The Three Most Dangerous Words In Web Design: “Lorem, Ipsum, and Dolor”

If you’ve ever worked with a Web Designer (dangerous creatures who live in dark rooms, surrounded by monitors and empty cans of Red Bull and crumpled Twinkie wrappers) you’ve probably seen these strange words in the middle of the screen on your new web site:

lorem-ipsum“Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. ”

Used by typesetters and designers since the 1960′s, this “filler copy” is meant to let you focus on the design elements of the page rather than worry about exactly what the copy will say. And, if you’re writing a brochure for Toyotas or a flyer about your lost cat, that’s all fine and good. But if you’re trying to design a blog, sales page or site for your community there’s a large problem.

You can’t properly design the look, feel and vibe of your site unless the designer can read the copy and experience the voice, tone, flavor and vibe of your copy. Let me offer three example opening paragraphs for the same web site, and you be the judge:

Bob’s Lugnut Emporium: Take #1

Welcome to Bob’s Lugnut Emporium. We are purveyors of fine lugnuts in southeastern Kansas (and the Oklahoma panhandle) for vehicles of all sizes.  If you need lugnuts, or lugnut accessories, we can supply all your needs. We offer overnight delivery of lugnuts via Fedex and UPS.  You can also visit our headquarters from 8AM to 5PM to pick up your lugnuts.  Please call ahead to make sure that we have the nuts you need.

Bob’s Lugnut Emporium: Take #2

In today’s competitive business world, your team is striving to be the #1 performer in your market niche — and Bob’s Lugnut Emporium can be just the partner that you’re seeking.  Our world-class experts are available to consult with you and provide business-class solutions that offer best-of-breed products providing proven best practices from threads to foot pounds.  We’re the market leader and industry pioneer in our space, offering our patented Limited Unlimited Guarantee Service (LUGS) where each lugnut has an RFID chip connected to a GPS which electronically communicates to your SAB tracking system to instantly update your CIO on the ROI of the product.

Bob’s Lugnut Emporium: Take #3

If you’ve got big trucks, they’ve got tires.  And if those tires fall off, you’ve got problems.  Big problems.  Missed deliveries, angry customers, huge repair expenses, and driver’s wages to pay with no deliveries being billed.  We’re Bob’s Lugnut Emporium — and we know it’s about way more than lugnuts to you.  That’s why every nut is tested twice.  That’s why professional drivers choose our nuts 3:1 in surveys.  And that’s why we offer a personal guarantee from our owner, Bob “Big Load” Johnson:  “My product will beat the nuts off the competition.”


So — would your web designer come up with a different looking web site for you, if they saw some of this copy before they put stylus to screen?  You bet.  These are three wildly different personas, voices, flavors and styles. (Yes, I’m exaggerating to make a point. So sue me.)  But without having heard any of this you probably would have gotten a nice site with a big shiny lugnut on the top and some photos of tires.

So the next time you’re at the “design” stage of a project, go ahead and write some copy — even if it’s just a few pages — and stay away from the “Lorem, Ipsum, Dolor” stuff.  You’ll be glad you did.

(BTW — the entire concept of this post was pretty much stolen from “Content Rules” — an amazing new book I’m reading by Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman. Go buy it right now. Stop reading and do it. Hurry up.)


  1. Tzaddi says

    This is so true. I’ve seen it time and again with such a simple thing as title styles. A different visual treatment is needed if the author tends to use really short titles or really long titles, for instance. I wish I never ever had to design with filler text!

    At the same time, it’s also true that the designer needs to plan for content they’ve never seen yet; to think about what kind of content is likely to come along after launch. Otherwise you end up with a site that really works on launch day but then degrades with each new blog post. So rather than Red Bull and Twinkie wrappers, you’ll find a crystal ball on my desk ;-)

  2. dickcarl says

    @Tzaddi — Ah, but you’re not a lowly “Web Designer”! You’re the Princess of PHP, the Witch of WordPress, the Goddess of Google! You know all, see all, and can solve difficult design problems before the rest of us have even had coffee in the morning!

    When I open up my Lugnut store I’m coming directly to you. Promise.