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Choosing Better Placeholders in WordPress Design

April 18th, 2022

Many agree it’s the dream to be able to use final imagery and actual content when putting together web design concepts. But the reality is with the Herculean effort sometimes required to extract content from clients, placeholder content is often necessary to keep design phases on schedule. While lorem ipsum text and other placeholders pose no issue by default, they can quickly become problematic if straying a bit too far from the actual content.

But wait… how can a designer know their placeholder content is straying too far from the actual content without having the actual content?

Look, I’ll grant that it’s impossible to know if everything placeholder in a design is accurate to the final content. It’s definitely not easy to foresee that a client will ultimately want to insert a paragraph-length bit of text where a shorter headline exists in a design. However, it’s absolutely possible to identify specific areas where placeholder content is all but guaranteed to be way off-base without even needing a single word of the final content to do so.

Don’t believe me?

Ever read a blog post titled “Post Title” or something comparably short in length? When viewing team members or leadership at organizations, do you see many people with names as short as “Name” or job titles as brief as “Title”? When shopping at an online retailer, do you see many products priced at $0?

This kind of disconnect between actual content length and placeholders is obvious, yet these kinds of placeholder choices are used in web design concepts over and over and over and over.

Why does content length of placeholders even matter in web design?

I get the idea behind using a placeholder like “Post Title.” It’s describing the type of content that will be in the spot so the client understands what content will go there.

However, by using placeholders that are substantially shorter than any actual content will be, a designer is more likely to choose a font size and style that won’t work well when the final website copy gets plugged in.

The ideal blog post title is around 60 characters for SEO; “Post Title” is 10. This difference is not a small miss in content size. A heading size that looks great with ten characters may feel way too large when that content increases sixfold and beyond.

So how should better placeholder content be chosen?

If given the opportunity, always use real content in design files. A great example of this is if a client has an existing blog and the project is a redesign, use actual blog post titles in any design concept. If the client does not have a current blog and they’ve yet to provide any content, at least aim for placeholder content that is more realistic in length to what the average content will be, pulling post titles off a similar blog or, at the bare minimum, lorem ipsum that out to closer to 60 characters.

This idea carries over to content of all types: a person will have a first and last name, so “Name” is a poor placeholder choice. See if the existing site has names of actual staff visible somewhere that can act as a placeholder. Use an actual job title instead of “Job Title” in the design concept for the careers page. Use a sample press release title instead of “Press Release Title” in a design. Use an actual event name instead of “Name of Event” on an events page. This list could go on and on.

Accurate placeholders avoid added revision rounds and launch delays.

Because it’s common for content population to come at the very tail end of a build, design issues like those mentioned here can sometimes not become apparent until extremely late in the project lifecycle. No one wants to find out just before the finish line that further design revisions are needed to the design a client has already approved. These issues also impact development, who then may need to backtrack through the project’s codebase to adjust this sizing, as well. All of this can impact the overall project timeline and can even cause launch delays.

If choosing to use “Post Title” or comparable in your designs, I urge you to get in the habit of choosing better sample content to use in your design concepts. This simple tweak may not seem like much, but I promise it will go a long way towards preventing bigger headaches down the line in any WordPress project.

MORE: Designing for WordPress

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