Kilian Valkhof

Front-end & user experience developer, Jedi.

Content centric design

Web, 20 August 2007, 3 minute read

Lorem ipsum dolor amet…raise your hands if you can dream that line as well. Lorem ipsum has to be the most looked-at text for over 500 years now. Used originally to test out new type, it’s now extensively used by web designers to fill their designs with texts when a client has not yet supplied it. I suggest we try to stop using it right now.

The original Lorem Ipsum was used to make dummy books. To see how text was to be printed on pages using that particular printer. Most books just consist of type, so there isn’t really a problem there. However, right now, we use the look and feel of Lorem Ipsum to build our pages around.

We base the website on dummy text. There are a number of reasons for that:

Of course, all three of those reasons are “the easy way out“. Instead of dealing with the situation accordingly, we just steer away from it.

How is that wrong, you ask.

However pretty a website might be, the true core of any website is the content, and most often the content comes in the form of text. If you want to be absolutely sure that the content conveys the right message, the design enveloping the content needs to convey the exact same message. If you base the look and feel of your design on dummy text, it’s going to convey something different than the content tries to. (Unless, of course, you’re the owner of, in which case you are absolutely right to use dummy text.)

If your design and content are not going to send the same message to your reader, then you won’t be able to reach them effectively.

How We do it

At my company, we have started demanding our clients to deliver at least the text for the home page and one other page before I even start sketching. Of course we offer advice and tips, as most clients feel like they should write content for the design, instead of the other way around.

In doing so, I can both include the feel of the content into the design, and use the look to make sure my page envelops it correctly. The text then matches the rest of the site, or rather, visa versa.

I have decided to name this method “Content centric design“, which makes it evident that the core of any website should be its content.

How do you feel about this? Do you agree with my reasoning, or not? Let me know in the comments!

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  1. I see many people starting to read when they see the page for the first time, and not directly look at the design. A dummy text isn’t very readable, so people look at the design of the web site.

  2. I use <em>lorem ipsum when</em> I run out of random words and phrases. A lot of the time, I’ll use lyrics or quotes or make up random bits of text to fill in the blanks (<a href=”” title=”An example!” rel=”nofollow”>here’s an example :P</a>) or, I’ll copy someone’s pre-existing article and place it there instead (<a href=”” title=”Another example” rel=”nofollow”>another example</a>).

    Lorem ipsum takes a lot of stress off of me though; I don’t have to come up with tremendous amounts of content to see if the design works, and it’s easy to test the limitations of the design with that sort of dummy text.

    Then again, I’m also pretty fluent in Latin, so <em>lorem ipsum</em> feels really comfortable for me :D

    However, that’s for my own designs. For a client’s design, I would probably recommend at least some writing before starting because, although I’m designing, I’m not being paid to write for them — which is why I had to force one of my parent’s friends to come up with content for their page before I styled it (I’m still waiting for a response) :P

    Great article though! You raised a lotta good points :D