4 Reasons Why the PDF Is Bad for Business

Jason Kren

Ink and paper have a great history of helping people communicate. Paper's digital cousin, the PDF, was a great invention and certainly has its merits. But just like the Blackberry Curve and the Motorola Razr, its days are coming to an end. Or need to.

PDFs are still great for printing as well as storing fonts, colors and layout information. And while they are perfect for creating press-ready files, these same features make them impractical for digital consumption. PDFs aren’t optimized with mobile accessibility in mind, and the press-ready information stored within them makes file sizes larger and slow to load. B2B and B2C businesses often use PDFs to display menus on a site or to provide downloadable content to leads.

In particular, PDFs are terrible for contracting, a fundamental business function. However, with poor user experience (UX), version control and data-storage capabilities, PDFs are bad for businesses. In order for businesses to perform at optimal levels and compete with digitally transforming companies globally, it is time to switch to something more dynamic than the static PDF.

Here are 4 reasons the PDF is bad for business:

1. Inefficient Collaboration and Version Control

PDFs are terrible for collaboration and version control. Sending PDFs over email is cumbersome from the start. Imagine: all your contracts are stored online as PDFs for your team members to use. You might even have proper protocol for when a new version comes out, complete with instructions to remove any and all old versions from use.

The problem with this approach is that it provides too much room for human error. 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.

2. Terrible UX

Remember downloading a menu PDF? It disrupted the experience of being on that restaurant’s website; the same is true for PDFs of contracts. Contracts should be presented to signers in a frictionless way. Don’t make users stop what they’re doing to open an email or open another browser page to view a PDF.

Contracts should be available when and where users need them. Think about the cumbersome experience of downloading a PDF compared to the simplicity of clicking through to a hosted form, or texting “I Agree” to a contract.

Thanks to developments in eSignature technology, it is now possible to digitally sign PDFs. However, the fact remains that your overall contracting process is cumbersome and painful. It means you must send a PDF to a client, who must then download it, sign it, and upload it again to send it back. Further, because PDFs don't render well on mobile, contracting parties are still chained to the desktop.

3. Inaccessible Data

Contracts are full of useful data, but when they’re stuck in PDFs, it’s near impossible to find and extract. Contracts should be a living, breathing, and connected cross-section of data that drives action in business, not one that weighs the business down with overhead or cost. The information within business contracts is vital to defining the relationships between the business and its customers, employees, partners, and others.

Agreements all hold pieces of data that are important to various parts of your organization. The information inside your contracts needs to be easy for the right people in your organization to discover and unlock, and that is difficult to do with a PDF.

4. Not Mobile-Friendly

As mentioned above, downloading a PDF to a mobile device is user-unfriendly. Often, the loading is slow and the document take forever to render on the screen. Further, it is hard to make or suggest changes to a contract on mobile. According to Pew Research, approximately 81% of users are on (smart) mobile devices, which means most customers are too. B2B businesses that are trying to meet customers where they are should not utilize PDFs for contracts, as that can and will cause delays in receiving a signed agreement.

PDFs Slow You Down

Poor contracting processes often cause bottlenecks in your business' sales or procurement cycle, which ultimately impacts your revenue. Hence, PDFs are literally bad for business.

Generally, for more than contracting, PDFs slow down business. In an age of digital transformation, when businesses are moving at faster speeds and are expected to deliver better quality service to customers more quickly, using PDFs to present dynamic information is one way to guarantee your business lags behind others.

Jason Kren has held roles in sales, marketing and executive leadership across product and software companies for 20 years. He has been a sales leader for consumer electronics brands RCA and Panasonic. For the last 10 years he has been leading SaaS sales teams at Salesforce and recently transitioned to VP of Sales at PactSafe, a contract acceptance platform for high-velocity business.