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Dropbox’s HelloSign Built a HelloWorks Feature in 1 Week that Automatically Builds Digital Forms Using Amazon Textract


HelloSign, a Dropbox company since 2019, offers a digital workflow platform that streamlines business operations, enabling customers to collect e-signatures without the need for a printer or fax machine. With HelloWorks, one of HelloSign’s products, customers can transform PDFs into mobile-friendly web forms that multiple individuals can quickly and easily complete. But until 2019, companies relying on HelloSign first had to manually build the digital forms from PDFs, which usually took at least an hour, in order to collect e-signatures. The laborious process contributed to undesirable levels of attrition.

To simplify and expedite the form-creation process in HelloWorks, HelloSign turned to Amazon Web Services (AWS). HelloSign rapidly developed an autobuild feature in HelloWorks by using Amazon Textract, a fully managed machine learning service that automatically extracts text and data from scanned documents that goes beyond simple optical character recognition to identify, understand, and extract data from forms and tables. Now customers can scan PDFs to automatically convert them into customizable, mobile-friendly intelligent forms. This more-efficient new workflow has helped to triple the form creation HelloSign has seen from new customers and has contributed to increased customer satisfaction.

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We’ve tripled the ratio between the number of new company teams signed up for the product and new forms created, and that’s largely due to Amazon Textract.”

Benny Kao
Product Manager, HelloSign

Building a Prototype in 1 Week Using Amazon Textract

Founded in 2010, the company HelloSign has a suite of three products: HelloSign, which integrates e-signatures into applications; HelloFax, which is an electronic fax service; and HelloWorks, a mobile-friendly e-signature solution for form building. Businesses use HelloWorks to create digital forms from PDFs and then send those forms to a large number of end users to sign. End users can easily fill out these forms even on a mobile device. This ability increases form-completion rates, and the process reduces human error and redundancies. Government forms—such as a W-9, W-4, or I-9—are the most commonly used on the web application.

While investigating why some customers started but never finished the form-creation process, the HelloWorks team identified that manually designing and architecting a digital form required more time and effort than many users found practical. “The process of building these forms was cumbersome because customers had to upload a PDF, re-create all the fields on the PDF, and then map all the output data,” explains Benny Kao, product manager for HelloWorks. “Customers just don’t have an hour to re-create a form, or they forget that there’s an unfinished form.” So the team sought to simplify the form-creation process.

The HelloSign platform was already all in on AWS, using services like Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3), an object storage service that offers industry-leading scalability, data availability, security, and performance. “Our DevOps team was already familiar with using AWS,” says Skyler Parr, senior software engineer for HelloWorks. “Going with a competitor would mean a lot more work for our small team.” The HelloWorks team developed a proof of concept to process income-verification forms during a hackathon, with prototype implementation occurring soon after. “The first integration with Amazon Textract was during a Hackweek project in July 2019,” says Fernanda Mora, senior software engineer at HelloSign. “After successfully implementing this first proof of concept, we implemented a prototype to make sure it would satisfy all our requirements, and later in March 2020 we started working on the beta version. The beta was released gradually to our user base starting June 2020, rolling out completely by the end of that month.”

Automating Form Creation to Triple New Customers’ Use of the App

During the hackathon, the HelloWorks team figured out how to transform the data of Amazon Textract to fit its own data, effectively mapping out the service to work with HelloWorks’ internal system. Using Amazon Textract, the system is able to deliver a high-quality user experience even for a high volume of customers. HelloWorks is designed to enable users to pick up where they left off in the event that they leave the web app or experience a disconnect. “As engineers, we look for both ease of use and speed of service in creating a prototype,” says Parr. “Using Amazon Textract, we could have a good testing loop for development and get feedback quickly from AWS. And we were able to integrate it with our system and have it fit our needs.”

Amazon Textract enabled HelloWorks to quickly and automatically convert virtually any form that was scanned into its system with little manual intervention or setup. Because Amazon Textract has been trained on documents such as W-2, 1099-MISC, 1040, and patient registration forms—most of the forms that HelloWorks needs it to be fluent in—the integration was smooth. Amazon Textract decreased the amount of time the average HelloWorks customer needs to create a form from at least an hour to an average of 40 seconds—8 seconds being the fastest time and 75 seconds the slowest. “Customers upload a PDF, click Scan, and wait 40 seconds or less. Then all the fields are automatically mapped to the PDF,” Kao explains. “All they have to do is double-check that the components were created correctly.”

Amazon Textract increased engagement and retention of HelloWorks users. Thousands of pages have been scanned since its internal beta launch in May 2020. After scanning a document in HelloWorks, 83 percent of customers responded in a qualitative survey that the tool is very useful. HelloWorks has also seen a 26 percent month-over-month growth rate in new forms created from March to July 2020. “We’ve tripled the ratio between the number of new company teams signed up for the product and new forms created, and that’s largely due to Amazon Textract,” says Kao. “Using it helped address one of our biggest hurdles: reducing the investment needed to create forms.” Additionally, the increase in created forms has directly resulted in a similar increase in the number of forms and signatures sent.

The autobuild feature was particularly useful to HelloWorks customers during the COVID-19 pandemic. When many small to midsize businesses applied for financial support from the Paycheck Protection Program, fintech companies used HelloWorks to quickly send the program applications at a high volume. In addition, hospitals have used HelloWorks to facilitate their intake of patients, and ambulance services have used it to register people for COVID-19 testing.

Looking toward Smarter Form Automation

Looking forward, the HelloWorks team hopes to refine the web app to create a smarter and more responsive user experience. “We are going to look into supporting more use cases and components in the user interface,” says Kao. As a result, customers will have access to even more features without needing to understand how to code.

Using Amazon Textract and relying on support from AWS, HelloSign quickly built a user-friendly feature that simplified and expedited business for its customers and end users. “We don’t have a lot of tooling that can analyze images or PDFs,” says Parr. “So using a service from AWS to do that for us means one less thing to worry about, and we can expand what our product can do without hiring an expert in that field. This helps us keep our team small and agile. Being able to work with the AWS team and get our questions answered kept the process smooth.”

About HelloSign

Founded in 2010, HelloSign, a Dropbox company, offers three innovative workplace solutions: HelloSign, for integrating e-signatures into applications; HelloFax, for sending electronic fax; and HelloWorks, for digitizing forms. Based in San Francisco, California, HelloSign serves more than 80,000 companies.

Benefits of AWS

  • Decreased form-creation time from at least 1 hour to an average of 40 seconds
  • Increased month-over-month growth of form creation by 26%
  • Tripled the ratio between the number of new customers and new forms created

AWS Services Used

Amazon Textract

Amazon Textract is a fully managed machine learning service that automatically extracts printed text, handwriting, and other data from scanned documents that goes beyond simple optical character recognition (OCR) to identify, understand, and extract data from forms and tables.

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Amazon S3

Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) is an object storage service that offers industry-leading scalability, data availability, security, and performance. This means customers of all sizes and industries can use it to store and protect any amount of data for a range of use cases, such as data lakes, websites, mobile applications, backup and restore, archive, enterprise applications, IoT devices, and big data analytics.

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Get Started

To learn more, visit the Amazon Textract service page.