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Testing Page Designs

There are many good reasons to use Greek text to define your Web designs. But what many designers don't realize is that there are also many good reasons why not to use Greek text on Web page layouts. Text is meant to Be Read The purpose behind "greeking" is to force your reviewers to ignore the text and just focus on the design elements on the page. Every designer has experienced the review session where the reviewers found 13 typos in the sample text that was used, or decided that the 10-word marketing text really should be 12. And so on. This can be really frustrating when you're trying to decide between a 2-column layout and a 3-column layout.

But once you're past the initial design phase, the Greek text should be replaced with content that is as close to what will really be there as you can possibly get. Because text on Web pages is meant to be read. Greeked text will force reviewers to ignore the fact that the column is so wide or narrow that the scan-line is impossible. Or that the font size is too small for most people to read. That's because they aren't reading it.

Character Counts Can Make a Difference On one site I worked on, there was space for approximately 50 characters in this one section of the page. But the data feed that delivered that content was a 128 character element. We decided to always cut the feed off at a word end just before character 46 and add " ." at the end, so that customers would click on the text and go to the rest of it. This seemed to make sense if you think that most entries were 128 characters or a little less.

But actually, most entries were around 55-60 characters long. Customers would click on the text and invariably get one additional word. If we had used actual content in the testing, we would have seen that and lengthened the amount available. As it was, we didn't find this out until the content was live. Pages May be Too Long or Too Short When I use greek text, I typically use between two and four paragraphs of text. But if the content that is going to go on the page is longer or shorter than that, the page may look really strange, or hard to read.

Here's an example from the Web Design site: Definition of applet. As you can see, the first paragraph is just a couple lines long, then there is a huge amount of white space, and then the pronunciation. The design is intended to allow Guides to write 1500 characters in that first section. Because I don't write that much for most definitions, the page ends up having large expanses of white space.

The text is too short for the design of the page. Web Forms Can Turn into Nightmares for Customers One of the craziest uses of "greek" text is on forms. In many designs I've actually seen forms listing two fields ("Name" and "Email") and then below it saying "other form fields here". Then, later the form entries are created. Here's a hint, if a form has more than 7-10 questions on one page, it should be split into multiple pages. More about User-Friendly Forms.

Translations Can Make Things Even Harder Keep in mind that even after you remove the greek text and put in actual content that the page will use that you're still not out of the woods. If your page is going to be translated, you should look at it in the translations as well. In one design we did, large chunks of the navigation disappeared when we translated from English to Spanish and German.

Because the translations were longer than the English text, and the navigation was built to be just the right length for the English text. Thank goodness, we caught that one before we launched. Use Greek Text for Initial Designs Greek text definitely has a place in design, but think about it before you just slap it into every page design you have. Once you've determined the layout, you should start using actual text in your designs. Yes, you'll have to deal with reviewers who critique the text more than the design, but you'll also find problems you wouldn't have found with "Loremipsum.".

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