupid. Sorry, we are better than that and nobody likes anyone who thinks them stupid, so please stop.

Again, people are not stupid, they just have short attention spans.

KISS needs to be updated to KISSS or Keep It Simple Short Span.

In the context of Twitter, marketing, sales and design at least, thats what we actually mean. These days people simply do not have enough time to process confusing design, or complicated marketing messages, we have short attention spans and never enough time to focus on the confusing.

Humans now seem to have a shorter attention span than goldfish and incredibly our attention span has fallen from 12 seconds in the year 2000 when smartphones began, to eight seconds now.

Researchers surveyed 2,000 participants in Canada and studied the brain activity of 112 others using electroencephalograms, so its not just nonsense.

Eight seconds is no time at all to capture a persons attention or explain a difficult concept, I am not sure that 12 seconds is either.

Regardless of the length of a persons attention span, we know its short.

If you are a designer working on a website image banner that conveys an idea, this means that you need to design the image banner to immediately explain the idea in a way that does not require the website visitor to think.

They don’t have time to think about it, they have a short span.

If you are a marketer working on some website copy, explaining your services and breaking them down for the visitor, keep it simple and convey your thinking clearly for short spans.

You readers have not come to your website to read an essay on you and your services, especially if they came in riding a google keyword, they immediately need to understand what you do without thinking about it.

When I hit your site, I immediately want to know that I am in the right place, that I have found what I was looking for and a nice call to action in case I do want to read an essay on your services or buy something.

If you are a salesperson keeping it simple for short spans means that you tailor your sales pitches in such a way that they immediately resonate with the prospect and immediately convey the benefits of the service.

Salespeople probably already spend too much time talking about their company or services, when they should be talking about the direct benefits to their prospects, so keeping it simple for short spans works for sales too.

However, if you do happen to be an engineer, a software developer or a spy plane designer, stick to Kelly Johnson’s original and timeless KISS principle.

Finally KISSS can be hissed at people which is kind of cool.

Keep it simple short span. #KISSS