Why we shouldn’t use Lorem Ipsum when designing a website

Great design tells a story and telling that story comes first. Here's why we decided to not use Lorem Ipsum when designing.
Written by Francesca

We’ve finally made a new rule that will save us a whole lot of pain — to not start a project before we receive working content from the client.

If you’re a designer reading this, you may already abide by this rule and it’s highly likely that you know how it feels to be excited about a new project only to find out the content just isn’t ready yet.

But it’s not entirely the client to blame. Content writing really isn’t easy! It’s part of our job as a digital partner to manage expectations before starting the process and drum down on the importance of having content guidelines or hiring a copywriter.

Although... after providing that advice, mapping out the entire website and providing structure to help outline what content is needed, sometimes there’s still no traction from the client on finalising that text. That’s where it gets a little fiddly. It’s also usually when they ask you the dreaded question, “Can’t you just use Lorem Ipsum for now?”

Copy actually comes first!

As designer and author Jeffrey Zelman rightly says “Content precedes design. Design in the absence of content is not design, it’s decoration.”

Great design tells a story and telling that story comes first. What the website is “saying” is an extension of its brand and the design is simply expressing that content in the most engaging way possible. If a website is based solely on decoration and low quality content, eye candy won’t cut it and it won’t perform well. It’s a style over substance sort of thing.

A weird analogy I just thought of to describe this concept:

The “copywriting” part are the words coming out of your mouth. The “design” part is the pitch, rhythm and volume of the words you’re saying and the expressions on your face you’re making as you’re saying them.

Challenges without having copy

You can’t create hierarchy and layout without copy

Hierarchy of information can be done many ways; different text sizes and weights, positioning, colour prominence and different sized sections to name a few. Design really is about shaping the content. How can we apply this if we don’t know the content?

It can cost you

Designing a website with “Lorem Ipsum” dummy text can be detrimental to when the real content comes in and completely changes the design. This costs extra time, delaying the project, and worst of all: money.

We won’t be able to design the website’s true potential without content

The more context an agency has the more we can highlight the amazing things about the company we’re designing for.

Every website has a message and purpose, the ones we build normally aspire to:

  • Bring more awareness
  • Build trust and admiration
  • Engage and convert

Information in the form of brand systems, text and imagery can all work together to build this message and work out an effective layout that cleverly guides a user throughout the website and bring their attention to some elements more than others based on their importance.

What kind of elements should we be drawing attention to? Here are some examples.

  • Is there an inspiring backstory for the brand that we want to highlight on the homepage, that a user can can click into to learn more?
  • Does the user have a great advantage for choosing you since you have services like free delivery, or free returns, etc?
  • Do you have amazing photography that we can use as impactful full screen or creative image blocks?
  • Are there new products or specific products we want to particularly highlight?

At the end of the day, a visitor that lands on your website wants to know who you are, why they should like you, and why they should choose you. By anticipating what they want will drastically improve their experience on your website and their opinion of your brand. This experience can’t be done with content alone, or with design alone.

After all, flour and water can’t make bread without each other!