Technology has come a long way since dial-up modems and bag phones. Have you seen the iPhone X?! While many are excited for innovations like smart devices and self-driving cars, they still seem tied to virtual ink and paper. Why is that?
Paper is tactile. You can touch it, smell it, hold it, tear it apart and fold it into different shapes.
Ink and paper have a great history of helping people communicate. Paper's digital cousin–the PDF was a great invention and certainly has it's merits, but just like the Blackberry Curve and the Motorola Razr, it's days as a way to digitally sign documents need to end.
PDFs are still great for one thing: printing. They can store fonts, colors, and layout information and are perfect for creating press-ready files. However, these same features make them impractical for digital consumption.
Think back to the last time you searched for a restaurant's menu online. When you found the link and clicked on it, the PDF started to download to your phone. It’s aggravating! PDFs weren’t designed for the web. All of that press-ready information stored within them makes file sizes larger and slow to load. PDFs aren’t optimized with mobile accessibility in mind.
There are many reasons why PDFs aren’t ideal for contracts, but we’ll focus on three.
1. Inefficient Collaboration & Version Control
A future blog post could be titled “Stop Sending Email,” but we’re going to pick and choose our battles. PDFs are terrible for collaboration and version control. Sending PDFs over email is cumbersome from the start. Imagine you have all of your contracts stored online as PDFs for your team members to use. You might even have a proper protocol for when a new version comes out, complete with instructions to remove any and all old versions from use. The problem with this approach is that it too much room for human error. How many times have you accidentally sent an old version of a file? Additionally, PDF file sizes are larger than they need to be and sometimes exceed the limit of the recipient’s inbox. Read more about why you need to be tracking the versioning of your terms of service.
2. Terrible UX
Remember downloading that menu PDF? It disrupted the experience of being on that restaurant’s website and the same is true for PDFs of contracts. Contracts should be presented to signers in a frictionless way. Don’t make them stop what they’re doing to open an email or open another browser page to view a PDF. Make your contracts available when and where they need to be. Think about the cumbersome experience of downloading a PDF compared to the simplicity of clicking through to a hosted form, or texting “I Agree” to a contract. Read more about other ways to improve the UX of your SaaS contracts.
3. Inaccessible Data
Contracts are full of useful data, but when they’re stuck in PDFs it’s near impossible to find and extract. This article by Nathaniel Manning in The Guardian sums it up well:
“The ease of taking screenshots and putting it all into a PDF report, and sending it along via email is completely understandable. But this is like funding James Cameron to make Avatar, and then releasing it in a black and white flipbook. We are missing all the good stuff.”
Your contracts should be data-filled and -fueled. Read more about the future of contract management.
Thanks to developments in eSignature technology, it is now possible to digitally sign PDFs. However, the fact remains that your overall contracting process is cumbersome and painful. It means you must send a PDF to a client, who must then download it, sign it, and upload it again to send it back. Further, because PDFs don't render well on mobile, contracting parties are still chained to the desktop.
This might be something you could forgive if it only affected your personal life. However, poor contracting processes often cause bottlenecks in your business' sales or procurement cycle, which ultimately impacts your revenue. PDFs are literally bad for business.
The PactSafe platform can take your current PDFs and convert them into mobile-friendly, data-driven contracts. Let's talk today about how to get started.
Curious how PactSafe's clickwrap solution can replace outdated PDF contracting methods like DocuSign's? Check out this DocuSign Click Comparison.