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July 06, 2018

Testing is a critical part of building usable digital products. A testing environment with relevant content encourages more thoughtful feedback, that can then be used to craft a more tailored user experience.

What is Lorem Ipsum?

Lorem Ipsum is dummy text used by publishers and designers when the original copy is not available. They use it to keep the workflow going and to get clients approval on designs.

“Lorem Ipsum is dummy text used by publishers and designers when the original copy is not available.”

The text has been used in the printing and typesetting industries since the 1500s and has more recently been adopted in the Tech industry. The preference for Lorem Ipsum as a default text “filler” is generally attributed to its generic nature, with its even distribution of letters, and the assumption that this will be less likely to distract testers.



Here’s a link to the history and the meaning of Lorem Ipsum:

Problems with Lorem Ipsum

How can you design for something you don’t even understand? How can insignificant content contribute to creating a customized experience?

Testing with Lorem Ipsum is like being lost in the ocean without a chart (map), you’ll never find your way.

It’s hard to get people’s feedback on something they don’t know and it’s hard for you to design for something you don’t know. Lorem Ipsum is a way of delaying decisions about content.

“Lorem Ipsum is a way of delaying decisions about content.”

Real content is better

When I say with real content, I mean content similar to the one you will end up using in a working software-related field, similar length, and tone of voice.

Don’t delay content because you’re struggling to fill in the blanks. Do some research, put something in there, test and get some quick feedback. Iterate until you get it right. There are many ways to get real content, have a look at the tips below.

Get valuable feedback

The content should be relevant to your product and users. When people are able to read the content, they will give you feedback about the copy and how they feel about it. This will push you to reflect on the type of messages you communicate and the tone of voice that makes people trust your platform.

Sometimes, people, you are testing with will bring up questions that you haven’t even thought about. They will give you examples of similar things they use that might help you with your design. With Lorem Ipsum, you won’t get any of that.

Adapt the design to the text length, not the opposite

Because no one understands Latin nowadays, designers tend to cut the lorem ipsum text when it pleases them to keep their designs nice and tidy. In reality, content is not the same size, you might have restrictions like between 400 and 600 words but nobody will ask you to write a 600-word article on the dot.

The problem with Lorem Ipsum (Left: App with dummy content, Right: App with real content)

When you use real content you can’t pick and choose the words that fit your layout. You will be forced to think deeper and adapt your layout to your content. Make sure you design for different sizes and think about restrictions and cases of usage.

How to get real content

Get your clients involved

Your clients usually know their field better than you do. They have years of experience and can add a lot of value to your design. Have them involved in the process but also raise any questions or doubts you have regarding the copy. Ask for resources and feedback. Be specific otherwise, they wouldn’t know what you expect from them.

Use your client partners

Let’s say the platform you design has a news section and the content will use APIs from The Daily Telegraph and The Time. Well, you can use that content to feed your prototypes. Even if your clients change partners, your prototypes are still valid and will have more or less the same kind of content.

“Your clients usually know their field better than you do.”

Use your competitors

Unless it’s a brand new concept, when you carry out your competitor analysis, you end up usually with a list of platforms that do similar things to what you are trying to do. You can use their content instead, it’s more accurate than Lorem Ipsum.

Ask for resources from your testers

When testing, ask people to provide you with resources they use in their daily life. This works very well with specialized platforms targeting a niche set of users. They can help you get the content right. Usually, people are happy to help and would put some of their time to feel that fulfillment. Just be kind, polite and let it flow.

Wrap up

With Lorem Ipsum, the design has no soul nor emotion. By using real content, you force yourself to think about the message you want to communicate with your users. Let’s forget about ‘some content goes here and there’ and start using the real content.

If you enjoyed this article, like it, share it and talk about it. Here are some other publications you might find useful:

What the hell is UX?
Want a career in UX? Start here
All that you need to try Google Material Design

Note: this article had been originally published in Marvel Why Testing with Real Content Is Better Than Lorem Ipsum. A big thanks to Graeme Fulton for the illustrations.

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