e-signatures vs digital contracts: are they the same?

Written by Timothy Ware

Many recently developed technologies aim to enhance or replace common products or services. While we’re all familiar with signatures and contracts, what about e-signatures and digital contracts? This article compares e-signatures vs digital contracts, and how they’re different from the classic pen-and-paper version.

If you want more information about e-signatures, check out our deep dive into the topic.
To see how SignTime’s e-signature and digital contract service will improve your business, sign up for a free trial now.

What is an e-signature?

Just like a pen-on-paper signature, an e-signature is a sort of legal concept. It’s a symbol, sound, or process that is used by a person with the intent to sign a record. In some countries, a seal of some kind is used instead of a signature. In many cases, it’s an inserted image of an actual signature, but it can also be a name written in a stylized font or a signature drawn using your mouse or touchpad.

e-signatures are legally binding, and they are used to enter into legal agreements digitally.
There are lots of terms used for e-signature (e.g., digital signature), and while there are some differences, they are all fundamentally the same.

This article uses e-signature as a sort of “catch all” term for the act of signing something with a digital impression. Remember that e-signatures come in different forms, ranging from a typed name on an electronic form to clicking on “agree” or “disagree” on a digital terms of use contract.

 

What is a digital contract?

A digital contract is very different from an e-signature. A digital contract (sometimes called an e-contract) is a contract that is created and signed digitally. This means that there is no paper record, and the contract only exists in a digital form (unless printed, of course). If you want to learn more about signing digital contracts, we encourage you to read more about it here.

You might think to yourself that this sounds risky, as there is no “hard copy” of the document. The truth is that digital contracts are easier to use, have a much lower risk of errors, and are significantly safer. You can’t spill coffee on them and they won’t burn down in a fire.

Unlike paper versions, digital contracts can be altered in seconds, sent in moments to any number of recipients at once, and signed immediately. This makes them extremely efficient and easy to use.

 

e-signature vs digital contract

With these two terms explained, let’s compare them head to head.

e-signature vs digital signature

There are a lot of nuanced distinctions that can exist between two products that seem to be the same thing. When we talk about e-signatures vs digital contracts, it’s easy for the term “digital signature” to pop up as well. A digital signature though is different.

An e-signature is used to sign a contract. While there are global regulations that confirm the legal equivalence of e-signatures, individual e-signatures do not require complicated certification or registration.

Digital signature is the term used to describe a tool for protecting documents, and digital signatures are usually authorized and regulated by certification authorities. These digital signatures often have some sort of embedded “fingerprint” to verify authenticity. For example, an official Blu-Ray Disc will have an embedded digital signature confirming your copy isn’t counterfeited.

However, it’s important to remember that, even though these are two distinct things, the terms are often treated as if they were the same by the average person.

Knowing that there is a difference is important, but in a general way, they are treated as being the same thing by many people (especially the average user).

Online contract vs digital contract

Whereas e-signatures and digital signatures are distinct tools, online and digital contracts refer to the same thing. These two terms largely refer to the same thing, but from different points of view.

Using the term digital contract emphasizes the paperless nature of a contract, while online contract draws attention to the fact that it is done on the Internet. Beyond this, the online contract vs digital contract distinction is minimal. How these differ from paper contracts is also important, and we’ve written about this as well!

At SignTime, we prefer to use “digital contract” because signing documents is only one part of the contract lifecycle—from drafting to signing to filing away for later reference. Each part is important to end the print-sign-scan-send cycle.

Digital contracting: e-signatures and so much more

With e-signatures and digital contracts being the most commonly used terms, it’s easy to think that these are the only points that matter. There are lots of other factors to keep in mind.

Some of SignTime’s features

SignTime has other digital contracting features that are worth considering. The document design tool that allows you to create any needed fields in a contract. With this, you can include sign, text, date, check, initial, credit, attach, and merge fields in a document. You can even color code these so you know who needs to sign where.

Add your own personality to your signature using the handwritten e-signature feature. SignTime’s proprietary wet-ink tool lets you use your mouse or a touchscreen to produce a document that looks like it was signed with a pen. Our tracking algorithm records data from the signature to improve authentication and legal compliance.

With our contract lifecycle management, you can send reminders to make sure deadlines aren’t missed. You can even track statistics, close rates, and more.

With multiple organization and user roles, not to mention templates to create documents, you’ll always be able to create the right contract for the right person at the right time. For any of your business needs, like those of Curvegrid, a software development company, there is a SignTime solution. 

 

Digital contracts go beyond e-signing 

Digital contracting services are more than just e-signatures. Some services only let you sign PDFs, and others don’t include drafting, sharing, and storing. With smoother operations, a shorter sales cycle, and greater ease of use, e-signatures mean more effective business processes. Let SignTime help you to make the right decision when it comes to e-signatures and digital contracts.

SignTime can help guide your company into the future, so there has never been a better time to take the first step and sign up for a free trial.

 

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