Lorem Ipsum is Evil

Lorem ipsum, that place holder text that you often see in website and other graphic design, has been around since the sixteenth century by some accounts, but became popular in the 60s when Madison Avenue and the golden age of advertising took off.  Its use today in web design, however, is corrupting to the point that it’s become evil.

Do you think Apple uses lorem ipsum?

I can’t tell you the number of websites I’ve seen designed with lorem ipsum (some of those designed by yours truly).

 Funny enough, I’ve even seen a few websites go live with some of that lorem ipsum placeholder text still there!  The idea that somehow I need to make a good looking website and then figure out what to say is absurd!  I think a lot of people do this because they (1) don’t know how to do graphic design and (2) they don’t know how to program but they do know how to write (or at least they think they do).  So many folks outsource #1 and #2 and put in lorem ipsum as filler until they themselves can come back after they are done and write the real copy.

So by the time a website creator figures out what they want to say, they already have pretty designs, beautiful buttons, cool interactive charts with nifty forms that all tell half a story that is certainly not aligned.  The end result is either a confusing user experience or a lot of wasted time and money spent fixing it.

I suspect the advent of lorem ipsum was for technical reasons.  Before the age of Photoshop designers would have to actually draw things so it made sense to put in filler text while the actual copy was being worked out.  But today there is no need for that.

So here’s my advice to those planning to build a website.  Start with your message.  Then write a story in words and surround that with whatever the lorem ipsum equivalent of graphics and images is.  Once you’ve nailed your branding, messaging and story to the point where you know exactly the experience you want, only then do you commission expert designers and programmers to manifest your vision.

The last point I’d make on this topic is don’t assume you personally know how to write well.  Most of us don’t know how to do that.  There are really talented writers/branding folks out there who for short money can help you craft a killer story.  In fact, folks who write copy are way cheaper than graphic design folks because the buyers of these services value the latter more.  Think of writers as the equivalent of OBP in the world of Moneyball.