Digital Signature vs E-Signature

What is a digital signature? What is an e signature? What is the difference between a digital signature and an e-signature? At Signable, we get asked these questions a lot. Thankfully the differences between the two are easy to explain.

The differences at a glance

An electronic signature serves as evidence that the signer of a document has agreed to its contents, while a digital signature uses encryption methods to ensure a document is tamper proof. Both digital signatures and electronic signatures complement each other and work to ensure the authenticity and legal enforceability of a digital agreement.

Electronic signatureDigital signature
Signifies the signer’s agreement to the contents of an electronic document.Verifies the authenticity and integrity of a digital document.
Is the electronic equivalent of traditional handwritten signatures.Involves the use of cryptographic techniques to create a unique identifier for the document.
Includes evidence of the signer’s intent and integrity.Sometimes requires a digital certificate issued by a trusted third party to verify the identity of the signer.

What is an electronic signature?

An electronic signature (e signature) allows individuals to add their signature to an online document to signify their agreement. Essentially, e-signatures are a digital version of traditional handwritten signatures and are simple to create. This streamlined electronic signing process offers many benefits, including cost savings and increased security, and eliminates the need for signing via outdated pen and paper.

E-signatures are legally binding and hold the same validity as traditional signatures in the UK, European Union, and beyond, thanks to EU eIDAS regulations. For more information on electronic signatures and how to use them, visit our explainer page or download our free e-book.

Man signing on ipad

What is a digital signature?

A digital signature is a type of electronic signature, often used in industries that are heavily regulated or where identity verification is required. This is because digital signatures offer additional safeguards against tampering and forgery. When using a digital signature, signers will be required to produce a document confirming their identity, such as a driving licence or passport.

Digital Signatures use Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) to create a private key unique to your document (almost like a fingerprint). This helps to associate each signer with a document, making it tamper proof.

The most secure level of digital signatures (Qualified Electronic Signatures) also require a digital certificate known as a certificate of authority (CA). These certificates must be issued by a qualified trust service provider (QTSP) to verify a signers’ identity face-to-face.

Digital signature vs electronic signature – What is the difference?

The terms digital signature and electronic signature are often used interchangeably, however there’s a big difference between the two. Simply put, an eSignature is the electronic equivalent to traditional handwritten signatures. A digital signature on the other hand, is a term used to identify documents which are encrypted to be ‘tamper proof’. 

Unless you are working within a highly regulated industry, you will most often find that an electronic signature will suffice when signing online documents. For example, e-signatures are commonly used to sign contracts, agreements, and other legally binding documents.

Want to see Signable in action?

Need electronic documents signed?

With Signable’s e-signature solution, you can easily create electronic signatures and send and sign electronically in seconds. Simply upload your document, add your signing fields and recipients, and you’re good to go! 

You can use any device to send documents anywhere in the world, as long as you are online. This means your documents arrive instantly, and can be completed in seconds.

You can also integrate Signable’s electronic signing platform with your own software or CRM via our range of integrations or API toolkit.

Learn more about the legality of our signatures worldwide with one of our free eSignature legality guides or discover how e-signatures are already benefiting others in your industry.

Get started in under 60 seconds

Check out our free 14 day trial and start sending documents now