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Lorem Ipsum: is content for dummies?

January 28th, 2009 by mdmcginnis

For five hundred years, publishers have been using a Latin text beginning with the words “Lorem ipsum” as a dummy placeholder for upcoming content. (It comes from a 1st century Roman essay by Cicero, and it basically says, “No pain, no gain, but pleasure is nothing to sneeze at.”) A recent article at A List Apart mourns the survival into the Web age of that tradition of dummy text.

What’s wrong with “Lorem ipsum” in Web design? Because it assumes that you can put together a Web page before you know what it’s going to say. It assumes that you can decide how a page should look before you’ve been told why.

Now, I might spring for the Lorem ipsum myself if I were told that the Department of Widget Science is going to want me to publish their new page a few minutes after they decide what it’s going to say. I’d want to get a jump on the design process too. But I wouldn’t be happy about it.

As one content strategist writes, words are the engine that drives the Web. Nailing down your purpose before you start a Web project is not a distraction, it’s a time-saver. If the subject matter experts can’t decide on their goals, that simply means they’re letting the Web designer decide. If they decide later, that simply means the website will get finished even later while the designer undoes her previous work.

Now, many Web professionals happened to have gained word skills and built up client savvy along the way. In fact, some of our campus webmasters have a strong marketing and communications background. But I’ve found myself writing headlines (the most important part of the Web page) for big clients who never knew I had experience as a magazine editor. Something tells me it wasn’t because they thought I was important enough to do the work. It was because they didn’t think the work was important enough to do themselves.

In our next thrilling installment on search engine optimization: the weighty subject of anchor text.

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009 Web Content
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1 Comment to Lorem Ipsum: is content for dummies?

  1. Interesting that you wrote this over a month ago and today, March 2, I read it and a tweet talking about doing a search at your university for ‘lorem ipsum’ or ‘blah’ RE:

    Sadly, I think we (the royal we) have too many production pages with filler text. How do we fight this fight. I guess we do it at the same pace we fix inaccessibility, broken links, and poor design.

  2. Chris Siems on March 2nd, 2010

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