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The case against Word: and what to do instead

Aaron Beashel, 19 March 2020

Previously on this blog, we’ve discussed the shortcomings of Microsoft Word as a platform for managing business relationships. Get another perspective on the issue from Qwilr’s Aaron Beashel.

Are you still using Microsoft Word for key business documents like proposals and contracts? If so, you’re not alone - but you’re missing out on a lot of great functionality that can save you time and make your documents better.

In this post, we’ll outline some of the issues of Microsoft Word and explore some tools you can use instead that will give you far better results.

A history of Microsoft Word, and why it’s not a great tool today

Microsoft Word was first invented back in 1983, and hasn’t changed a whole lot since. 

As you can see from the screenshots below, although the colours have changed, it’s fundamentally still a piece of digital paper on a screen with some basic writing tools.

Microsoft Word 2.0

And although we moved from .doc to .docx, the output hasn’t really changed either. At the end of the day, it still produces a digital piece of paper with static text and graphics on it. While that was a perfectly fine output in the early 90s, the world has changed a lot since then. 

Tablets and mobile phones are now the primary devices we connect on, more emails are being opened on mobile devices than on desktops, and we consume over a billion hours of online video content every day just on YouTube alone.

This significant change in the way we work, combined with the fact Word hasn’t really changed much in the last 35 years, means that it really isn’t the best tool these days.

Here are just some examples of where Word falls short:

Word docs aren't mobile

Despite the majority of email being opened on mobile devices these days, viewing Word docs on a mobile device remains a terrible experience.

This is because, unlike the web, Word docs aren’t responsive and don’t scale up and down to suit the device they're being viewed on, meaning the text is small and the user has to constantly zoom and swipe across to read the content.

Word docs aren't interactive

Word documents are generally flat, static documents with pictures and text. Unlike the web, you can’t do things like embed interactive content (such as video, pricing calculators, quizzes and so on) or have digital signing and acceptance flows.

This means that your documents are harder for the recipients to use. Want them to sign a proposal or contract? They’ll need to print it out, sign it, scan it back in, and email it back to you (research suggests this slows document turnaround time by 80%).

Word docs are hard to collaborate on

Ever had to collaborate on a Microsoft Word document with other people? It usually involves  emailing the document back and forth, using crazy filenames like ‘Contract_V27_AARON_CHANGES_FINAL’ to keep track of where you’re at and what changes were made over time.

This makes it difficult for people to know what the latest version is and often results in people over-writing each others work or creating conflicting versions. And although there are version control tools available, it’s another tool you need to learn and pay for when in 2020, basic collaboration features should be available out of the box.

Word docs aren't trackable

Although some email tools provide a method for tracking when someone opens an email, it’s impossible to know whether they’ve opened the Word doc you attached.

But imagine if you could get notified when someone views the proposal or contract you sent them, and imagine if you could see exactly which parts of the document they’re interacting with, or how long they read it for. This would allow you to time your follow up perfectly, or at least avoid sending pointless emails saying ‘Just checking you got the document I sent you.’

Unfortunately, Word documents have no ability to track reading time or interactions, so this kind of advanced insight about when people are viewing your documents and what content they’re engaging with isn’t available to you in Word.

Word docs aren't secure

Once you email a Word document to someone, the document is in their hands forever. It can be forwarded, shared, made public, printed, left on a train and so on. Sure, you can password-protect a Word doc, but the password can be easily passed to third parties along with the document, or removed completely by anyone with the password.

This can be problematic in different ways across your business, including:

  • Sales: If someone can take your proposal (including the pricing you’ve offered them) and just send it on to a competitor for them to counter offer, you end up in a discounting war, which reduces the value of the deal to your business (not to mention the reduction in commission for the sales rep).
  • HR: If you make an offer to someone, they can easily pass that offer letter on to their existing employer (or another company they’re interviewing with) to get them to match it, and you could end up in a bidding war for talented people that ultimately means you pay more.
  • Legal: If you’re negotiating a confidential contract for something like the sale of a business or a partnership agreement, having these confidential documents floating around via email means they could be leaked to third parties without your permission.

Particularly when sending confidential documents, you need more security than Word docs can offer. 

You might benefit from the ability to add not just passwords but time limits, limits on the number of views, or even the ability to force people to log in using their work email address before viewing it - otherwise it could fall in the wrong hands and you likely wouldn’t even know.

Word is a generic tool

A Swiss Army Knife is a generic tool. It does the job well enough for many different applications, but you wouldn’t want to eat a 32 ounce steak with that tiny little knife.

Microsoft Word is similar. Its generic functionality means that it is used for everything from writing high school assignments to preparing billion-dollar corporate contracts, but it isn’t necessarily above average at either of them. For instance, it lacks the digital acceptance and signing capability that contracts and proposals need, or the co-authoring and collaboration features that internal documents need.

3 tools you can use instead

Although there are alternatives to Microsoft Word like Google Drive and Zoho Docs, these are fundamentally the same thing: digital pieces of paper with basic writing tools, and as a result suffer from many of the same shortcomings as Microsoft Word.

Depending on the types of documents you’re creating, you’re going to get a much better outcome by using a modern tool dedicated to that type of document and its associated use case.

Here are three examples:

Proposals

Qwilr is a document creation tool that allows anyone to create documents as beautiful webpages rather than static, boring Word docs.

You can start with a professionally-design proposal template, customise it to your needs and send it off to your potential clients as a beautiful webpage that looks great on mobile devices and includes interactive elements like video, customisable pricing calculators and more.

You get notified when prospects view your proposal, and they can accept, sign and even pay right from within the proposal.

Qwilr Proposal on mobile

Contracts

Juro is an end-to-end contract collaboration and management platform that helps businesses agree terms faster, while giving deep insight into contract data. The AI-enabled system offers contract creation, negotiation, e-signing and analytics, saving businesses up to 96% of time spent on contracts.

The frictionless, design-first UI and workflow makes Juro well-suited to high-velocity sales environments, with legal, sales and HR teams at high-growth scaleups joining the platform each week.

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Internal documents

Notion bills itself as an All In One workspace that’s perfect for internal documents and collaboration. Instead of a plain, static document, you can embed video, bookmarks, checklists, special text (like code, markdown and so on) and more.

You can even create simple databases that can be sorted, summed, averaged and more just like in Excel, and you can create tasks with due dates and calendars and a whole lot more.

Best of all, all of this lives on one page, meaning you have one place for everything rather than having your spreadsheets in Excel, task lists in Asana, documents in Word, and wasting all your time switching between systems.

Notion Screenshot

It's time for a change

If you’re still using Microsoft Word for key business documents like contracts & proposals, you’re likely not getting the best results. You’re making it difficult for your recipients to read them on mobile devices, forcing them to go through unnecessary steps to sign them, and missing out on valuable opportunities to include interactive content like video, pricing tables and other elements to help get your message across.

So instead of using a generic tool that isn’t great at any particular thing, try some of the tools mentioned above. They all have free trials or free plans, so you have nothing to lose!

If you'd like to explore alternatives to Microsoft Word, check out Qwilr, Juro and Notion today.

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Topics: Better legal design

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