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Later, he’d move on to a design agency, where he grew to handle multiple design modalities and honed his web design and development skills before being promoted to art director. But there was always that entrepreneurial fire-in-the-belly screaming to get out – a little something that said in his head, “I can take this so much farther; develop my own process and relationships. Do it my own way.”
When he married, he felt it was an opportune time to not just take the nuptials plunge, but also to dive into a new business venture, launching Parachute in 2003. It was a chance to embrace his own vision, his own work ethic, and bring something exciting to the burgeoning design industry in Toronto, Canada.
The name Parachute was inspired by the idea that clients “are in a marketing freefall, and we act as a parachute for them. They can strap us on, and we can guide them to their target and make sure they get to where they need to be.”
What he’d been seeing with other companies in the industry up until that time concerned him, and his goal was to make Parachute a better, more thorough design agency. “Others were just trying to cram an entire website into a few basic page templates without any thought to how people enter at different pages and points in the user journey or are aiming to achieve different actions or goals on the site,” he says. There was so much more possible, he recalls, a marketing potential lost in clients’ sales that he knew he could change.
The problem is, many businesses don’t know what they don’t know about their digital marketing, he adds. Most are struggling to keep up with the ever-changing landscape of online business. The questions on a lot of people’s minds are: what differentiates a good website, from a great website? How will it generate engagement and hold attention? How does professional SEO work, and how to convert web traffic into conversions?
Jay can analyze all this and put into terms his clients understand with a blindfold on. He’ll even answer what you didn’t know needed answering yet.
For the new client, by way of example, the Parachute team initially brings in a “high level overview” – that is, recommending changes such as imagery, typography or information architecture, all while explaining the reasons to do so to achieve an expected outcome. A step farther might mean a “technical crawl of the website” – including performance benchmarks, how it is performing in organic search, and how it is performing against competitors so that clients understand the process and how Parachute will help them achieve their goals.
“It’s a pretty all-encompassing process,” Eckert says, of the holistic approach he and his team take. Additionally, he oversees all projects to ensure his quality and reputation maintains an ultra-high standard. “I see my job as making sure everyone is paying attention to those little details.”
That he has made – and continues to make – a measurable impact for customers is one thing. But industry recognition is an extra level of credibility that sets Parachute apart.
For example, Clutch awarded Parachute a slew of accolades in 2020 alone: Top Web Designers, Top UX Agencies, and Top Web Developers.
He attributes these not just to a team that aims for the rafters, but the diversity of the team’s collective expertise. “We are a mix of creative and development-minded people – left brain and right brain – we see design as the marriage between the visual and the functional to create an experience that both looks and feels great to use.”
They are able to discern, with a keen eye, what works with design, and what does not, and whether the site is engaging the audience. “Design isn’t just about how something looks, it’s also about how it works” he says.
“Most often when people approach us, it’s because people are not happy with their website design or branding. It’s dated, or people are not finding their website enough in search engines. Our job is to deliver a high-end polish, while making sure the site is visible where it should be. There’s no sense in having a beautiful website if people can’t find it.”
But they take it a step further. Of critical import, he adds, is the notion that one must be thinking ahead, rather than merely creating a site for the here-and-now. In other words, what to expect with changes in the Internet in coming months, or even years. The web, and search engine mechanics, “changes at lightning speed” he says. Many competitors, he laments, don’t seem take that into consideration, but that’s a must for Parachute.
Anything can change in a flash: user experience, design trends, web technologies, or how content is handled between a website and mobile apps. But these are fine details Parachute worries about on behalf of the client.
“You tie all that together and the add digital marketing automation, or paid advertising, all these different systems that talk to one another to work together, to drive the results owners are looking for, is in a constant state of change and evolution,” he says.
“We are always reading articles, attending webinars, anything we can do to stay on top of the latest trends and technologies – especially being a virtual agency. A lot of it is to stay ahead of the curve on a daily basis, but part of our job is to educate our client on what those changes are, and what decisions need to be made early on in the process.”
Parachute takes this pro-active approach while always being flexible to clients’ needs and responsive to their concerns. Clients are even invited to their Slack channel, and have access to the entire team. “If they have questions, they can ask the designer or developer working on their project, or me. We meet regularly, very often face to face, on whatever platform clients want to use these days.”
It is that constant human-level interaction, so often missing in today’s business-to-business environment, which he says is essential in effective design collaboration. After all, a website is the online business card or sales tool that people see when learning about a company. There’s no room for misstep, lest a company lose out on a potential customer.
All that, and so much more, goes into designing what he refers to as that “Pixel Perfect” website. It’s not literally about perfection, but the careful attention to details big and small to create a lasting design and experience for his clients.
“We love what we do,” Eckert says proudly, “it shows in our work and our long-lasting client relationships.” That Eckert has carried this ideal forward for nearly twenty years in the competitive design industry, explains why his agency is the trusted “parachute” that so many clients rely upon for a safe landing.
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