The e-signature industry is constantly changing and advancing, and it can be hard for companies to keep up. That’s why the writers from SIGNiX created this guide to help you know what trends to expect in the e-signature industry. This post is republished with permission. Head to the SIGNiX blog for the complete guide.
Today, most e-signature users are frustrated because they have to continually switch interfaces and experiences when sending documents out for signatures. Of course, many electronic signature systems offer integrations to common enterprise systems, but when it comes to preparing documents and workflows, users are often thrown from one interface into another, with a completely different look and feel. This switch can be jarring.
In 2014, we’re going to see more providers offering what I’ve termed “seamless” integrations, where the e-signature solution takes on the look and feel of other enterprise systems, rather than forcing users to learn a separate experience. In this way, the customer experience becomes an extension of the existing experience.
In a lot of ways, the seamless approach demands a good deal of ego-swallowing on the e-signature vendor’s part. The vendor’s website isn’t directly visible; their logo is generally not seen and the vendor’s typical user experience is hidden by a partner’s or customer’s experience.
While improving the disjointed customer experience may sound easy, the change is fraught with more difficulties than one might expect. Why? Signing must meet certain requirements due to legal, regulatory, industry and vendor best practices. Just because asking a user to consent is an extra step, doesn’t mean that it should go away. Making the signing experience more seamless will be a challenging exercise for most vendors.
Much has been made of app-driven interactions on mobile devices. Nielsen’s recent Digital Consumer Report discovered that apps account for 86 percent of internet usage time on smartphones, versus only 14 percent via browser-based access. There’s an app for everything, and that’s reflected in the data. One might extrapolate that an app for signing is therefore the end-all, be-all of the mobile experience. It’s not.
In most workflow-driven e-signature solutions, signers are not repeat users. Instead, they may receive an email to sign a document out of the blue, or it may be something they do once a year, or infrequently at best. In these scenarios, one cannot expect signers to go out and download an app simply to sign a document. Instead, a direct web link to the signing process (sent via an email) is the best route, because it minimizes complications and starts the signing process immediately, regardless of one’s location or the ability to download a specific app.
On a tablet, we generally use the same web interface as we might on a desktop, because the screen real estate, while smaller, isn’t dramatically different. But on smartphones and so-called “phablets,” it’s another story.
At five inches or less, you’re looking at trying to present information on screens smaller than an index card. With such a small display, some might argue that users shouldn’t be reviewing critical legal documents or placing their signatures on these documents at all. Lawyers and compliance professionals might feel better simply locking out mobile phones from signing processes and advising signers to go home and open the link on their laptops. That might be a logical suggestion, considering the panning and zooming required to efficiently navigate and review multiple documents. Unfortunately, trends suggest that that’s not going to cut it with customers.
Users are constantly changing their expectations about how things should be done. The Nielsen report goes on to point out that in an average month, users spend seven more hours on their smartphones accessing the internet than they do on their PCs. There are lots of ways to analyze those data points, but I think what is most striking is how that usage model affects how we think about signing on smartphones.
As mobile usage becomes more popular, we’re going to see more emphasis on the smartphone signing experience. Vendors will be challenging themselves to see how they can make it easy for users to walk through the signing experience on a smaller screen.
The onset of electronic signatures has long been viewed as the beginning of the end for handwritten signatures. An article even recently ran in The Atlantic, proclaiming the slow death of the handwritten signature. Now, when I say handwritten signatures, I’m referring to the action of a signer inscribing his or her signature on a document, using a stylus, mouse or a finger, not a paper and ink signature.
Years ago, I would have said that web-based electronic signatures would ring out the era of the traditional signature. Clicking through a signature process and typing one’s name seems much faster than a handwritten signature, of course, and the keyboard and mouse are not the easiest way to draw one’s signature. Nor does everyone have access to signature pads. Even the early days of mobile devices didn’t change that premise. Touch screens were rudimentary and access to the internet was slow.
However, the rise of highly accurate, touch-based mobile devices like the iPhone, combined with higher-bandwidth mobile internet and widely available WiFi connections, mean that users now have constant access to much more natural ways to interact with documents. Because of that, I predict the handwritten signature will stay alive for some time to come.
With that, I fully expect there to be many surprises in the e-signature industry in the coming years: some acquisitions, some departing members and hopefully many more customer announcements. Stick with us through 2014 and beyond for the latest in digital signature technology.
Want more information on contract management and e-signature trends? Head on over to our Contract Management Research Center, where you’ll find useful blog posts, guides and product reviews on digital signatures, market trends and CLM best practices.