Start Designing With Actual Content

“Lorem ipsum.” It’s the ubiquitous latin placeholder text that we see in our wireframes and website designs, but while it is a convenient way of padding out a concept it isn’t an accurate reflection of website content. As Liam King points out “we don’t need perfect content in imperfect prototypes, but we do need something better than gibberish”.

So why don’t we design with actual content more often? Most of the time it’s because the source material we have at our disposal needs to be rewritten (and reapproved) or it just doesn’t exist yet. Rather than hold up the project while we wait for content to catch up we plough ahead by filling our wireframes and designs with Latin.

The downside of this approach is that when content is finally ready we have difficulty fitting it back into our interfaces because our dummy text was a poor substitute for actual content.

Here are a few alternatives to consider the next time you are putting together a page layout.

Existing website content

The current website’s copy and imagery might need to tweaking before it is ready for prime time but it’s still likely to be a close match for where it will end up. It will still allow you to get insights into how your design will behave with different types of content.

Write your own

You may not be a professional copywriter but you do know your target audience and their content needs so go ahead and write your own. What you create may not be a perfect fit but that’s not your goal, your aim is to get feedback and validation.

Use a different online resource

If you insist on using predefined online placeholder text then the least you can do is to swap the gibberish for actual readable English. There are plenty of other online resources that are great alternatives.

One of my favourites is Not Lorem Ipsum which has a collection of industry based sample text packages for you to use on your projects.

Don’t use text at all

Lorem Ipsum can be confusing for those who are new to digital. I’m sure we can all recount situations where stakeholders mistake the dummy text for actual copy.

The BLOKK font converts your text to indistinguishable bars that resemble text which may help to alleviate the confusion.

Content is *still* king

At the end of the day nothing beats using actual content in your work. While there is extra effort required to use alternatives I believe that the quality of the feedback you receive makes it a valuable exercise.

First impressions count in digital and high quality feedback lets you refine your user experience before a project launches. The value of this far outweighs the effort to replace dummy text with real copy and imagery.


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