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 http://newstatesman.com owes to http://guardian.co.uk”
  • Matthew Wells: “Bloody hell. The New Statesman’s new website is jaw-droppingly similar to guardian.co.uk”
  • Jessica Reed: “Something about the redesigned http://bit.ly/KQvS really reminds me of http://bit.ly/1UGfHX”
  • 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]