Collecting signatures. Making your mark. Initialing an affidavit. Whatever you want to call it, the process of a person giving their approval or agreement to a set of terms or conditions via a seal, physical, digital or handwritten signature goes back to ancient Mesopotamia.
In fact, one of the oldest signatures that we have on record dates back to 3100 BC from Sumeria, in modern-day Iraq. It’s from a scribe named Gar Ama, who likely didn’t know he’d have one of the oldest legal signatures at the time of signing. It was just a list of common professions at the time that he attached his signature to the back of the tablet. However, it’s cool that this person has one of the oldest signatures in history.
Signatures have been around for quite literally thousands of years. That means we are very used to them and as humans, are attached to them. They have significant meaning for us as individuals and as a society. We know that signing something is to give our literal seal of approval. And that meaning has been reinforced over the millennia.
This has slightly changed with the introduction of electronic signatures and signing documents online. Especially as electronic signatures have been adopted by billions of people around the globe. Now, we can execute our signature with the simple click of a mouse or tapping on a screen with a finger.
What is a wet signature?
A wet signature is a physical signature, made using a pen or any other writing instrument on a piece of paper. It’s a method of authentication that’s been in use for centuries. Wet signatures are used to sign contracts, agreements, and other legal documents. They are also used for identification and verification purposes.
The process of obtaining a wet signature can be quite cumbersome. It involves printing out the document, signing it, and then scanning, faxing or even posting it back to the recipient. This process can be time-consuming, especially if the document needs to be signed by multiple people.
Why are handwritten signatures a problem?
Handwritten signatures have been a staple for countless centuries, but there’s no denying that they’re a very time consuming and cumbersome method for signing contracts. Once you’ve drafted, printed and signed your contract you’re then faced with the task of scanning, uploading and emailing it – or, heaven forbid, posting it.
Indeed, you may find that after posting your contract, the counterparty has a read through it and requests to redraft something. This would mean that you’d have to start the entire process again from scratch.
Sending a contract via post is not without risks either. Letters can be misplaced and long delays experienced; which could be very costly if a signature is time sensitive. Of course, there is the option to use a tracked courier service, but this is a hefty expense to be using on a regular basis.
Even if your countersignatory is prepared to make the trip to sign the contract in person, this is hardly convenient. People will have to take time out of their days for something that could have been achieved in mere moments.
What is an e-signature?
An e-signature (or electronic signature), on the other hand, is a digital signature that is used to sign documents electronically. It’s a way of signing documents without having to print them out. E-signatures are legally binding and can be used for a variety of purposes, including signing contracts, agreements, and other legal documents.
They can be created using a variety of methods, including typing your name, drawing your signature using a mouse or a touchscreen, or using a digital certificate. E-signatures can also be protected using encryption and other security measures to ensure their authenticity
That leaves us with the question:
Are electronic signatures as valid as handwritten signatures?
The short answer is yes. Electronic signatures are as valid as handwritten signatures. According to the US, EU and the UK, electronic signatures are just as valid as physical signatures. And have just as widespread and variety of uses. The biggest difference between electronic signatures and physical signatures is the method by which they are captured and gathered, but they are both legally enforceable and accepted as valid.
For example, Oneflow’s electronic signature methods adhere to the legal standards and definitions set out by the eIDAS regulation and are completely compliant.
Despite electronic signatures being just as valid as their physical counterparts, there is still some cultural hesitancy to accept them and use them widely in certain parts of the world.
Why is that the case?
The preference for handwritten signatures
So if there’s no difference between a physical signature and an electronic one, why did we at Oneflow design a feature that allows people to create a physical, handwritten signature inside of our digital contracts?
In sum, we did it because humans are habitual creatures. It’s hard to turn our backs on literal thousands of years of tradition. Electronic signatures have been around for a few decades in comparison to their handwritten counterparts. People have trouble kicking a habit they’ve been doing for a couple of months or years. Stopping cold turkey on a tradition that dates back to the beginning of human civilization isn’t exactly the easiest thing to accomplish on a grand scale.
Keeping that in mind, that’s why we decided to create a handwritten signature feature. Because it’s a way to keep that traditional feel of signing a contract, signing a document, or just seeing your signature attached to a piece of (virtual) paper.
Read also: What are e-signature? A complete guide
Why did we make this feature?
According to Andra Nastanescu, Product Manager at Oneflow, who worked on the physical signature feature inside of Oneflow’s digital contracts, it’s more of a feature that can be seen as a placebo. Or something to comfort those who are new to electronic signatures or digital contracts in areas of the world that are more comfortable with traditional forms of signing. As it takes the form of a handwritten signature, which they are well familiar with.
She said, “People recognize the value of handwritten signatures a traditional gesture. It’s something that people would do for contracts in the past. And even though these contracts are on a device, they still want to do that traditional gesture. It has symbolic power in a way.”
That power is seeing your name, which you’ve been attaching to documents since you first learned how to write, attached to digital contracts. Of course it’s virtual, but it’s a nice segway into electronic signing for those who are new to it or are attached to the traditional forms of signing.
Andra continued to describe why this feature was designed, “We also created this feature because our customers in other countries really wanted this feature. It’s important to them to be able to do this, and it gives them a feeling of control over their signing processes. So, as a company that wants to expand, we need to cater to their needs and norms of signing contracts in the respective countries while trying to inform them of the advantages of digital contracts.”
How can this feature be used?
As there is no difference between the legality of handwritten signatures compared to electronic ones, the use cases are much the same. They can be used to sign a lease, sign up for a gym membership, or sign for a package that was delivered to your house. Much as any person would give their physical signature in these same situations.
Just picture this, you walk into your favorite coffee shop. You get the typical order, then as they turn around the iPad, you scribble your signature with your finger. That’s a handwritten signature in digital form. That’s exactly what this feature does inside Oneflow’s digital contracts.
With this feature, you can type out your name, which will then turn into a simulated handwritten signature with a handwritten font applied to it. Or, it will allow you to draw your signature. Then the signature will be visible in both the desktop and mobile versions of the contract, as well as the pdf version of the document.
This feature simply allows for an easier collection of signatures for those who are more comfortable with the traditional ways of signing.
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