As more and more brands work to convert their businesses to a paperless model, digitizing documents so they can be emailed has become common practice.

For years, static PDFs have been considered the standard way to convert physical documents to electronic documents. Unfortunately, static PDFs and word documents are problematic in today’s fast-paced business world. If you rely on these outdated forms of electronic documentation, other companies can quickly leave you in the dust.

In this guide, we’ll explain why PDFs and word documents are no longer cutting it. We’ll also show how PDF and word doc alternatives can be transformative for your business — improving efficiency, legality, and customer satisfaction.

Legality issues and making document changes

One of the issues with static PDFs and word docs is legality.

Signing PDFs

Are signatures on PDFs legal? Legislation has legalized e-signatures in its many formats.

However, many businesses and organizations remain wary of accepting documents that have been physically signed and scanned or electronically signed using non-encrypted methods. Depending on your particular business’s policies, this can force you and your customers to jump through hoops to produce documents every party will accept.

The encrypted electronic signatures included with PDF alternatives are easier to track and verify than physical, in-person signatures. They have a legal precedent for being considered binding in the court of law.

PDFs and Word documents are also difficult to sign electronically. Tech-savvy clients might be able to use Adobe software to draw in their signatures manually, but more often, clients will print the document, sign it manually, scan it back into their computers, and email it back to you. This means that your efforts to go “paperless” still end up using a fair amount of paper.

Tracking changes in PDFs

There’s no way to track changes directly in your static PDF document, which means any changes that need to be made during contract negotiations would require a whole new document.

With PDF alternatives, tracking document changes is the gold standard. For example: If you are working on a real estate negotiation between two parties, the first party can sign off on the document, the second party can propose a change and sign the document, and then the first party can see the change and re-sign the document — all without you needing to draw up completely new contracts.

Accessibility and meeting the needs of your clients

The last thing you want to do is alienate your customers. But static PDFs and Word documents often alienate a portion of the population and make it hard for them to work with your company.

The majority of the assistive technologies people in the blind community rely on to interact online don’t play nicely with PDFs. Blind or visually impaired patrons may not be able to read PDFs fully and may miss out on vital information.

Although PDF alternatives don’t solve all of these issues because they make it easy to edit existing documents, you can easily make documents more accessible to these clients.

Some ways to do this include adding alt texts to images or reducing your use of images on documents being sent to blind or visually impaired customers. You can also quickly change fonts or font sizes on existing documents for the benefit of these customers.

Convenience and delivery methods

The identified Gartner Trends for 2021 included “total experience” as one of the most important things businesses can work on in the coming years. The total experience is what you get when you look at employee experience, customer experience, and how the two intersect — and you make decisions that help improve the entirety of your business model.

Moving away from static word documents and PDFs is a total experience game-changer for your company. Here’s why.

Updating documents

With static PDFs, updating documents can be a huge pain. There are many queries and forum postings online, all asking questions about printing and scanning PDFs — citing problems like PDFs being too small when they’re scanned back into the computer or the printer saying that part of the PDF is outside the print zone.

All of these issues can be solved. But your team may waste time researching how to fix issues with static PDFs, which can cut into your overall efficiency. Your clients may have some of these same issues when they try to print a PDF, sign it, and scan it back into the computer.

This could lead to blurry and small images sent to your team, forcing them to reach out to the customer for an updated image. This may inconvenience the customer as they struggle to research how to make the PDFs work properly.

When you move away from static PDFs to something like PandaDoc, these issues go away. You can drag and drop information to create the document you need without worrying about scanning existing documents and trying to make them work.

Premade templates save you time. Once your PandaDoc documents have been uploaded, they’re easy to change, making life more convenient for both your team and your customers.

Accessing documents

PDF documents can only be accessed by traditional communication means. They can be:

  • Emailed to customers
  • Printed and faxed
  • Printed and physically delivered
  • Printed and scanned, then emailed

However, these delivery methods are becoming outdated. Digitally encrypted cloud-based systems are becoming the new normal.

Even if you plan to email your documents to your clients, PDF is not the way to go. These file sizes can be massive, making them inaccessible to customers with slower internet connections. And for the vast majority of customers who prefer to access information on mobile devices, PDFs are an inconvenience that makes your business look out of touch.

PDF alternatives like PandaDoc were created to be user-friendly. They can be opened and accessed just as easily from a cell phone as from a computer. Using PandaDoc, you certainly won’t expect your customers to access a fax machine to get the information they need.

Signing documents

Making it easier to sign documents is where Word doc alternatives really stand out. PDFs and Word documents can be signed electronically, but it’s a cumbersome process, especially for multi-page legal forms.

Your clients have to read each line of the document and pick out the correct places to sign or initial. If they forget a signature, you have to have them sign it again, which can cost time and cause frustration for both you and the customer. It gets increasingly complex if a document requires verification from multiple parties. Because only one party can sign a static PDF at a time, document processing can get bogged down by little things like a missing initial.

With PDF alternatives, multiple parties can electronically sign the same document simultaneously from different parts of the world. PDF alternatives like PandaDoc can quickly and easily assimilate those signatures, allowing all parties to sign a document in the amount of time it would normally take one party to sign it.

With PandaDoc, you can flag where signatures and initials need to go. The software will tell users if they’ve missed a signature before submitting the document, leading to fewer errors and follow-up contacts.

Lack of branding and document inconsistency

Let’s be real for a minute: PDFs are boring. Most static PDF documents use a mix of small fonts and black-and-white formatting. That’s not only an eyesore, but that makes one set of documents almost indistinguishable from another set of documents.

Word documents aren’t much better. Though they can be updated with funky fonts or images, formatting them to make them look appealing is user-intensive and requires a great deal of technical prowess. Unless you have a dedicated marketing team within your company, this rarely seems worth the effort.

Word doc alternatives make it easy for anyone to customize documents in a way that showcases who you are as a brand. A combination of premade templates and drag-and-drop compatibility means that — even if you have no marketing experience whatsoever — you can put together a beautiful document that does what it needs to do while showcasing your brand.

Because all of your information is in one place when you’re using something like PandaDoc, you can quickly and easily mimic branded marketing across multiple documents.

PDF alternatives and taking your business to the next level

Modern business is all about efficiency and convenience. Static PDFs and word documents, on the other hand, impede efficiency and convenience.

If you’re looking for ways to take your business to the next level, moving away from physical documents and static electronic documents to user-friendly, accessible documents is an obvious choice.