Text Filler: How Gibberish Provides Value

Posted on October 5, 2023 | Updated on October 5, 2023

Let’s say you’ve started creating a website using a premade template or surfed around the internet, accidentally stumbling upon unfinished website shells. The text filler phrase “lorem ipsum” juts out at you like it’s familiar. Why?

It’s time to explore the world of filler text and why it is an essential part of design, although lorem ipsum and its variants read like gibberish. 

What Is Lorem Ipsum?

Lorem ipsum is a text filler known as a dummy or placeholder text. It is pre-populated text to assist designers in visualizing how large quantities of text will interact with their design elements. Using nonsense fillers like this is also called “greeking.”

The phrase “lorem ipsum” came from the Roman philosopher Cicero. He wrote a text entitled “De finibus bonorum et malorum,” where the term “dolorem ipsum” appeared. Sound familiar? The phrase was eventually shortened to “lorem ipsum,” mulling its original meaning, as it roughly translates to “pain itself.” Typesetters began using text filler in the 1960s for physical media, which inspired digital media to implement it in the 1980s.

More extended versions of lorem ipsum are still pulled from the original Cicero, but they are snippets and phrases from sentences rather than full excerpts. Translations of dummy text will yield somewhat readable, but mostly nonsense, ideas. Designers needed mindless text they wouldn’t get distracted by, hence using the distorted Latin.

How Text Filler Informs Design Choices

A well-placed lorem ipsum has a more considerable impact on design choices than you may realize. It reinforces other principles of website design you may follow. Eventually, what is written on the site may later influence design. At this stage, artists can move forward without concerning themselves with how the meaning of the content impacts practicality, user experience, and user interface.

Because of the amount of text, it is an opportune time to experiment with typefaces without needing all of the specific copy at the ready. Therefore, you can provide a client with a website design, and they can give feedback without feeling pressured to have pages and pages worth of content at their disposal. 

It could inform design changes once you finalize the templates and populate the actual copy onto the site. Perhaps a text box doesn’t need to be as large if there aren’t enough words to fill the space. 

How does that interact with images on side banners or navigation? It is not usually an overhaul, but professionals should consider this potential to avoid getting too attached to what they have created. A worst-case scenario could lead to a total or multiple designs. However, the possibility is unique to the designer’s existing process and the client’s needs — it may not be due to the text filler alone.

Additionally, text changes will require constant minor manipulations of the aesthetics and functionality of a website. And using text filler in different degrees will allow workers to visualize variations of the bones of their design.

How Dummy Text Influences Design Priorities

Lorem ipsum and other text fillers have recently become more prominent in conversations because they alter designers’ mindsets. Some argue that relying on dummy texts forces designers to assume that copy is secondary to design — which is not valid. They synergize and rely on each other to shine. Excellent design does not make up for poor copy, and engaging writing does not make up for old-fashioned aesthetics and UI.

Controversies and nuanced questioning like this spark alternative dummy text templates to arise. The world doesn’t need more filler text, but some value participating in expanding its potential to overcome these mental divides between designers and writers.

Why More Text Fillers Exist

Only some people like lorem ipsum. Despite the advantages it can provide designers without getting distracted, you might experience the opposite effect. You could argue the appearance or hilarity of the nonsense disrupts the flow and hinders productivity. 

It is especially true for designers who have the fear in the back of their minds that they will forget to remove portions of the text filler when they publish the final site. Many finished products still have lorem ipsum text floating around, which reduces brand credibility and designer reputation. It also hurts SEO. When Google crawlers stalk around looking for duplicate text — which could resemble plagiarism — repeated lorem ipsum text boxes might hurt ranking.

Another consideration is overreliance on lorem ipsum. Despite its spliced origins, it provides a balanced appearance to copy. Inputting live copy may leave designers and clients underwhelmed because lorem ipsum guided too many of their decisions. 

Text filler is meant to keep web developers from being distracted by the meaning of the text. It doesn’t prevent them from being subconsciously guided by how it looks. Therefore, text filler has the potential to be deceptive, which is why people have made alternatives.

What Alternative Text Fillers Do That Lorem Ipsum Can’t

People have created hilarious yet practical alternatives to lorem ipsum. Though it may decrease productivity from the start, the benefits of using other text fillers might refine designers earlier in their development rather than in revisions.

Hipsum, standing for hipster ipsum, is a dummy text generator that uses modern slang with an option to combine it with some Latin. Once you click “Beer me,” it presents you with an entertaining lorem ipsum alternative. The benefit of hipsum is it uses numbers, all caps, and special characters, showing a greater variety of how text can look and feel on the page. Writing a website in English also helps to have words closer to what will be on the site versus the unfortunate babble of a dead language.

Catipsum, inspired by your furry friends, is another quirky version of a text filler. It has a similar benefit to hipsum. You can visualize more relevant words but it also includes stylistic and potentially grammatically incorrect aspects. A lowercase “i” in the middle of a sentence might appear, or a hilarious “zooooom.” These silly incorporations may not seem helpful, but it depends on the website’s brand voice. You can start your generated dummy copy with “Cat ipsum dolor” as a funny nod to the classic.

Here are some other amusing ones to try if you’re feeling inspired to see how they influence your workflow:

  • Fillerama, including text from TV shows
  • British ipsum, for an English twist
  • Legal ipsum, for legal-adjacent language
  • Sagan and deGrasse Ipsum, with language inspired by these scientific greats
  • Monocle ipsum, for high-brow diction — sometimes in a different language

Text Filler as a Necessary Element of Design

You may have dismissed the power of text fillers in your design process in the past, but take a step back to consider how it could have made your design what it is today. Do you have a positive relationship with lorem ipsum? Or are you on the side of the argument that denotes a time for change?

Regardless, clever employment of text filler can make or break the beginning stages of website design. They provide concrete evidence of how a website will look for clients when it’s fleshed out. They inspire you to rearrange or adjust your typeface. The possibilities are endless if you embrace its utility and manipulate it to your needs.

About The Author

Eleanor Hecks is the Editor-in-Chief of Designerly Magazine, an online publication dedicated to providing in-depth content from the design and marketing industries. When she's not designing or writing code, you can find her re-reading the Harry Potter series, burning calories at a local Zumba class, or hanging out with her dogs, Bear and Lucy.

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