Higher Ed Redesigns: NIC & NSCAD

North Island College

Screenshot of NIC Redesign (Spring 2009)

Screenshot of NIC Redesign (Spring 2009)

NIC’s redesign has the usual three-quarter/full width banner as the major visual just below a top persistent navigation.  The banner appears static (no change over time, or on reload).  The banner points out that a NIC degree costs about $20,000 than the same credential at an urban college.  The two young ladies aren’t overwhelmingly plastic and aren’t looking at the camera, so points for lack of stock imagery definitely (obvious stock is a huge pet peeve of mine).  I really think the design of the horizontal navigation, and really the whole homepage is very well done – everything feels like its had the touch of a great designer.  The design is very professional, without being cold or corporate.

Screenshot of NIC redesign, second level landing page

Screenshot of NIC redesign, second level landing page

Both top horizontal navigation bars are taken through as persistent navigation.  The most prominent bar has broad topical choices: Programs & Courses / Become a Student / Student Services / NIC in your community / About Us.  Student Services and NIC In Your Community are very nice to see – I would love to see the analytics on how they compare traffic-wise to the more typical options (Programs, Admission, About).

The secondary bar focuses on the schools program areas: Upgrading / Business / Community Well-Being / Fine Arts / Health / Trades & Technology / University Transfer / More.  This is something not every institution could do but when there are only 7 major areas to highlight, it’s a nice approach.  This would be a great approach for a school that has one or two flagship programs.

The bottom half of the single-screen homepage is broken into four columns: News, Events, Notices/Deadlines, and Ad/Banner space.  Overall the redesign is a nice mixture of static splash and dynamic news/events content.  The nice thing about this homepage is that it will be very easy to keep current – no graphic design required, just adding headlines/events and uploading PDF’s.  (I’m not condoning news in PDF format – if you’re going to do this, you also need to have an HTML format for those of us who are lazy and casual).

Nova Scotia College of Art & Design

Screenshot of NSCAD web redesign, Spring 2009

Screenshot of NSCAD web redesign, Spring 2009

NSCAD’s redesign is another single-screen approach, again with a prominent banner below horizontal navigation, followed by columns of dynamic content (news, features, etc).  The banner element is a nicely paced slideshow of several student pieces, beside a static headline/text block that elaborates on “Why NSCAD?”  The simple white with colour accent design is nothing new, but comes across as mature, creative and excellent.

The second half of the homepage is broken into three columns: Spotlight On/ News / Events.  The double width given to the Spotlight section balances nicely with the column break above between the text block and 3/4 width banner.  There could be more visual elements – such as an image to support the “Spotlight” feature, or more ad/seasonal banners – but the simple approach is probably why the design pulls off the white + colour accents approach with such sophistication.

nscad-redesign2The horizontal nav from the homepage is carried consistently through to the second level, nicely highlighting the user’s current area of the site.  The persistent navigation is supported by sectional left column navigation, again letting the user know where they are within the larger site as well as indexing other pages in their current section.  The site also uses breadcrumbs.  From a usability standpoint, these three systems paired with a strong search tool (I haven’t tested it, so cross your fingers) makes for a very easy to navigate site.

The right column is set up with horizontal grey separators breaking up content chunks that are different on every page – making sure that every page has the opportunity to be visual, without forcing content developers to fool around with the template.

So those are my thoughts – what do you think? Overall, I think both redesigns are very strong – although I’d like NIC’s news to link to html rather than PDF, but that seems like the only major glitch.

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