Web Standardistas - HTML and CSS Web Standards Solutions

Ban Lorem Ipsum

Ban Lorem Ipsum

Words are an essential part of the design process, indeed words - when written well - can be the design itself.

Well-written and well-crafted content can capture the attention of the reader, allowing words to speak. The recent emergence of typographically crafted web sites that rely on well-written content, styled beautifully with CSS - A List Apart, Seed Conference and The Grid System for example - underline the importance that well-styled words can play within the designers’ toolbox.

With the rise of the web standards movement and the focus it has brought to content, not least the welcome re-emergence of a real understanding of the benefits of semantic markup, the days of lorem ipsum - placeholder text used as a part of the design process - are, thankfully, numbered.

A Little History

Designers, in particular those trained in a print environment, have traditionally used lorem ipsum as a means of visually presenting text as a graphic element during the early stages of the design process.

Using lorem ipsum as placeholder text gives a feel for how words flow on a page without distracting the client (who often invariably reads the text, failing to see the design). Using lorem ipsum, a Latin text, solves this problem, serving as a visual representation of text - “The text will be positioned here and will be styled like this.” - that isn’t distracting (unless your client happens to be fluent in Latin).

Neque porro quisquam est qui dolorem ipsum quia dolor sit amet, consectetur, adipisci velit.

A popular piece of placeholder text, lorem ipsum is derived from an early passage by the classical philosopher Cicero which has evolved over the course of design history, reaching its current, canonical form in the Letraset catalogues of the 1960s and 70s. As the web has evolved, lorem ipsum has, unfortunately, found a place in the web designers’ toolbox.

If lorem ipsum has served designers so well for so long, what’s wrong with it now? Simple…

It’s All About Semantics

In order to write effective, semantic markup you need to start with the content first. You have to start with words and meaning and work out from that, applying the appropriate markup where necessary.

This approach, often referred to as a content-out approach (a term coined by Mr Clarke in his excellent book Transcending CSS), puts meaning first and foremost. If it’s a paragraph, mark it up as a paragraph. If it’s a blockquote, mark it up as a blockquote.

Without the content, and relying solely on lorem ipsum, it’s impossible to create well-formed, meaningful markup. Placeholder text like lorem ipsum has no inherent meaning and as a consequence is impossible to markup semantically - the first, critical stage in the design process.

In order to embark on this phase, building a solid foundation of well-structured markup, you need to get the content.

Chicken and Egg

Clearly this presents something of a chicken and egg situation. Often the client wishes to see some ‘design’ before any content has been created, however, you need some content to create the design. It’s at this point that a little client education can go a long way.

Explain to your client that real words are a part of the design process and that without them you can’t even begin to start. Give them a look behind the scenes at some typical markup and show them the hierarchies of information you’ve put in place, explaining the role the content plays in the design process.

You’ll find that not only will they respect you for guiding them through the design process, but you’ll have saved yourself (and your client) a time-consuming stage along the way - the creation of web pages that mean nothing (except to Cicero).

1236818760 · Follow Us on Twitter

@standardistas: Follow Web Standardistas on Twitter.