There is an ongoing and never ending argument about the validity of using greek or "lorem ipsum" in design comps, along with photos deemed FPO (For Placement Only). Today on Twitter, Jason Fried of 37Signals argues that placeholder copy should never be used...

There is an ongoing and never ending argument about the validity of using greek or "lorem ipsum" in design comps, along with photos deemed FPO (For Placement Only). Today on Twitter, Jason Fried of 37Signals argues that placeholder copy should never be used, stating "You can't evaluate a design properly when you're looking at fake data." and defending placeholder imagery since FPO images may actually make it to the live site ("No because default photos may stay there if there isn't a custom photo. "Lorem ipsum dolor" isn't in the launched site.")

Mark Maloney (a consultant working in the UX / Design field) argued against Fried tweeting, "Aren't default photos essentially the Lorem ipsum of photos? They're used as placeholders. No?" and included this image from 37Signals web based software Basecamp.

While I think neither should be in place to truly show a great comp and convince a client of what you are trying to get across, as designers or web developers we are often hired to create comps and not do the leg work ahead of that process to determine things like marketing goals, tone, headline focus, publication strategies, etc. More and more these days, we are pitching our prospective clients on the importance of this up front work (often called research, or discovery, or even a website audit) because without this work, we don't know what to say on their behalf - not effectively anyhow. And for placeholder images - eventually the client needs to take the reign on much of the imagery in their site, so even if you are using placeholder images - they should set a tone and visual guideline which is clear, well-branded, and can be followed and maintained in the future.

Unfortunately many clients don't budget for the work required to ensure the copy and images placed in a comp, or in a live site, actually have meaning, and connect effectively with their audiences. And many web agencies' processes don't even include time to focus on these more "marketing oriented" deliverables, or don't have the team in place to facilitate these things (like in-house writers and photographers). These positions are typically held at larger traditional marketing and advertising agencies, but many argue these traditional agencies are ineffective on many other fronts, thus rendering them useless when pursuing the new marketing model. And let's face it, many client's simply don't see the importance in their content (be it the words or the pictures), because this stuff is the most critical and difficult stuff to create, maintain and leverage.

This glaring gap between website design and development, marketing research, copy writing and photography / video generation, combined with lack of integration between the digital and print realms (thus creating a lack of consistency in the overall branding) was one of the primary reasons we created Door No. 2, a partnership between Fastspot and the good folks at Neustadt Creative Marketing. We come together to bridge these gaps for a specific niche client, although I believe our process and approach would work quite well for a number of other industries.

Let's all raise an imaginary glass to a 2011 filled with clients who want a team to come in and figure out not only how the website should be organized, look and work, but to also help that client figure out what they are actually saying to the world - in words, in pictures, in tone and across all media.

Share on Twitter or Facebook Published December 7th 2010