Lorem Ipsum Is a Crime

A copy and paste-able ode to a terrible design tool

I hate Lorem Ipsum.

I’m not afraid to say it. In fact, I rant about it so often that one of the designers on my team suggested I write down my feelings and publish it as my own Lorem Ipsum. Then designers could use it in their mockups, just like Bacon Ipsum or Hipster Ipsum.

Damn, I thought. You millennials are so meta.

Wanting to be one of the cool kids, I got to work. I wrote a fevered indictment of Lorum Ipsum and put it on Wordpress for your copy and pasting pleasure. Find it here: Snooty Ipsum.

Here’s the full text. You can read it or copy and paste it into your design, if you must.

Lorem Ipsum is a crime. It’s an insult to the design profession. OK, fine. If you’re doing some graphic layout for a content site go ahead and use it. I guess. If you must. But all you product designers out there, all you UX designers, all you people who claim to craft experiences, don’t let me catch you Lorem Ipsum-ing.

When you’re designing a user flow, you need to be thinking about what you’re trying to communicate. Placeholder copy is a crutch that lets you put off solving the real problem in hopes that a writer will fix it for you later. Even if you’re designing a social media feed and using stand-in copy to represent user content, you should still be thinking about what kind of content that user has in their account. You’ve got to make it real. As real as possible, or you’re going to miss something.

Then you’ve got to think about your work partners who are trying to interpret your design. People are like a moth to a flame when it comes to words on a screen. We can’t help reading them. So when you put a bunch of forum opossum on a page (yes my auto-corrector just changed “lorem ipsum” to “forum opossum”) a lot of people will find themselves struggling to decipher its meaning. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been sitting in a design review that got totally derailed by misleading “placeholder” copy.

Wait, says the PM. What does this mean? That’s just placeholder copy, the designer exclaims. But it’s too late. The damage is done. The PM is confused, the engineering manager is having a good chuckle, the designer’s cheeks are red. Everyone is relieved that they no longer have to focus on doing serious work. The UX flow that was so painstakingly crafted — except for the copy — is now the butt of a joke. Sorry. Shouldn’t have used Lorem Ipsum.

So, here’s a suggestion. Instead of thoughtless “placeholder copy,” just give it your best shot. Write what the dialog, or banner, or modal, or toast is trying to communicate, even if you feel like you don’t have the right words. I think you’ll find that trying to figure out what the actual words should say will really help you think through what the design itself is trying to accomplish. And it’s great for getting a sense of how much space the copy will take. Sometimes you’ll realize that one step in your flow should be broken into two, or maybe two steps can be combined into one. But you only have that realization when you finally think about the words.

In summation, Lorem Ipsum is the worst. It’s a dead end. A cognitive brick wall. You can’t help staring at it, but it tells you nothing about itself. It’s like one of those pretty goths you knew in high school who dressed up all fancy, but never said anything. They just sat there trying to look deep, hoping you’d think they were special. But really they were empty on the inside.

Thanks for reading, or sharing, or copy and pasting.

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