How to choose placeholder content for your website

Jan 30, 2023
If you’ve got a pile of books and knick-knacks you want to display in your home, you first need to install a structure, like a shelf, on which to display them. In the same way, when you have content you want to put online, you first need a structure in the form of a website to display it. However, there comes a point in every website project when you need some content to ensure the structure works well and looks good, but maybe you don’t have the content yet. That's where placeholder content (temporary knick-knacks, as it were) comes in.

How to choose placeholder text

When choosing placeholder text, you have two main options:

1. Write a description of the final text, something like “[image description here]” or “[company history here]” or “[TEXT TEXT TEXT TEXT]”.

  • This is easy to spot when it’s time to replace it with the final text.
  • However, it does not give you an accurate impression of what the page will look like with the final text.

2. Use dummy text, like lorem ipsum.

  • What the lorem is ipsum? It’s standard placeholder text that visually mimics natural text so you can get an accurate preview of what a web page (or poster, or magazine layout, etc.) will look like once the final text is there. Use a lorem ipsum generator to generate as much lorem ipsum as you need.
  • If you have used the original lorem ipsum a million times and are bored by it, there are generators that will give you text around plenty of themes, from cats to cheese to outer space.


How to choose placeholder images

Our go-to websites to download free images to use as placeholders (and sometimes final images too) are Freepik, Unsplash and Pixabay, but there are plenty of others. Here are the things to keep in mind when choosing placeholder images:

  • Use a few different images. Using the same image over and over won’t give you an accurate impression of what the page will look like once the final images are there.
  • Choose images that do not interrupt the flow of the page too much. They should be similar in size, dimensions, and quality to the final images.
  • And Karel’s top tip: at the same time, the images should be slightly jarring. For example, you are building a website for a serious government organization. If you use an image of a birthday cake as a placeholder, it will stand out immediately when you’re going through the website and you’ll remember to replace it eventually.

Bonus tip: save the images under a filename that will be easy to search later when it’s time to replace them.


How to replace placeholder content

The last thing you want people to do when they’re clicking through your live site is to see a paragraph of lorem ipsum and cringe. Or mislead people into thinking they should be sending their CVs to a cartoon sponge, like this Burger King.

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It can be difficult to keep track of every piece of content that needs to be replaced, but we have a simple plan of action for replacing content:

  1. Search: Use the search function of your website. Search ‘lorem ipsum’, or whatever placeholder text you’ve used, and search the filenames of your placeholder images. (By the way, the system we use, Plone, makes websites very easy to search. Want to know more? Contact us, we'd love to chat with you!)
  2. Replace: Replace everything that can be replaced immediately, and make a list of every piece of content that still needs to be created or collected.
  3. Replace some more: Keep replacing things as the final content comes in.
  4. Search again: When you think you’ve replaced everything, go through the website again, this time manually. Scroll all the way down on every page, open every drop-down, and check every slide in every slideshow.
  5. Fresh eyes: Finally, get someone else, preferably someone who has never seen the site before, to look through it. There’s nothing like a fresh pair of eyes to spot a photo of an elephant on your e-Commerce site selling running shoes.

Coming up with content for an entire website is overwhelming. Even if you have plenty of content already, deciding which pieces of content to use may make you feel like running away to live in a hut in the forest.

Luckily, you have things like lorem ipsum and millions of images of the ocean to use in the meantime. Just remember to replace them before you go live!

(And if you need someone to build you a website while you make those content decisions, we’re just an email or a phone call away.)

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