Lorem Ipsum is Killing Your Designs

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Click here to go straight to the rebuttal:
In Defense of the King (Content)1

By now you should have heard the meme that content is king; you’ve probably heard it frequently, in fact. This is because there is a remarkable amount of truth behind it. The copy, images, video and other miscellaneous content are the reason that your visitors are both going to and remaining on your site. Sites like Craigslist2 prove this to us time and again.

Design should be the extra layer, therefore adding to the experience that helps visitors locate wanted information, read said information, or simply accomplish a task. The very second you make the decision to place Lorem Ipsum into your mock-ups, you have done a great disservice to your design, content, website and users.

"By adding Lorem Ipsum to the design you are essentially dressing your king before you know his size."

The problems will eventually have a domino effect on your site, sometimes without your awareness.

The Obvious and Usual Suspects

Jibberish Text3

What are some of the bad things that have happened because of Lorem Ipsum?

  1. Lorem Ipsum has distracted clients from design mock-ups for decades, leading them to ask countless questions on why their site if filled with an unknown, foreign language.
  2. It has often created confusion between the designer, developer and the copywriter or content provider.
  3. It even gets pushed live sometimes without anyone noticing.

Just Another Visual Element

When you are designing with Lorem Ipsum, you diminish the importance of the copy by lowering it to the same level as any other visual element. The text simply becomes another supporting role, serving to make other aspects more aesthetic. Instead of your design enhancing the meaning of the content, your content is enhancing your design.

Here’s a sample of the dreaded Lorem Ipsum:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Integer eu enim et eros posuere consequat id in libero. Aliquam pellentesque pulvinar aliquet. Curabitur sollicitudin sagittis consequat. In lobortis semper lacus et aliquet. Morbi luctus, tellus et imperdiet iaculis, ante eros sodales leo, in rutrum odio nunc at mi. Donec ac risus eu lorem vehicula sodales lacinia tempor ipsum. Curabitur sit amet quam leo. Donec faucibus posuere libero, a tincidunt elit auctor vitae. Vestibulum sed dui at erat lobortis sagittis a nec purus. Pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus et netus et malesuada fames ac turpis egestas. Etiam ultrices lacus ante.

Tailored to Fit?

No Lorem Ipsum

The person writing the content then gets lead down a dangerous path; they begin to write according to what has been laid out with Lorem Ipsum in the design. They effortlessly continue for paragraphs on matters that could easily be simplified into a single sentence. Content could be added that simply doesn’t need to be there.

 

Putting the Right Foot Forward

In an ideal situation, you would be working with a content specialist from the very beginning. Let’s face it, this doesn’t happen nearly as much as it should. Instead, the client is writing the copy for the website and it gets handed to you just before launch.

It’s time to reverse that thinking; you should be receiving and discussing the content even before the commencement of the design. When you are hired for the job, make it known to the client that you need the copy up-front and list the reasons why.

Still having problems? Write your own copy. Seriously, do it. This way when it comes to finalizing both the copy and the interaction, the copywriter will have an understanding of the point you were trying to make.

Kill Lorem

Now stand up. Put your left hand on your Mac or PC and the right one in the air and say:

"I, [your name here] vow to never use Lorem Ipsum in my designs ever again."

In Defense of the King (Content)

Defense of the Content

Thanks everyone for your input and arguments against. You’ve brought up some great points. It really crazy to think that fake Greek text is so controversial. That said, here is my rebuttal to some of the main points that have been brought up against my article.

The Title

Defense 1

The title is a bit extreme and was written to grab your attention. Lorem Ipsum will not kill your site design. What it does is it takes away some of the ability to provide the best possible solution for your design problem. You can of course still create great, beautiful, awesome designs with lorem ipsum but it takes away resources to solve your problem.

Change

Defense 2

I realize that this would not be an easy change both for you and for your clients. I am essentially suggesting you fix something that doesn’t seem broken. Just because using Lorem Ipsum is easy and it fits smoothly into your current process doesn’t make it right.

Having Final Copy

Defense 3

In no way should you have nor do you need final copy. First rough drafts work. It gives the designer and idea of what needs to be communicated. Once it is in the design or in code doesn’t make it final. Your copy should be a living working document that is continually changing along with your design.

If the copy becomes distracting in the design then you are doing something wrong or they are discussing copy changes. It might be a bit annoying but you could tell them that that discussion would be best suited for another time. At worst the discussion is at least working towards the final goal of your site where questions about lorem ipsum don’t.

Lorem Ipsum as a Tool

Defense 4

Lorem ipsum is more of a work around than a tool. It allows for your clients to be lazy and for you to have to deal with fake text. It’s only a tool because we HAVE to use it unlike other graphical tools like grids that enhance the design.

Dealing with Clients

Defense 5

I clearly didn’t cover this enough, That is my fault. I’ve found that when you describe your process up-front and tell them that you need at least an early draft of the copy, most clients are okay with that. I explain to them that through this process, they will get a better overall product. If they’re not okay with that, well, I have the luxury of ditching them. I would rather spend my time looking for clients that will work with me instead of against me, wasting my time fighting for a good product.

Writing Your Own Copy

Defense 6

I almost removed this part before sending the article over because it has the potential to be very dangerous. I probably should have. It has been one of the ways that I have gotten around the client issue for headlines and sub-copy. I understand that we are trying to put food on the table and writing considerable amounts of body copy would be unreasonable. I also realize you are relying on your designer to know how to write, at least a very little bit, and that can be scary.

The point I tried to make is that you and your clients need to be thinking, understanding and gathering content before the design. Using Lorem Ipsum is a way to half-heartedly go about the most important part of your site.

Its been used in the print world for decades because they know exactly how many characters they can put on the page. Magazine or newspaper designers get early drafts of articles or at least a synopsis of the article before they start there work. I am suggesting you get the same.

The bottom line is design is an enhancement to your content. Nothing more. If you have an awesome design but junky content then no one will buy, use, read, or interact with it. This is the problem with a ton of Flash sites out there. If you have awesome content, users will find a way to work with the design (**Ehem** Craiglist4).

For those looking for extracurricular reading:

What are your thought about Lorem Ipsum? Do you think as designers, we should eliminate its use, or do you think that Lorem Ipsum still has its place in our design mock-ups? Have you had any unfortunate incidents that have happened with clients because you used Lorem Ipsum? We would love to hear what you say about it, so please do leave a comment below. Thank you for reading the article and we hope that you will share your opinion with us and to the rest of the design community.

Footnotes

  1. 1 http://designinformer.com/2010/lorem-ipsum-killing-designs/#defense
  2. 2 http://www.craigslist.org/
  3. 3 http://elegantmisreader.deviantart.com/art/Tablet-Test-Lorem-Ipsum-78068341
  4. 4 http://www.craigslist.org
  5. 5 http://www.adaptivepath.com/ideas/essays/archives/000959.php
  6. 6 http://37signals.com/svn/archives/001083.php
  7. 7 http://www.boxesandarrows.com/view/representing_content_and_data_in_wireframes_special_deliverable_10

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Kyle is a designer, front-end developer and part time astronaut. He is a good listener and loves to play in the snow. He also has red hair. Be sure to visit his blog at kylefiedler.com where he designs, writes and plays or say hi to him on Twitter.

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  1. 1

    Your take on this is excellent. “I vow to only ever use Lorem Ipsum as a tool for typography purposes and instead I will use my own text explaining to the client what he/she should be thinking about writing for the space that it is presented in!” – How is that?

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  2. 152

    I have to say I found points to agree and disagree with. I use Lorem Ipsum for graphic design projects to show clients what their leaflets and brochures will look like, but I quit using them for websites. I “borrow” copy from similar websites to show the client what their site will look like to stimulate them to give me the content I need. I can’t work without information, and it’s not fair to just make stuff up.

    Writing your own copy is a fair thing to ask of a designer as a rule because many of us are decent writers, too. However, the copy we write depends on the information we get. Good information = great copy = excellent site. I fully agree that websites should be content-rich. How many sites are there where style rules over substance?

    Thanks for the insightful article.

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  3. 303

    Wow, this is so true. How do you know how the content is going to flow in the site if it’s all fake content? How many clients actually have the content ready when you start designing the site? Or do you only start once you have all the finished content?

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    • 454

      I usually start when I’ve got a few basic bits and pieces, then add some copy taken from other sites if the client doesn’t give me everything I need. I then tell the client what I’ve done to persuade him or her to give me more information.

      I daresay that other designers work the same way.

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    • 605

      Thats what wireframes are for. Designer produces a wireframe of the site. Designer goes over the block areas and asks the client to produce text, assuming they agree on the design. Then Designer produces the actual design with the content provided by the client. If client does not provide all content, and I have to produce my own to occupy the spaces we discussed. Then afterwards if the client gives me disproportional text, I tell them to reduce or expand it to fit in the designated area.

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  4. 756

    What a great article. Not sure if this web site has already been addressed but check out this Lorem Ipsum replacement

    http://www.fillerati.com/

    Pretty sweet, especially for concept purposes.

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  5. 907

    the same can be said for website templates. When a company purchases a template then the template dictates everything from content to design. If you notice all those bought templates that were then tailored to the companies needs, the design and aesthetics got broken.

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  6. 1058

    Haha, I totally agree although I’ll be honest that I am guilty doing the same when designing blog templates and websites. Remember etaoin shrdlu? Nice article and I will keep in mind that it can kill designs

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  7. 1209

    I’m sold, from now on I’ll be writing my own copy.

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  8. 1360

    I completely agree, Lorem Ipsum is way too old and isn’t good enough to even temporarily replace content, especially for a mock up.

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