Customer Spotlight: Northern Virginia Community College

By Kat Liendgens — Tuesday, August 25th, 2015 at 10:30am

Customer Spotlight: Northern Virginia Community College

After a thorough CMS evaluation process, Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) decided on Cascade Server back in the spring of 2007. The College engaged BarkleyREI to design their site, which was launched in 2008. As a natural extension of the successful partnership between the College and the vendor, NOVA collaborated with Barkley in 2014 when it was time for a new website design.


The first step in the discovery process was to identify the main goals of the project:

  1. Increase the recruitment of new students

  2. Drive student success and retention

  3. Enhance the College’s brand perception

Once those goals had been established, the key strategies for achieving them were identified as follows:

1.     Focus the user experience on the needs of current and prospective students

2.     Leverage the website’s content to spotlight the College’s vision as the “Gateway to the American Dream”

3.     Authentically represent the complete NOVA experience throughout the site

4.     Provide a new responsive website in order to provide an optimal mobile experience

Since NOVA offers over 170 majors, programs, and certificates, in addition to a significant number of non-credit courses, it was of utmost importance to ensure that students were able to find the programs and campuses they were looking for. The sheer amount of content available presented somewhat of a challenge and required a content audit.


In order to keep the focus of the site on future students, the primary navigation bar was geared towards prospective students, while supplemental audience navigation was included for other segments of the College’s target audience, such as current students, faculty and staff, alumni, and parents. The design also contained very simple and direct calls to action within the top navigation (“Apply Now”, “Register”, “Pay”, and “Donate”).

Nova Top Navigation

Video and images with timely content were incorporated into the home page to deliver an engaging and contemporary impression.

It was also understood that, as opposed to eight years ago, the homepage was no longer the single point of entry for visitors. That’s one of the reasons why Barkley created a number of compelling landing page templates, which showcase the abundance of opportunities for students and illustrate the College’s positioning as the “Gateway to the American Dream. The templates include a variety of features, such as a masthead photo and video gallery, callout boxes, photo galleries, map integration, expandable and collapsible accordion content regions, and the ability to pull in and display categorized events.

Since NOVA was already a Cascade Server customer, a lot of their content was already managed in the CMS, so it goes without saying that they didn't want to lose their existing content or have to recreate it from scratch in the new site. Therefore, the use of Cascade Server's universal migration tool  came in handy, which allowed them to efficiently migrate over 500 pages from the old site to the new one.

Building a custom course catalog in Cascade Server

One of the most informative (and important) sections of a college’s website is the course catalog. With the new design, finding course and program information has become much easier. One of the challenges was that at NOVA some programs are offered on multiple campuses, but others are not. In the past, users had to search for a program within each campus’ section of the website, which meant that if a campus didn’t offer the program, users had to try again on a different campus’ section. The new website implements a centralized Disciplines pages repository. Each Discipline page shows what degrees, certificates and specializations NOVA offers, which campuses offer them, and what courses NOVA offers.

Course description

Course catalog

In addition, the new site provides a searchable, alphabetical list of disciplines.

Course catalog

BarkleyREI also created a custom Disciplines/Programs/Classes search tool, which allows users to filter NOVA’s offerings by degrees vs. certificates, as well as by location, class term and day of the week.

Course catalog

The new site also provides a term-specific class schedule search tool, allowing users to quickly find all of the pertinent information (such as location and times) about the courses in which they’re interested.

Course catalog

As you can see, with the help of the course catalog tools implemented by BarkleyREI, NOVA provides an excellent web experience to both current and prospective students.

The website launched on May 12, 2015. Check it out!

What about you? What types of web projects have you completed recently? We’d love to hear from you.

Subscribe to our blog via RSS Download RSS

Hannon Hill Corporation

3423 Piedmont Road NE, Suite 520
Atlanta, GA 30305

Phone: 678.904.6900
Toll Free: 1.800.407.3540
Fax: 678.904.6901

GSA Contract Holder