Spot the difference: The New Statesman and The GuardianRedesigning websites is always a challenge. On the one hand you want to improve things and innovate. But on the other it’s a case of ‘why reinvent the wheel?’.

Why indeed? But even wheels should have their own identity. In some cases the idea of doing what works best isn’t executed with distinction. 

Mirroring usability and functionality is one thing, but copying the look and feel from another website is not particularly big or clever. Especially when that website is one of the world’s larger media sites.

You be the judge...

Consider the new version of the New Statesman compared with that of The Guardian. You know, the look and feel in general, the layout, the way the navigation works, the colour coding, the typography / fonts, etc etc. It's not an exact replica, but it's about as close as you're going to get.

We’ve been fans of The Guardian website since it started a process of improvements more than two years ago. It does a fine job of balancing white space, typography, pictures and colours across a four-column layout. For online media owners it’s a good platform to learn from, in terms of what works well. 

So normally we might have been tempted to review The New Statesman’s updated site, but in this case I refer you to our review of The Guardian from May 2007, which we published shortly after it relaunched its website (in fact we thought it looked a bit like the then-new Times website). 

I’m not the first to notice the similarities between the updated look and feel of the New Statesman website and that of The Guardian. Various Guardian staffers have been using Twitter to point out what appears to be the bleeding obvious:

  • Janine Gibson: “We love the New Statesman's redesign here in the office. It's so... er... *familiar*”
  • Bobbie Johnson: “I don't read New Statesman, so it was only today that I learned how much its redesign owes to”
  • Matthew Wells: "Bloody hell. The New Statesman's new website is jaw-droppingly similar to"
  • Jessica Reed: "Something about the redesigned really reminds me of”
  • Charlie Brooker: “Nigh-on identical.”

You have to wonder at what point imitation becomes theft. Is this a redesign too far? 

[Image by Yo Spiff via Flickr, various rights reserved]

Chris Lake

Published 9 October, 2009 by Chris Lake

Chris Lake is CEO at EmpiricalProof, and former Director of Content at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter, Google+ or connect via Linkedin.

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Comments (3)

Mike Blackburn

Mike Blackburn, Managing Director at I-COM

The body and navigation structure of the sites are very similar, but I prefer the way the New Statesman's header navigation looks. It's a lot clearer to me, perhaps it's the use of colour.

almost 9 years ago



It's only a repica of the Guardian site if it starts publishing a smug, never-ending litany of articles about the Wire.

almost 9 years ago


David Simpson, Digital Director at Teamspirirt

Similar but not *that* similar, and tweets from 5 Grauniad staffers don't make it so.

It's not the first time that a combination of 'adhering to the same conventions' and  a familiarity with the "original" has lead to misplaced allegations of plagiarism.

almost 9 years ago

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