Who Needs Copy When You Have Lorem Ipsum?

A teal colored slide with a gray bottom border that had Lorem ipsum text displayed

Clearly, we are joking. But it is actually a good question. Doesn’t Lorem Ipsum do all the heavy lifting when laying out web content? It can, but the results and impact on copy might not work out in the site owner’s favor. Here’s why.

Every successful design project is driven by a story.

Stories are integral to the way we humans experience and engage with the world around us. Consider this: as the owner of a website you are responsible for placing the customer in the story of your product. It is the job of the designer to make sure that the story is visually compelling and moves the reader (customer) effectively to the conclusion or call to action. The digital age has opened us up to a whole new approach of storytelling, specifically in the realm of online marketing. And as a primarily visual medium, the web demands that layout and artwork support your website’s story.

Often when weaving together the key elements of a website’s story there is tension between the content and layout. Site owners are sometimes surprised at how iterative the process of building a site can be – discovering that layout will sometimes dictate content, particularly when it comes to copy. One of the mechanisms available to manage this tension is Lorem Ipsum or placeholder text.

It is common for web professionals to use Lorem Ipsum – nonsensical filler text – to showcase typography and layout options. You’ve seen it before – it looks something like this:

A two column page display that has a robot image at the top of the left column and a laptop at the top of the right column with Lorem ipsum text displayed below both images

In Defense of Lorem Ipsum

It is widely believed that since the 16th-century designers and printers have used Lorem Ipsum as place holder text. Its persistence makes perfect sense when you consider how fundamentally useful it is. This mash-up of nonsensical Latin actually accomplishes a lot, it…

  • Reduces distraction. Lorem Ipsum allows the client to focus on the design instead of stylistic changes.
  • Offers an easy way to explore type and layout options during the first design stages.
  • Provides a useful framework – a blueprint of sorts – to help guide the client’s content choices.
  • Serves as an efficient way to relay a design idea and can be a good solution for clients who are on a smaller budget and comfortable entering their own content.
  • Helps designers and developers keep the project moving along when web copy is still in the works.

But there is another side of the coin: content and design are intrinsically intertwined. As designers, we make sense of visual hierarchy, distribution of text, flow, and use of typography. We think about the many ways the user will interact with our designs. But when we don’t have real content to work with or when the content available conflicts too strongly with the design, we end up tapping in the dark.


The Case for Web Copy

There are several reasons we often prefer actual copy over Lorem Ipsum. It…

  • Provides the designer with important details needed to make solid visual choices. The result is a design that is truly unique to your business.
  • Allows clients to take an active role in the design process: clients who provide copy at the beginning of a project have put substantial thought into their website, and have a much better idea of their overall message. It also means they can focus on the visual and receive valuable feedback from web professionals before the website has been built and is about to launch.
  • Mitigates an involuntary tug of war between real-world web copy and the strict confinements of the perfectly tweaked Lorem Ipsum layouts. When web copy doesn’t fit the allotted space, a beautiful design can quickly turn messy.
  • Improves efficiency: entering content once saves time. It also leads to fewer mistakes and last-minute change requests.

So then, what is the best way to manage a situation when copy and design are in conflict? Both designer and site owner needs to know when to be flexible and when to be firm, and both must do their best to communicate the priorities that drive those decisions. Here at Earthling, we believe the best time to mitigate this tension is at the earliest stages of the website development process. We encourage clients to plan copy (including writing the bulk of it) as early as possible and often provide guidelines to give writers a sense of the parameters (word count especially) copywriters should strive to accommodate. Lorem Ipsum is a terrific tool to help bridge those times when copy is not yet available or when we need to negotiate content to fit design, but everyone is happiest when there is as little daylight between design and copy as possible.

Take Your Project to the Next Level

Ask us how we can take your website or application to the next level. Not only do we offer in house design and development services, but we also work closely with some of our area’s leading marketing agencies to produce excellent websites and web-based products.