Politics

A Deep Dive Into The Liberal Party’s New Website… That Looks Extremely Like Junkee

When we asked them where they got their inspiration from... they changed it.

The Liberal Party flopped onto the media scene last week with a new website called The Fair Go, apparently aimed at promoting whatever a party that supports negative gearing and drags its heels on passing marriage equality thinks is a fair go. Pretty quickly, people noticed that the new site looked, uh, pretty familiar.

Most people assumed that The Fair Go had just purchased the same WordPress theme as Junkee, which is awkward but understandable — a situation not unlike showing up to a party in the same outfit as your mortal enemy who is also better looking and smarter than you (that’s us). However, a Junkee investigation can now reveal new layers of intrigue: namely, that our WordPress theme is totally custom and highly valuable. 

It turns out that the Liberal Party went to a lot of effort to try and make their new website look a lot like Junkee’s, and when we got in touch with them to ask about it they decided to… change it very quickly.

With the help of the browser inspect element tool and some rudimentary knowledge of Google Fonts, we were able to uncover a trail of evidence demonstrating that the visual similarity between Junkee and The Fair Go is actually the result of a series of tweaks made to a totally different WordPress theme. In other words, it’s looking a lot like showing up to a party in the same outfit as your mortal enemy who is also better looking and smarter than you, except that in addition, your outfit is comprised of several different pieces of fabric held together with duct tape and Liberal Party how-to-votes.

Don’t believe us? Here’s the deep dive into youth media website theme design no one asked for.

Let’s Go Deep

A quick look reveals that The Fair Go uses a WordPress theme called “Newspaper” (version 8), purchased from a site called tagDiv. Newspaper is a highly customisable WordPress theme — users are offered a series of templates to choose from, or can opt to drag and drop to their heart’s content to create a custom theme.

tagDiv promotes this flexibility as a “creativity oriented” way to “design virtually any website layout”. Unfortunately, this approach only works if you have creativity to draw upon. If your idea of ~innovation~ is appealing to the youth through LinkedIn (something the Liberal Party is also trying to do, seriously), your safest option is probably just to use one of the 40-plus templates that come included with Newspaper.

Despite the fact that the good people at tagDiv provide templates catering to websites on everything from book clubs to erotic magazines, The Fair Go decided to strike out on their own (tagDiv were good enough to confirm this for us, fyi, though you can also see this in the source code).

A Broad, Centrist Approach

The most obvious change The Fair Go made to their theme was to arrange the homepage symmetrically, with a wide centre column flanked by two narrower columns. This layout does not appear in any of tagDiv’s templates — actually, it’s a pretty uncommon layout across media organisations in general. Who knows, though, maybe it just spoke to the Libs’ thirst for a broad, centrist approach.

But there’s one media outlet that does use this layout. Compare the pair:

Here's The Fair Go's take on the 3-column grid

Drawing From A Font Of Inspiration

Things start to get even more interesting when you consider the fonts (no, really, stay with me). Junkee’s homepage uses two different headline fonts: Oswald for sans-serif headers in our centre column, and Roboto Slab for serif headers on the left and right. Here’s a visual guide:

junkee font comparison

Now, this font combination is not included in any of the Newspaper theme’s default templates. And yet, behold the font combination on The Fair Go dot com (this screenshot was taken on the morning of Thursday, June 29, a fact that will shortly become very significant):

the fair go font comparison

There is one font that sets Junkee and The Fair Go apart. That’s our body font, Proxima Nova — the font of the words you’re reading right now. Interestingly, this is the most expensive font Junkee uses. Make of that what you will.

Stop The Presses: A Plot Twist At The 11th Hour

This article originally finished here, with a note about not being able to draw any definitive conclusions without comment from the Libs. But then, at 2.17pm, the acting Federal Director of the Liberal Party, Andrew Bragg, got in touch.

“Hi Sam,” he wrote. “Any similarities are unintentional. The Fair Go uses a common WordPress theme along with a font it comes packaged with. Thanks for your interest in the Fair Go — I hope you’ll join and or spread the word.”

And yet, around the same time this email was sent, the fonts on The Fair Go were quietly changed. Here’s a picture of The Fair Go as it now appears:

the fair go after font change

Yep, they ditched the Junkee fonts after we got in touch to ask where they got their inspiration from and have reverted back to the template’s defaults.

In our opinion, it doesn’t look great, but it’s probably hard to execute great design when you’re scrambling to cover your arse. Unfortunately for the Libs, we have screenshots.

In closing, then, we’ll just leave this here.

Sam Langford is Junkee’s Staff Writer. She tweets at @_slangers.