Stop using Lorem Ipsum!

Latin placeholder text aka Lorem Ipsum isn't just a nuisance. Web copywriter John McGarvey argues that it's a massive obstacle to building truly great online experiences, explains what kind of problems it causes and how you, too, can stop using it

If you’re a web designer, you’ll be familiar with Lorem Ipsum. There’s a good chance you’ll have used it at work today. You might even be a fan of the nonsense Latin placeholder text, chuckling away at imitators and parodies like gangsta ipsum, bacon ipsum and even Yorkshire ipsum.

If so, I hope you’ve had your fun, because the joke’s over. Lorem Ipsum is slowly destroying web design, and so it has to die. Let me explain...

A terrible substitute for what matters

Whoever started using Lorem Ipsum in web design did so for a reason. It does a good job of filling gaps on mockups, without being distracting like unfinished content. In short, it helps people focus on how your designs look, rather than what they say.

Maybe that was okay when the web was simple, when flat mockups turned into flat web pages and the idea of a good user experience was having a hit counter to show how popular your site was. But things are different now.

Lorem Ipsum causes far more problems than it solves. It’s a terrible substitute for the thing that matters most about great websites: the right content.

How can your client or boss possibly sign off on a web page if it doesn’t contain meaningful content? Sure, they can give a thumbs up if it looks good, but that’s very different to approving a design that works well and does what it needs to.

The wider message that Lorem Ipsum sends out is even more damaging. Every time you use it in a mockup or wireframe, you reinforce the idea that content is secondary. That it doesn’t matter. That you can just whip something up and drop it in at the last minute, and everything will be fine.

It’s no way to create great websites.

Content is web design

What goes on a web page and the way that page is designed are not two separate things. They’re inextricably bound up in each other. Considering one in isolation is harder than trying to separate a web designer from a brand new Macbook Pro.

Great websites are a marriage between amazing content and inspiring design. You have to create the two together. If you don’t, you might still get it right, but you probably won’t. The most common result is a beautiful yet impractical website.

Web designers are kidding themselves if they think they can do their best work without thinking about content from the start. It’s not so much that content is king, but more that content is web design. One won’t work without the other. What your site says is forever linked to the way it looks and how it functions.

So, Latin placeholder text isn’t just a simple nuisance. It’s a plague on web design, a massive obstacle to building truly great online experiences. There’s no need for it in a world where content goes right to the heart of every successful website.

Just stop using it, ok?

Killing Lorem Ipsum doesn’t need to be a huge job. It can be as simple as not using it any more. So, next time you’re tempted to reach for some handy placeholder nonsense text, stop and consider the alternatives.

If you have the budget, you can bring in a professional writer. Sit down together at the start of the project and keep working closely together. Base yourselves in the same office, talk on the phone regularly, keep an open channel on Skype ... however you do it, your aim is to match design with content for every single element of the site.

If you don’t have the luxury of being able to pay a writer, you might have to get creative. Find someone in your company who can write, create the content yourself or ask your client for help. In truth, almost anything is better than Latin nonsense, as long as it gives you some idea of how the page will work and what people should click on.

Together we can destroy Lorem Ipsum and create better websites. Who’s with me?