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When prototyping do you typically use real or dummy content? Please give your reasons.

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For actually creating Prototypes? I can't see how you can use anything other than real content - how are you going to test navigation and usability with dummy content? ("Here's how you get from the Lorem page to the Ipsum page"?) However, if you're talking about just the Wireframe stage, then that's probably different. –  JonW Aug 1 '13 at 15:55
    
It might be helpful to define what you mean by "prototype". –  Bennett McElwee Aug 2 '13 at 2:51
    
I was leaving it purposely vague. Typically I imagined a HTML prototype but it could be dekstop app, axure etc. I agree with most of the answers given below, if you can get real content then you should use it. As prototyping is typically far enough along in the process that at least some approximate content is available. –  Sheff Aug 2 '13 at 7:29
    
@JonW I have encountered one (and only one) case where prototyping with dummy content worked well. We were running tests on a generic idiom to be used in numerous places throughout the system and we didn't want to bias users in favor of thinking about the interaction in the context of any one of these places. I agree, though, that in most cases it simply doesn't make sense to prototype without real content. –  3nafish Aug 3 '13 at 1:04
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7 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

If I'm creating a layout for a publication and it's in its initial stage, I'll use Lorem Ipsum.

But when I'm creating prototypes for interfaces, I always use real data. You learn more from putting real content on there than you would with a block of random text. I also find that when I'm getting feedback from other people, it's useful for them to see the kind of data that I intend to put in certain places. If it's copy, it doesn't need to be the final copy, just a gist of what will likely go in certain places.

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It depends on the resources available to you and the audience for the prototype. If you have the resources to create real copy, I absolutely would. At the very least, I would try to create approximate copy for navigation and key instructional copy.

If you are creating a prototype for usability testing, you will want to make sure that the testers have enough information to complete testing scenarios. Walk through the tasks yourself to make sure you have the necessary copy in place.

If you are creating a prototype for investors or business clients, you will want the prototype to be as finished as possible. That means including real copy.

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Either method is acceptable depending on the fidelity of the prototype. I would use accurate copy in key area like headings, helper text and action items. As I've seen users get hung up on the placeholder text and loose focus on the given task. Conversely, if the copy is time sensitive or could be distracting out of context (specific tweets or stock quotes), I tend to use more general content.

In lo-fi prototypes, longer blocks of text I use lorem ispum (actually veggie ispum: http://veggieipsum.com/). If the fidelity of the prototype is high, I would use real text.

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+1 just for the veggieipsum, but only because the about page showed me the way to the real gold - baconipsum.com !!!! –  Nrgdallas Aug 1 '13 at 23:02
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If you have content at the prototyping stage using it instead a place holder will give you a more accurate picture. The caveat here is that the content may change sometime after the prototyping stage, so the picture may not be completely accurate. You need to use experience and common sense to understand what will happen to the design if and when the content changes.

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In my line of work, using real content for prototyping is almost impossible (e.g. confidentiality, regulation, etc.). Indeed using real data is not for everyone.

Also for dummy content, there are two types of dummy

  • gibberish dummy data (e.g. Lorem ipsum, rand(), etc)
  • Dummy data that is made almost like real data (fake data that looks plausible)

for initial discussion with fellow designers and developers, I create low fidelity prototype with gibberish dummy data (sometimes I just use blocked area to indicate the location and size)

for later discussion with other business units (e.g. picky people), I use almost real dummy data here and there.

TLDR; use whatever stuff that works and move from there.

Also it is worth to point out that it is very important to design prototype that does not have any data inside - the state before user actually use the system.

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Marc Serughetti defines the prototype as under

"A prototype model is built to test a concept or act as an early platform to validate that a design meets the target user’s requirements. The prototype will typically include as many, if not all, priority aspects of the design including the hardware/software operation, mechanical and external interfaces"

A prototype typically contains following elements

  • visual design (guidlines)
  • navigation design
  • information architechure
  • content strategy

If you use dummy content, you cannot depict your content strategy and the information architechure which heavily depends upon it. That means such a prototype will be reflecting some navigational aspects and the visual outlook of the application only. If these elements in your prorotype satisfies your prototyping objectives then it is good enough.

But

If you want to take most value out of your prototype, it must have actual content used in it. Inside-Out approach towards website/application design advocates that you think about the need of users before anything else. Think why they would use this application/website and then think how can you satify their need. In fulfilling this need if your content is important, it must be part of your strategy, design and development lifecycle including the prototypes you build and test.

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Prototyping is typically a form of testing (POC or user testing or what have you) and, therefore, content is likely part of what you want to be testing.

Use real content for prototyping when the content is part of what you are testing (which I'd say is the case most of the time, but not necessarily all the time).

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