Striking a Balance: Placeholder Text vs. Real Copy in UX Design

In the ever-evolving realm of UX design, there’s a spirited debate that never seems to rest – the choice between placeholder text and real copy. This discourse revolves around the written text, or “copy,” used in designs. You’ve already been introduced to the concept of using placeholder text like lorem ipsum, but some designers advocate for employing real copy even during the wireframing stage. Let’s embark on a journey to explore the merits of both approaches and how they can be harnessed in your mockups.

The Power of Placeholder Text

Placeholder text, with lorem ipsum being the most iconic example, has been a trusted companion for designers for over 500 years. Here’s why it continues to hold its ground:

1. Early Stakeholder Engagement: Placeholder text allows you to share your designs with stakeholders in the early stages of development, even before your designs are polished. This is crucial for gathering feedback and alignment on the product’s direction before diving into the nitty-gritty details.

2. Ideal for Ideation: During the ideation phase and initial wireframing, designers often prioritize layout over content. Placeholder text liberates you from the constraints of crafting precise copy at this early stage.

3. Time Efficiency: Crafting compelling copy takes time. Placeholder text grants you the freedom to continue designing while the copywriting process is underway.

While these advantages make a compelling case for placeholder text, there are potential downsides to consider:

1. Confusion and Distraction: Placeholder text might confuse or distract stakeholders, shifting their focus away from design elements.

2. Layout Dependency: If your design heavily relies on placeholder text’s dimensions and positioning, replacing it with real copy in later stages can disrupt the layout.

The Appeal of Real Copy

Real copy, on the other hand, introduces authenticity and clarity to your designs from the get-go. Here’s why some designers opt for it:

1. Seamless Design Integration: Using real copy from the outset reduces the need for adjustments later. You won’t have to resize design elements to accommodate the real copy.

2. Cohesive User Experience: Considering real copy early allows for better synergy between design and copy, resulting in a more harmonious user experience.

Despite these advantages, there are also drawbacks to using real copy:

1. Iterative Nature: UX design is inherently iterative, and copy edits are part of the process. Real copy early on doesn’t shield you from later revisions.

2. Word Magnetism: Words have a magnetic effect. Introducing real copy too soon can divert stakeholders’ attention away from critical design aspects during the early stages of product development.

Striking a Balance

So, which path should you choose? The beauty of UX design is that you have the freedom to decide. In fact, you might find a middle ground by using a combination of placeholder text and real copy.

For instance, consider labeling icons in the navigation bar with real text while using lorem ipsum for describing content within your app. This blend offers flexibility and is quite common in UX design.

Your choice of using placeholder text or real copy may depend on factors such as the product you’re designing, stakeholder preferences, client expectations, and team feedback. Sometimes, it’s best to work with existing copy, while in other cases, you may prioritize design elements over copy. The key to success is to remain adaptable and choose what best serves the product you’re designing.

Remember, in the world of UX design, there are no rigid rules – only creative choices guided by the ultimate goal of enhancing user experiences.