Stop using “Lorem ipsum”, use real data

Testing with Lorem Ipsum texts is a still a common practise for testing designs and code, certainly in early stages.

Yet, Lorem Ipsum texts has the following downsides:

  • Latin has ñò àççénts or $þ€cial characters. Anything for other non-English languages will not cover your tests.
  • The text also contains no apostrophes. SQL injections won’t be covered in your tests.
  • Latin has fairly short words. Your design may look different if you inject a long (Dutch) word, such as “havenpolitiecommisariaat”.
  • Your typical Lorem Ipsum contains no formatting, no bold or colored texts. What if your customer pushes in the old <font> tag?

But most important of all: it’s not real data. It’s a lie you’re telling yourself.

Users will never inject “Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet” into any field. Your final design won’t look like a Latin course. Therefore, my advise: use as much real data as possible.

The same goes for names. People are not called “John Doe” or “Foo Bar”, some are called “Frederiçus D’Ollande”. A complex name, or better, a list of real complex names, can give much faster insight in how good your code or design is.

I feel some developers expect their users to enter simple, predictable and correct data, while in reality users dump just about any garbage they can find into your controllers. And Lorem Ipsum is not a good preparation for that.

If you don’t have any real customer data, then use a different text than Lorem Ipsum. Find some public domain ebooks, preferably with long words, accents and strange characters. Maybe something Icelandic would be good.

Another example of why real data, or having a sense of real data is very important, even from early on. I worked once with a customer who could add colors to a CMS, colors that would be attributes for products. On top of that, there needed to be a faceted search, so users could filter on those colors. You’d think they’d add 50 colors, 100 maybe, but certainly not more than 500. Well, they provided us the list with colors. It turned out to be more than 10.000! This has so much implications for the import, the data structure, and most importantly the faceted search. So, again: real data is important. For a designer, a developer, and in the end, it matters the most for the customer.

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