A very good argument for avoiding lorem ipsum

37 Signals, in their free ebook on developing online applications called Getting Real, offer a very good argument for not using the designer’s pal ‘lorem ipsum’ aka ‘greeked’ text. In another life I worked for a software company and during new product demos the engineers inevitably typed the word ‘test’ in every form as fast as they could. I agree with 37′s argument that this just leads to crappy form design:

‘You need real copy to know how long certain fields should be. You need real copy to see how tables will expand or contract. You need real copy to know what your app truly looks like.

As soon as you can, use real and relevant words. If your site or application requires data input, enter the real deal. And actually type in the text — don’t just paste it in from another source. If it’s a name, type a real name. If it’s a city, type a real city. If it’s a password, and it’s repeated twice, type it twice.’

The point here is that as we design web sites we need to consider the user’s interaction with copy, forms and other text at the design stage. Simply dropping in gibberish while waiting for real copy makes it very difficult for clients, testers and writers to get a real feel for how a design communicates.

4 thoughts on “A very good argument for avoiding lorem ipsum”

  1. I disagree and here’s why:
    When we design new websites, the purpose of the initial design phase is typically to get approval on the overall ‘look and feel’ and not necessarily the content. Lorem ipsum’s purpose is to show how a normal distribution of body copy will be formatted and styled without the viewer getting hung up on what it actually says. I think once a look is decided upon, you can start adding some approved copy to a more refined layout, but it seems a waste of time and effort to consider user interaction with copy for every page. With forms, on the other hand, I agree it’s best to show as much of the actual content/fields as possible in the layout. A poorly layed-out form can deter boatloads of people who might be interested in what’s on the other end of the submit button.

  2. It’s my contention that people go to web sites to learn things. This means that the content and how it is displayed is more important than non-text design elements. I realize this puts me at odds with many designers (probably because I am a writer by background). To your point I agree- when presenting layouts you don’t want to throw in copy and have the discussion revolve around draft copy. The primary emphasis of the piece I linked to was on designing for user-interaction. I think we’re in agreement on that.
    This does touch on the ‘traditional brand-driven creative approach vs. information-driven online marketing approach’ that creates such a challenge in the agency world. Clients need both on an equal basis. One begets the other ideally.

  3. Yeah after re-reading the essay, it looks more geared toward avoiding Lipsum text in areas with more user-interaction. Like forms and apps. I definitely agree on avoiding it for such areas in layout. Entering real field values and such definitely help understand your users. I think the post title you chose set me off. Lipsum is useful at times and in some cases should be avoided.

  4. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Nullam rutrum. Vestibulum id sapien vel magna congue rutrum. Phasellus ullamcorper euismod mauris. Sed tempor odio at magna. Phasellus rutrum. Donec ac libero a nisi pharetra porta. Quisque neque erat, semper eget, cursus a, accumsan et, urna. Ut libero.

    I’ll fill in the details later, I just wanted to get this comment started.

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