Jan 18, 2016

Why We Don’t Use Lorem Ipsum

Lorem Ipsum was developed as a typesetter’s tool to help plan for the long blocks of copy that printers would need in producing books and magazines. But it’s been carried over to web design and has been overused as a design shortcut.

We advise against using Lorem Ipsum or “Greek text” for your web projects at all costs. We’re not the first ones to say this, but it bears repeating: Here’s why.

It Just Doesn’t Fit

Designing a page without understanding the content is like buying a wardrobe of clothes for a person you’ve never met or seen. Think about the consequences: “Sorry, buddy. I see now that you’re five-foot-two, but these suits were on sale at the Big & Tall, and the client has already approved them. So, could you just put them on?”

The person wearing someone else’s clothes would look and feel like a slob. Stuffing your content into a pre-determined project designed using Lorem Ipsum does the same thing. Clients paying good money for a project deserve better.

Websites Have Changed

Today’s web is no longer made of endless paragraphs of text with a few postcard photos that download in the sidebar on your dial-up modem. Modern web pages are made of dozens of chunks of short body copy, images, videos, banners, buttons and infographics — and they’re viewed on all types of devices. And as the speed with which people browse and consume web content has increased, the words, images and design are working together faster than ever to convey verbal-visual messages efficiently.

This means web project teams have to collaborate more closely than before, in order to effectively plan the overall message that the pages, images, video and text will deliver. When our teams plan content for a site, we always start by outlining all the information the site needs to hold. This working site content outline specifies what needs to be said, what type of content it should be, where it lives in the hierarchy and how much there is to say.

Don’t Guess at Content: Outline It

A good content outline can help site designers develop a better site map, with a page count that makes sense. Why specify three pages when just one page with multiple sections can carry all the content you need? Today’s web users are more likely to scan and skim down the page for the right information than they are to patiently read endless columns of text. As a result, many sites now feature longer, scrolling pages made of several short content chunks.

But as well as content outlines work, not all projects use them. Many web designers and developers still start by drafting a site map, getting it approved, and then building out wireframes using Lorem Ipsum as a placeholder. This process puts in place a crude information architecture (and de facto content outline) without the benefit of considering what the content will actually need to say.

Once the sitemap and wireframes have been approved, it’s too late to consider content carefully. The site developers may have even begun coding pages. The content teams now have to write five paragraphs of copy for the page because the wireframe shows five paragraphs of Lorem Ipsum, regardless of whether the topic actually calls for more or less content than that.

In the same way, site designers may also assume that each page or section needs a title, a subtitle, body copy and a call-to-action, and code the pages this way, even when some of these content elements might be redundant or unnecessary. Worst of all, each page wireframe features a large image placeholder, whether it belongs there or not. (You know why websites get packed with those terrible stock photos we all love to hate? Because some poor site designer was scrambling to fill out a pre-set website design with images at the last minute.)

How You Fix It

Use real words and pictures. Don’t “Greek” it in. If you’re tasked with designing a page, write in some actual placeholder content. It doesn’t have to be final; it doesn’t even have to be good. Make up headlines or body copy if you have to. They’re so much closer than nonsense.

Better yet, get your content team involved early and ask them for some rough “working” content, so you can understand how the words and images are going to function in your layout. Same with images. Put a placeholder picture of a product or person in your design. It might help you see that verbal/visual content needs to be treated differently.

Good web projects deliver content effectively and efficiently. Good web design considers content first. When content and design inform one another, projects come out better overall, and we make a real difference for the brand.

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