UIEtips: In Defense of Lorem Ipsum

Jared Spool

June 27th, 2012

Remember the famous question, what comes first, the chicken or the egg? The world of user experience has a similar question, what comes first, design or content? The last few years there’s been a strong movement for content first. The belief is that completely fake data, like Lorem Ipsum, restricts us from truly evaluating the web sites and what the user experience will truly be like.

Designers think differently. It’s practically impossible to create an effective design without knowing content size and how it should be displayed. In truth, it’s difficult to have one without the other.

So when is it OK to use Lorem Ipsum? Before you say never, Karen McGrane has come up with a good argument of when it’s appropriate to use it and why you would use it. I think you’ll find the article (originally printed on Karen’s web site), a worthwhile read and definitely, “food for thought.”

Read the article: In Defense of Lorem Ipsum

If you haven’t attended a workshop or talk with Karen McGrane, you must. She’s consistently a top rated speaker and we feel fortunate to have her for two upcoming events. This Thursday, June 28, Karen will present a UIE Virtual Seminar, Content Strategy for Mobile.

Karen’s also giving a full-day workshop at the User Interface 17 Conference on Monday, November 5 on Integrating Content Strategy in Your UX Process. Learn more about her workshop and the other 7 workshops at UICONF.com.

Do you use Lorem Ipsum in your design work? Share your experiences with us below.

4 Responses to “UIEtips: In Defense of Lorem Ipsum”

  1. Jane Says:

    Great, balanced article from Karen, but FYI Lorem ipsum is Latin, not Greek.

  2. Virginia (Ginger) Bisek Says:

    Totally agree with the author. It’s a balance. And sometimes using copy in design gets the client thinking ahead – about issues that need to be covered NOW, and not pushed off until later.

    Plus, as a copywriter, I present all my copy in a visual manner similar to a website (using Word and tables) so that low-techie clients get on board as soon as possible. Yes, be prepared to field a lot of questions, but when has a copywriter ever NOT had this problem?

    I used to have a “hands off” approach to design (after all, designers are responsible for design, right?) – but that’s not an approach toward what I like to call “efficient success.” Website design is a team project. And I welcome copy critiques from designers as well.

    I really appreciate how UIE is covering more and more content development issues. Thank you!

    – Ginger

  3. Jeremias Says:

    I so agree, it is just one of the tools in the box and it indeed has a place there.

    I just recently ran into one of the problems caused by using actual copy instead of Lorem Ipsum and plain descriptive titles for headers, links and navigation in the wire frames shown to the client. This was the first meeting with the client as a designer (our manager and sales reps had been in contact with them). The conversation pretty soon veered off to content because the journalist who is working on the actual copy started to re-arrange the sitemap on the printed out wire frames and handing out tasks to us… We made notes of them and navigated on.

    This is actually not that big of a problem but it is illustrates the fact that people usually focus their attention to what is meaningful and familiar to them at the expense of the bigger picture and how they are guided and asked to interpret it.

    Like wire frames for example, where others see concepts, models and their relations and can easily identify them some see the literal meaning of the words instead of layout elements/data types and their function in the layout/system.

    For designers, seeing the actual data and designing on it is vitally important (as much as designing with clients/users is).

    What you show to clients and at which phase is a different thing altogether and as soon as the move to a functional and interactive prototype can be achieved the better. There Lorem Ipsum shouldn’t have a place anymore.

  4. Karen McGrane Says:

    Lorem ipsum is indeed Latin, and more background about this passage by Cicero, including translations, can be found at http://www.lipsum.com/.

    The process of displaying placeholder copy is often referred to as “greeked” text, probably from the phrase, “It’s Greek to me.” Learn more at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greeking

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