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Lorem Ipsum is Killing Your Designs

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 Link

Jibberish Text3

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

  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 Link

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? Link

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 Link

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: Link

"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 Link

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 Link

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 Link

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 Link

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 Link

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 Link

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 Link

  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://37signals.com/svn/archives/001083.php
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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.

  1. 1

    I disagree. You’re presenting a design, not a full working website with content. At that point, the client just don’t need to look at that. Just be clear that you want their opinion about how it looks.

    If a developer has made something working, but the design isn’t ready, the client doesn’t need to judge the looks. If a copywriter wrote some text it might be in another font than the actual site. And if a photographer made photos for the website, it might be cropped after he/she shows them to the client.

    Just be clear about all those things. In the end it will all come together. With good project management and communication to the client (and within the team!) that won’t be a problem.

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    • 2

      I agree with Tom.

      Not all the clients have the content ready with them. Clients give you an idea about their product and ask you for the design first.

      Also, as a designer, I am entirely focused on how the website should look. It would be extremely tough for me to make content for every project that I am handling. This would waste a lot of my time.

      Till date, I have not faced any problem with Lorem Ipsum. As Tom said above, “With good project management and communication to the client (and within the team!) that won’t be a problem.”

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      • 3

        @Jad
        “This is true. While we can say communication is key and it won’t be a problem, the fact of the matter is: It has and will continue to happen.”

        Yep but with (real) content there’s a big chance you’ll end up in an endless discussion about that content on that page.

        With bigger projects you have to work in stages. The next thing is a interaction designer that want to show his prototypes in a real design instead of wireframe? Finally you’ll end up showing a full working website in the first stage of the project. That’s why I say.. it’s more important to have a good project management and make things clear to your client :)

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    • 4

      I agree that it really depends upon the kind of website you are working on.

      I have absolutely no problems if I get the content beforehand. This is infact an ideal situation wherein you have the content and you just focus your thoughts on designing. Moreover, this could add more value to your design. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Hence, it’s not possible to completely abandon using Lorem Ipsum.

      I hope my clients read this article and give me the content beforehand. That would make my work easy! :)

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    • 5

      “When you start design a site with only the slightest idea of what the content is you start to make the design a more important part of the web site than the content.”

      In alot of cases I dont think this makes a difference. The design should be able to handle any ammount of content and since content often changes I think not designing around content is a better way to work.

      Long live Lorem Ipsum, if clients are confused send them over to http://www.lipsum.com/

      Cheers Jad, thanks for the article.

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    • 6

      Kyle

      Those are some great supporting material that definitely backs you up. We all know that Jeffrey Zeldman and Andy Rutledge definitely know what they are talking about. :)

      Let the debate rage on!

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    • 7

      “I also feel the post assumes there is data or copy to begin with, when in some cases content hasn’t been created.”

      I don’t think he’s assuming anything. If you read what he says, Kyle even wants you to refuse to start a project until you at least have a first draft of content.

      Also, I think you meant to say that he assumed data is static? :)

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    • 8

      I have to also agree with Tom.

      Understanding the client’s work flow is extremely important — and must be understood before diving into the design. My experiences have shown most copy writing is done near the end or during the development of the site.

      Having a solid project manager or a skilled freelancer will eliminate the majority of the issues derived from “filling space” with lorem ipsum.

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    • 9

      Kyle you have completely missed what Andy Rutledge was trying to portray.

      “Where is the content?”
      “What content will be on this page …and on this page?”
      “Who is writing the content?”
      “When will you deliver the content?”

      One obviously cannot design a website without knowing what’s going to be in a website. Each page should be designed according to its content ONLY to a certain extent. That’s when Lorem Ipsum comes to play. If you don’t agree, try designing a page like Ebay without dummy text. It’s not the same case for every design, but to say that dummy text such as Lorem Ipsum should be completely abandoned is completely absurd. Thanks (I know this topic is quite old but I figured I would put in my 2 cents).

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    • 10

      Great article, but I agree with Tom & Adit.

      Design & content work hand in hand & so I always design with content in mind. I do use Lorem Ipsum & am a big fan of it. Most of my clients do not have all the content ready to go at the start & I don’t demand it either. Let’s face it, when you run your own business, not everything falls into place as it should.

      If my clients were big budget clients, who could afford a copywriter, photographer, designer etc etc then it would be different, the website could be co-ordinated & managed ideally to suit each process.

      So I use Lorem Ipsum & explain to the client when the mock ups are initially presented that it is a representation of where & how the content (when supplied) will be inserted. In a perfect world, I would love to have both content & design basically completed when presenting to the client for the first time, but most of the time, it just doesn’t work that way.

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  2. 11

    Useful information for designers and “clients” both. At the time of starting design we should have content ready for that project but most of the times content is delivered on the later stage, which is not good for design.

    Frankly speaking “Lorem Ipsum” is part of a design these days as more & more of template marketplaces are full of themes which uses Lorem Ipsum. So its good if used in right place and bad also. I use Lorem Ipsum in almost every project i do because we get content in mid phase of project always and its not possible to wait for content every time.

    Anyways a very nice article.

    Thanks for sharing

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    • 12

      That’s a good point, more and more marketplace templates are using them, but I believe a custom-built site is always and will always be better than using a template. (Considering you are a good designer)

      Also, let me ask you, why not try asking for the content before you start the project?

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      • 13

        Yes You are right that custom-built site is always and will always be better than using a template but still if you surf through sites like themeforest.net you will see hundreds of designers selling templates so for them “Lorem Ipsum” is very helpful.

        Regarding your second question :

        Jad I always ask client to provide content before i start on a project but 7 out of 10 times content is sent to me in the mid phase of the project… :)

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  3. 14

    Totally true. I’m not using lipsum since october 2009 when i changed the text of a project and saw a BIG difference. Awesome article!

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    • 15

      Thanks for the comment Rafael. Wow! Since Oct. 2009? I guess you do see a big difference when you actually have your own content.

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  4. 16

    Thanks for the comment Kuswanto. :)

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  5. 17

    I use those foreign wisdom words only when i’m stuck on what to put down in a mockup.
    well, i’m lying. i always use the lorem ipsum, but i won’t kill any designs anymore. thanks, u remind me. :D

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  6. 19

    I have yet to work with a client that has had all copy ready up front. Most of the time they are changing copy up until the site goes live and sometimes even shortly after. Professionals outside of the creative realm will never fully understand the importance of having all of the information up front. Unfortunately, there will always be a need for dummy text and there will always be pros and cons for using it.

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    • 20

      I actually have had a lot of clients come up to me with all the content in hand.

      I recently designed a website for a lawyer and he had over 100 pages of content ready to go before I even started the mock-up. I think if we explain to them our reasoning, they would not mind co-operating at all.

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  7. 21

    Well, personally, I think Kyle has most certainly brought up a very pertinent point.

    A design will ultimately house actual content, and dummy text, whilst serving well as a placeholder; will do little to project the actual look and feel of the website. Besides, most of the clients I’ve worked with often have bits of content already done up which I encourage them to use for the preliminary design stages.

    As designers, we have to conceptualise the site design as a whole entity with actual content.

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    • 22

      Great thought Josh. We definitely need to visualize the entire website as a whole and it’s really hard to do that with “dummy text.” I wonder why they call it that anyway? :)

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  8. 23

    I agree that the best case scenario is that content should be provided prior to design work beginning. After all, if the design is meant to support the content, how can it do so when it does not know what the content is? Sadly, however, best case scenarios are somewhat rare and final copy is rarely ready in the early stages of a project. My personal fall-back plans are:

    1. If it is a site redesign, I use existing copy from the client’s current site if possible. Sometimes the current copy is horrible, but in most cases, I find that it is a good starting point and adequate for mockup purposes.

    2. If no suitable copy currently exists, I use passages of text in the public domain (I prefer Edgar Allen Poe works) rather than Lorem Ipsum text. At least with the text from Poe, I don’t get asked why there is a ‘foreign language’ on the site.

    One item I have to disagree with is the idea of ‘writing your own copy’ as a blanket solution to this problem. Most designers are not writers and crafting some copy, even if it is intended to be a sample, may do the project a disservice.

    If you are a skilled writer, then by all means craft some copy, but you should also charge for that work. A writer who knows how to design wouldn’t simply throw in a free design mockup because one was not readily available, would they?

    I heartily agree that Lorem Ipsum text must go, but ‘placeholder text’ is a reality we must find a way to work with the best that we can.

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    • 24

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts Jeremy. I really appreciate you taking the time and explaining to us your plans / fall-backs about Lorem-Ipsum. It’s really some great advice and maybe something that some of the pro-lipsum people should look into.

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  9. 25

    This is a tough one! I actually think Lorem Ipsum as helped me in the design process, 90% of the time, especially with web design projects, the content is not ready, so I do a mock-up using Lorem Ipsum for body copy, I communicate with the client that this is just a mock-up and things will change depending on the final content. I would prefer having all the photos and body copy for a project before I start, but as we all know, most clients don’t have all the information ready at the start of a project.

    Writing body copy for a client is a great idea, but that would be an extra charge to the client, it takes extra time to write content, especially if in the end the copy will not be used. My suggestion would be to, request all content before the start of a project in your contract if not… let the client know that you will be using placement text in your first draft of the design. Personally I think Lorem Ipsum should be used in moderation :)

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    • 26

      I do agree with you on not writing your own copy. Out of Kyle’s points, that’s probably something that I would personally disagree with. Sure, I’ll write headlines and sub-headings but never the copy. It’s simply too time-consuming in my opinion.

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  10. 27

    Amen Kyle.

    Designing with fake data = fake design.
    This “argument” has been around for decades.
    Lorem Ipsum’s equally evil twin is wireframing. Both are designers’ crutch…

    I’m backing you up, Kyle: http://www.flickr.com/photos/juhansonin/3471231115/in/set-72157608422072189/

    -Juhan

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  11. 30

    it’ll never happen. Doesn’t happen in real life. Nice concept but this is fail. LONG LIVE LOREM IPSUM!

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  12. 32

    “Lorem Ipsum is Killing Your Designs”

    That’s a little over the top. In an ideal world getting the content before you start is best, but we don’t live in an ideal world. Many of my clients want the design first and I’m not going to write copy for free. That is just plain bad business.

    Every case is different and to lump all of design into that statement is unrealistic. But I get your point.

    Thanks!

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  13. 35

    Lorem Ipsum is like any other design tool – you need to know how to use it in moderation, and where and when it is appropriate. The most important thing to communicate in the design comp in regards to the copy is the length of each piece and its purpose on the page. If Lorem Ipsum can do this for you, then by all means use it. These are a couple of general pointers that I observe.

    • I NEVER use Lorem Ipsum for headers, “hero” text or menu items. If I don’t have copy for these, I write them.

    • When I use a chunk of Lorem Ipsum, I will start the first paragraph off with something like “This is the teaser paragraph, which should outline the full article in 100 words or less.” This way the client knows what’s up.

    • With regards to the length of the pieces, I look at the client’s existing site, if possible, and if not I go to their competitors to get an idea.

    The final point brings up a whole ‘nother debate, which is whether you as a designer ought to be making recommendations about the length of copy (spoiler alert: I say hell yes).

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    • 36

      Chris, thanks for stopping by. Thank you for those general pointers. I think even if you are a huge lipsum fan or if you hate it, everyone can still consider these pointers.

      By the way, the last point is a great idea. While we don’t want to or have to write the copy, we should definitely make recommendations especially with the homepage.

      By the way, you have one of the nicest sites around, did you use Lorem Ipsum on your initial design?

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      • 37

        To answer your question about lorem ipsum on my site, I actually wrote and designed in tandem, which I felt was really beneficial. This allowed the content and the presentation to constantly adapt to each other’s requirements, rather than one taking the lead. Of course, most projects have a separate designer and copywriter, so this would be impossible.

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      • 38

        Great, thanks for answering Chris. That’s great since you wrote all the copy and you designed it, the workflow must have been a lot smoother compared to having to deal with a client and a copywriter. Thanks!

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  14. 39

    I keep reading the argument that Clients never have their content ready when you start designing. How can you start designing when you don’t have any content and context to design within? Force your Client to deliver a first round of content before you design. Obviously there will be text edits, but this first round content will give you a better start then if you used Lorem ipsum.

    It may be difficult the first time you try this, but after you’ve done it once you’ll keep recognize how helpful it is.

    Nice article Fiedler.

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    • 40

      I completely agree with you on this Mike. While in my opinion, you don’t need the content for the entire website, I am a firm believer that you at least need to be able to have the content for at least the homepage and an inner page.

      As a designer, it just makes life so much easier. :)

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  15. 41

    Here’s what I run into. Most clients I have worked with either get confused or defensive if there is anything BUT lorem ipsum on the page prior to their copy being delivered. As I am indifferent to this debate, but with past experiences I feel using placeholder text alleviates any confusion as to which version of the content is correct (due to many revisions throughout the process), and will also show where the content needs to be inserted. I have had an instance where a site went live with copy I provided, instead of lorem ipsum, only to have the client come back to me with the correct material and a message saying they would never use me again. Obviously, a rare instance, but nonetheless it just makes things easier to say upfront that this is in place until the readied content is submitted.

    It also helps if working on websites that you show it’s flexibility by placing in various amounts of text. This will show that if new content is added it won’t affect the overall design/layout of things, but rather it’s adaptability to any future changes the client may have.

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    • 42

      “Most clients I have worked with either get confused or defensive if there is anything BUT lorem ipsum on the page prior to their copy being delivered.”

      You can always ask for the copy before starting the project. :D

      But anyway, your last paragraph and argument is a good one. What about when a client wants to change text? How do we test for that? That’s a great thought. ;)

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  16. 43

    While I appreciate the enthusiasm of this article, I don’t share the viewpoint. Ok, in a ‘perfect world’ clients would know what they want, projects would be tenaciously organized and content would be written (in approved, final form) before design commenced. Of course, that would be really helpful to have all copy and know what content goes on which pages and the length and style of the writing. This scenario is likely to occur, in maybe 1 in 1,000 projects.

    For the vast majority of web design projects, I’ve found Lorem Ipsum filler copy to be a valuable design tool. It flows nicely, like real copy and is a great substitute for blank space, boxes or horizontal lines, which are sometimes used to simulate text.

    I don’t think it’s good advice for designers to take it upon themselves to write website copy. Besides being a substantial time-waster, the client hasn’t hired a web designer to become a SME on their business and wear a copywriter’s hat. Instead, the designer should focus on IA and UX, carefully planning out flows and functions with user behavior at the fore. The design mockups are meant as a springboard for the project where the designer presents page structures, grids, design motifs, color themes and specs typography.

    With proper project management and communication, explaining web design mockups and setting client expectations – it’s easy to avoid the client from getting hung up on content, but rather get their attention focused on overall design approval so that development can begin.

    Typically, copy is written and refined after the client has approved the designs and while developers are busy transforming the designer’s vision into a working model.

    In this article, I didn’t find compelling enough arguments to take the ‘anti-Lorem Ipsum’ oath. The alternatives are not based in efficiency or reality.

    Thanks for the post and good discussions.

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    • 44

      After such a well-written argument, then you are definitely free to choose what works for you. Kyle just wanted to share his thoughts on why he doesn’t use Lorem Ipsum, but I guess it works for you. Thanks for leaving your comments on Design Informer. It definitely adds more to this discussion.

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  17. 45

    I use it, but I break it up. I make different sized sentences and paragraphs and lists.

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  18. 47

    Well It´s true, I mean “Lorem Ipsum” sucks. But you have to think something about this. There are many situations in what clients don´t let you stuff and even they don´t know well what they want to say or sell with the designs, and this even worse in web because content is usually longer.

    It´s disgusting work like that, and sometimes clients work in contents when they see “something” made, something visual I mean.

    The uthopic way to work should be the one you get all contents before you begin to design. But this situation it´s not as common as it´s suppose to be.

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    • 48

      I agree, it’s not too common, but the more designers start asking for content beforehand, sooner or later, it will become a standard practice. That’s what we should strive after.

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  19. 49

    There is a time a place for greeking text. Your point is overkill.

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  20. 51

    great article. As someone posted above I tend to break it up when I use it, however it’s never ideal and I usually try to get the content before the project starts. When you don’t have the content though it’s a must to help you show the client where text would go.

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    • 52

      As long as you try, then I guess it’s okay to use it as a last resort. What I don’t understand is designers who will start without even trying to obtain a rough draft of the content?

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