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Without getting into the debate about whether lorem ipsum is useful for not in design, this question is about how to discourage people from using irrelevant text in design because when actual and relevant content is placed in the user interface often that's the time when people realize that they should have tested it against more relevant content.

I can think of a couple of options, but I would like to know if there's more strategies out there:

People are not aware of its importance:

  • develop requirements that incorporate content and not just features

People find it too hard to come up with their own:

  • provide actual data from your existing users
  • provide fictional data based on actual data types/formats
  • go to website or services that provide such data

People find it too hard to use the data:

  • incorporate it into existing design patterns (i.e. a list of labels or inputs along with the components and styling)
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    This feels like a debating topic. But, for my part, I only use Lorem when the client has specified the need for text but (for whatever reason) has not provided any. Then it is up to the client to find a way to make the text fit and they are always warned of this. – Andrew Martin Jun 21 '17 at 6:57
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    In an ideal world, you would have the content first :D How can you design something that you do not know what it would contain? – Dimitra Miha Jun 21 '17 at 8:58
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    I tend to have worked in reverse. Design based around actual content, but I've then found that showing it to stakeholders they start quibbling about the wording, so I've retrofitted the content to lorem for stakeholder demo's. That's really where lorem comes in handy - once you have the designs sorted you can change it to lorem so people focus on the design, not the copy. But yes, require the copy be provided up-front and design from that if at all possible. – JonW Jun 21 '17 at 9:44
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    Michael, I know you tend to post discussions rather than questions. Sometimes (most of the times) they're quite interesting, but this is not an UX question at all. You're kind of asking how to create a movement to end with some specific behavior from... designers? developers? programmers? I really don't get the question or what would be a possible correct answer. Go to bed without dinner? Go to jail? Electric chair? – Devin Jun 24 '17 at 3:46
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    @MichaelLai you are not "asking for strategies to avoid" you are asking "to discourage its use". Lorem Ipsum at al. have their uses, specially when you are doing design per se, without a particular client or job in mind. – roetnig Jun 27 '17 at 6:20
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Lorem ipsum does have its uses. It is used to keep readers focused on layout instead of content.

This is needed when reviewing the design and layout of a project.

It is a long established fact that a reader will be distracted by the readable content of a page when looking at its layout. The point of using Lorem Ipsum is that it has a more-or-less normal distribution of letters, as opposed to using 'Content here, content here', making it look like readable English.

Source: Lorem ipsum - All the facts

"...I suggest that you do not use the real copy, use 'Lorem Ipsum' or any fake body copy. This stops the client from focusing on the text or that tiny spelling error that crept in and helps them focus on the concept".

Source: Know Your Onions: Graphic Design by Drew De Soto

Keep a few points in mind.

In my experience, I always try to use real text. When you use real text, make sure it is representative text. Clients will struggle to look at your design if they see incorrect text. However, it is not always possible to provide the real text. In some cases the client might not have provided the real text or it might not be ready yet.

Always use real titles to make the text of your design more scannable. Your client will scan your text and having real titles will be a good thing to have.

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    I agree strongly with the first point. More often than not, whenever I've provided a client with a design containing real text they've sent me a list of corrections for the text. And explaining that you're not the copywriter is often easier said than done. @NGAFD If you want another citation for your answer, Know Your Onions: Graphic Design by Drew De Soto puts it eloquently: "...I suggest that you do not use the real copy, use 'Lorem Ipsum' or any fake body copy. This stops the client from focusing on the text or that tiny spelling error that crept in and helps them focus on the concept". – Joel Tebbett Jun 26 '17 at 12:14
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+50

To avoid or discourage use of 'Lorem Ipsum' I may use any or all of the following strategies when needing textual content during various design stages.

  • Evangelise the importance of content as the language of conversation. Designs are meant to communicate: not just to communicate the layout to developers - but to show the expected communication between the service and the user. We should therefore speak the language of the user. What is the conversation we want to have with the user? Use those words. Imagine the words the user want to use back to us. Users don't speak Lorem Ipsum, so how is it right that we design around a random or nonsensical communication? How does Lorem Ipsum help communicate with Blind users and screen readers.

  • If we don't know or understand the gist of the content, we haven't fully understood the problem space. Even if we don't have specifics, think about how much (or rather how little) we can generalize in each area. We want to get as close to the user mindset as possible - as early as possible.

  • During early design, if I have no real or final content or a given scenario, I use something as close to real data as I can possibly find. It's hypothetical text - a placeholder. People will speak out if it doesn't seem right and every time I get feedback, I will improve the content to make it more real. Nobody will correct Lorem Ipsum for me, so it will never get better and I won't learn anything new or unexpected.

  • For some scenarios I consider worst case content and incorporate examples of that: Very short text, very long text, long words. It doesn't have to be the most common or representative text - just indicative of problematic characteristics that allow us to focus on problems the user may see. The test department and domain experts can help with this. Translating to German can help if internationalization is required. Lorem Ipsum doesn't translate.

  • Task a content person or team with researching content for initial mock-ups and providing real content in time for high quality prototypes.

  • If working in an agile team and using Stories with a Definition of Ready, then include 'preparing of content' as part of either being ready. Or single it out as an early task in the story -i.e. build it into the process rather than it being an inconvenience to find something suitable.

  • If given a design which incorporates Lorem Ipsum, I will try and replace it as soon as possible by real content and feed back with a bunch of questions that make it clear that Lorem Ipsum isn't enough on it's own. For example, Lorem Ipsum is often copied verbatim from somewhere, so how is the design intended to cater for markup, hypertext, highlighting, title capitalisation, quotes, etc.

  • I don't make it an obnoxious commandment: 'Thou shalt not use Lorem Ipsum'. But I do make sure I comment to others when I see it being used, and why it shouldn't in that particular case. Sometimes though, I accept that it is just not The Most Important Thing. I let it lie and perhaps someone else comments on it instead. Result!

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For me, the answer is simple and obvious. If a company want that a designer use relevant content, should hire a copywriter to provide relevant content first or in parallel.

Design combined with relevant content is stronger.

Here is an article that provides some good arguments: Collaboration Between Designers and Copywriters.

There could be a scientific reason for why design is stronger when designers and copywriters work together. Design work utilizes the right hemisphere of the brain, the side believed to be responsible for creative thinking, interpreting colors, recognizing images, and expressing emotions. Writing incorporates the left side of the brain, responsible for language, logic and critical thinking.

"How to discourage" seems a little too demanding. My opinion is the solution is to promote good examples.

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    +1 I'll probably change it to 'encourage' after the bounty is over. – Michael Lai Jun 27 '17 at 22:20
  • I think 'encourage' sounds better. – Madalina Taina Jun 28 '17 at 6:02
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I strive to use a draft of what the real text could be, simply because it helps me estimate space and the client with deciding how much text we actually need. Actual content is usually seen as an afterthought to design. Many times clients don't really think about what they want to say until they're confronted by a rough draft. This usually leads to requests to use less text or a realisation that we don't need certain elements in the design, because they have no way of keeping the contents up to date, think features like blog posts or tips.

I know lorem ipsum is used to prevent people from focusing on text, but text IS part of your design. Using a rough draft of what should be written there helps putting the design in context and strengthening the message your design is trying to convey. For that reason I only use lorem ipsum when the client specifically requests it to save time and they will write the copy. I do warn them about it though.

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This has been a long time debate about using real text or Lorem.

We worked on a mobile banking app recently, where we decided to use real text on the Terms & Condition design, although we tested this design with many users; most participants didn't even bother going through the text, they just selected the "I agree" button. When we asked them the reason behind this, most of them explained that it is something they do often. We had use the T&C of another mobile banking app from one of our competititors for this purpose.

However, when we presented the same design to the stakeholders, the marketing team and others where quick to notice what we had added into the design. They were not comfortable at all that we didn't use the REQUIRED texts even though it is just at design stage.

And I quite agree with the stakeholders, because whatever you submit to the development team is what they tends to go with. Using the real text all through design process is actually the best way to go as this removed any questions been raised by stakeholders and participants during presentations and testing.

  • +1 Even though I am not specifically asking about the merits of using real text or lorem ipsum, you have covered some important points in your answer. – Michael Lai Jun 27 '17 at 22:24
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I would say that in any design there are places where Lorem ipsum can be helpful, and others where it is not.

For example, Lorem ipsum is helpful when indicating an area of flowing text. Real data is more useful for things like user names, where basing a design on the idea that all users have names like "Joe Smith" can have serious UX impact.

But even if you cannot have real user names, for example, you can use existing services to randomly generate users or come up with some very long names (and use accents as well just to annoy the developers) like "Henrietta Michaela Sotomayor-Müller" so you can see how space, line breaks and proposed solutions like ellipses work in the real world.

If you don't have real data and Lorem ipsum doesn't work for the job at hand, You can use a label to show what goes there, but this can have drawbacks. For example, if where the invoice number goes I just put "Invoice number," then when a stakeholder wants to cram more stuff in, and I say there's not room, they'll point to "Invoice number" and say there's room. I should have used a fake long invoice number (or pulled the longest invoice number in our database) like INV_Volkswagen_North_America_VW-2928263-183_12/07/2017-FINAL-B.pdf, because sometimes they look like that and if I don't allow space for that we're in trouble.

I totally sympathize with those who have stakeholders who want to discuss copy. I once worked in the healthcare info tech field, and my company required us to use valid text in all comps and wireframes. So I would have to meet with doctors to come up with a valid medical conversation to display in a messaging app, for example. Even then UX presentations would devolve into discussions like about whether that was the appropriate dosage for that medication in that situation. Boy, did I long for Lorem ipsum then!

So, to answer your question, I would develop guidelines based on your company's needs and indicate where real data, Lorem ipsum, made-up data or generated data is allowable.

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Clearly Lorem Ipsum has its pros and cons. But often the client already has a source for at least some of the content. Let's face it, we're often rebuilding old websites rather than delivering a website to someone who has never had one before.

Whilst some of the copy will change, a lot won't - staff profiles, terms and conditions, privacy policy, environmental policy, values, etc.

An in a competitive situation where multiple parties are submitting designs to the client, it can help you stand out as someone who went the extra mile to help the client visualise your concept.

  • +1 I think the idea that you can show that you have 'gone the extra mile' for the client is a good reason to not use lorem ipsum. – Michael Lai Jan 31 '18 at 0:52

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