In my last blog post, I talked about the meeting I attended on wireframes, which is a way to design screens. In the meeting, one particular discussion that sparked my interest had to do with the use of “lorem ipsum.”

Most of you have seen this and vaguely remember it, but possibly don’t remember where. “Lorem ipsum” is part of a phrase used for typesetting and we sometimes see it when we purchase software that manages text. Even the most common types of software sometimes use these examples.

One discussion that came up in the meeting was that, when designing screens, it’s useful to use the generic “lorem ipsum” text instead of the text that will finally be on the screen. The reason for this is that people seeing the screens can get too caught-up in getting the text right rather than focusing on the features of the screen.

While the consensus was that there are things on the screen where you would still use exact text, even for buttons with specific features, it is often useful to be a little vague. Instead of “lorem ipsum,” if you need to be descriptive, you might put something like this:  <<button for finding the active materials>>

While this meeting was specifically focused on web design, I keep thinking this does apply to those of us defining screens for LIMS, ELN and other laboratory informatics software. I don’t know that I suggest we use “lorem ipsum” but we do run into the issue where customers get too caught-up in the examples we use, losing sight of the real information we’re trying to impart, sometimes, which more often than not, has to do with the features.

Just “thinking out loud” on this, I keep thinking there should be ways we can design to avoid this problem, as well. Maybe just by being aware of the problem, maybe that will help us address it. Of course, there are situations where customers are insistent that very specific examples be used and, while we can insist otherwise, it is not always easy to convince them. This will always be one of our challenges.

Gloria Metrick
GeoMetrick Enterprises

One Thought to “Wireframes: Screen Design – An Idea on Lorem Ipsum”

  1. Greg H

    Is it better to look nice or work nice(ly)? I vote for work nicely. I’ll take an app that doesn’t look great, but works, over an app that looks great, but doesn’t work. Both would be good but the but Lorem Ipsum can hinder the process of designing something that will work well.

    if you get rid of the text that explains functionality, how can you tell if the “looks nice” helps or hinders the purpose of the app?

    I’ve also seen the publishing crowd get control of applications and turn them into things that would look great if they were printed, but since they are consumed on line, the formatting really gets in the way of consuption. Pet peeves here are using light grey font colors or specifying fixed margins (for instance) so the content can’t adapt to the screen size.

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