Collecting signatures online can save you a lot of hassle, but there are some things you should know before applying an e-signature field to your online forms. In this walkthrough, we'll show you the best ways to implement electronic signatures on your web forms as well as go over all the legalities involved.
Why Use Electronic Signatures?
Remember when you actually had to have a pen and paper to sign something? How quaint. Since Formstack makes everything from capturing data to processing payments easier than paper, it was only a matter of time we made electronic signatures easier than paper, too. Here’s a step-by-step guide to creating, collecting, reviewing, and saving forms with electronic signatures.
When is an electronic signature useful?
Including electronic signatures means that you can use Formstack to build all sorts of forms. You can include a signature field on petitions, vendor contracts, Terms of Service agreements, contests, HR forms, or incident reports.
Are Electronic Signatures Legal?
For many cases, electronic signatures are equivalent to pen-and-paper.
Courts will accept an "electronic signature" as a "signature" so long as it meets the definition set forth by precedent and law (in other words, the definition varies by jurisdiction). An electronic signature and a pen-to-paper signature are equivalent in most respects, and can be admissible in trial.
That being said, all signatures (whether electronic or old-school) intended to be entered into evidence in a trial need to be assessed for "admissibility." Some of the threshold evidentiary questions are: Does it represent the intent of the signatory? Has the document/form been altered? Who had the right to sign this document/form? How was the signature derived, and what controlled access to the document for its signature? These questions come into play no matter the type of signature.
Higher assurance signature methods that better authenticate the signatory, such as encryption or username/password requirements, are more likely to be accepted than signature technologies which provide lesser assurance. While an electronic signature may be a legal signature, it can still be held inadmissible if the judge feels that the signature process did not provide the appropriate level of assurance.
(If you are dealing with complex legal or international issues with your form, you’ll want to talk to an attorney.)
Adding a Signature Field to a Form
When you are building your form, look at your "Form Field" options. Scroll down to "Signature" and drag it into your form. That’s it! When you publish your form, your users will be able to sign their names with a mouse or a fingertip. Electronic signatures are stored as image files in your Formstack account.
Reviewing Submissions with Signatures
Click on the "Submissions" tab and you will see a list of all of your form’s submissions. When you click on them individually, you will be able to view the signature image along with the rest of the information that the user submitted.
Creating Reports with Signatures
You can create a report to review some or all of your form’s submissions. When you export your data into a PDF, the report will include the image file of the signature. That way, the signature stays with the rest of your user’s data, just like in a paper form. (If you need to create a different type of report, such as CSV or RTF, the signature image will not export. Instead, a link to the image is included.)
To create a PDF report, go to the "Submissions" tab. Find the two drop-down menus at the bottom of the page. Choose "All Submissions" or select the submissions you would like to export and choose the “Selected Submissions” option. Lastly, select "PDF" in the second drop-down. Click "Go" and Formstack will create a PDF file of your submissions.