Time to Kill the PDF

Sep 20, 2017 8:40:00 AM

Kill-PDF-Blog.pngTechnology has come a long way since the song of the dial-up modem and weight of the bag phone. Have you seen the iPhone X?! While many are excited for innovations in things like mobile 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 on paper can evoke memories of writing postcards from vacation, drawing a picture or needing to wash your hand because the ink wasn’t dry before your palm brushed over it.

Ink and paper have a great history of helping people communicate, but their digital cousin, the PDF has to go.

PDFs are 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.

Have you ever searched for a restaurant’s menu online only to find the link, click on it, and have the PDF start downloading on your phone? It’s aggravating! PDFs weren’t designed for the web. All of that press-ready information is stored in them making file sizes larger and slow to load. They aren’t optimized with mobile accessibility in mind.

There are many reasons why PDFs aren’t ideal for contracts, but we’ll focus on just a few.

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. This leaves too much room for human error and oversight. 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.

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 experience of downloading a PDF compared to clicking through a hosted form, or texting “I Agree” to a contract.  

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. This has to change.”

When contract information is able to be read by machines it is easier to extract and use.

The PactSafe platform can help with every item on this list. It can also take your current PDFs and convert them into contracts that are easy to collaborate, version, use and extract data from.

Greer Williams

Written by Greer Williams

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