The ultimate guide to online proofing for graphic designers in 2022

Getting clear and precise feedback on your designs is crucial to create your best work and meet client expectations.  

But often, it can happen that deadlines are approaching and you’re still waiting for feedback from stakeholders, despite several requests. This not only puts a lot of pressure on the designer who needs to implement changes, it can also delay the whole project.   

This is where online proofing for graphic designers can make a difference. In this article, you will find out how to get clear feedback, on time, and avoid unnecessary bottlenecks.

What are proofs in graphic design?

Proofs in graphic design are preliminary designs, which cover all important aspects of the final output, including written content, visuals, product information, colors, content position, and much more. They’re shared with stakeholders to get their feedback. 

Let’s see how this integrates with the graphic design process:  

Mostly, the marketing team comes up with new ideas (learn phase), creates a plan (planning phase), and briefs creative teams to create the designs.

In response, creative teams deliver the first proofs, at the end of the design phase.

Now, reviewers need to check whether the design meets all requirements from the briefing and then deliver the feedback to creative teams, who in turn make the necessary adjustments (iteration phase). 

Depending on the scope of the project, the build phase is used to put all single assets together before the final launch, for instance in website designs.

You might say this sounds pretty much straightforward, but as graphic designers know, the review step (iterate phase) can delay the entire project. 

graphic design process
Source: CreativeStudio

What are the challenges for graphic designers in the review process? 

In the iteration stage, graphic designers share proofs, such as the product packaging design or digital designs, with all stakeholders.

Typical reviewers are people from the marketing team, the brand manager, or clients when you work in an agency (in the latter case, you should check out our online proofing guide for agencies).

Let’s have a look at some of the challenges you might face in the feedback process: 

  • You don’t know the best way to share the designs with all stakeholders. 
  • You receive feedback via different channels, which means you first need to collect and consolidate all input, before you can start making edits. 
  • You get conflicting feedback from different reviewers, because they can’t see each other’s comments. This means you need to reach out to everyone individually and clarify conflicting suggestions. 
  • Feedback is unclear, because you’re missing the context. This can lead to misunderstandings, more review rounds, and a lot of back and forth communication, to discuss and clarify changes. 
  • Stakeholders give feedback on an outdated version of the design, because they’ve overlooked the latest email. 

As you can see, the list of potential challenges is quite long (and doesn’t necessarily cover everything that might present a problem). Therefore, it’s crucial for you, as a designer, to make the review and approval process as efficient as possible for everyone involved. The next section will bring more clarity on this topic.  

Why do graphic designers need online proofing software?

In this section, we’ll show you why online proofing is the solution to all the problems mentioned above. The right proofing software helps you set up a structured and streamlined creative review and approval process. 

Online proofing software offers a centralized, cloud-based, and collaborative platform to upload, share, discuss, review and approve all your digital assets in one place.

The advantages of online proofing for graphic designers can be summarized as follows:

benefits of online proofing for graphic designers

Share your designs with ease 

Online proofing software allows you to share all your designs, with all stakeholders, in one place. This way, you only need to upload your designs once and reviewers can easily access them from every device.

Receive precise feedback in one place 

Since all reviewers leave their feedback in the same file, you no longer need to consolidate it from multiple channels. Another benefit is that comments and annotations are added directly to the design, which gives you the full context and therefore makes feedback very clear and precise.   

Discuss conflicting feedback in real time

Having everybody working on the same page allows reviewers to see comments from each other. Therefore, conflicting feedback, input, or open questions can be discussed in real time. This streamlines collaboration and increases transparency.  

Add structure to your process

Online proofing tools include even more features, like automatic versioning to prevent stakeholders from reviewing an outdated version. Further, you can add due dates to all your files, set up multiple review steps for different stakeholder groups, and get time-stamped approvals. 

The ideal online proofing process for graphic designers

In this section, we will show you how you can set up the ideal review and approval process, which will help you speed up your project by days, or even weeks, and produce better results.

1. Share the design and invite reviewers

Instead of sending the first draft via email, separately to all reviewers, the designer can upload the file to the online proofing platform within a few clicks.

After adding the email addresses of reviewers, they are automatically informed by the system and are invited to leave comments. Alternatively, you can also share the review link via channels, such as Slack.

2. Get feedback

By opening the shared link, all reviewers can view the design in their browser. Now, they can leave clear feedback, by adding comments and annotations directly to the file. Since all feedback is saved in the same file, reviewers can also interact with comments from others. This makes it easier for graphic designers to keep an overview of all remarks and annotations.

Give feedback on designs

3. Revise content and share again

After all reviewers have left their feedback, designers can go through the feedback, implement suggested changes and tick off resolved comments. This way, no feedback can get lost. 

Once all changes have been made, the designer can upload the revised version to the platform.

4. Get more feedback or final approval to move on

Now, the second review round starts and the process repeats: All reviewers are notified to leave feedback on the second version. After each review round, the designer implements the changes. 

This process continues until all reviewers are happy with the design and click on the “approve” button.  

Get approvals on your designs

What is the best online proofing software for graphic designers?  

Now that you have an idea of how to structure your online proofing process, let’s take a look at the online proofing tools available for marketing and design teams. 

Filestage

filestage website designs

Filestage is one of the best online proofing tools on the market and is recommended by creative and design teams all over the world. The ability to leave comments and annotations right on the spot makes feedback super clear and leaves less room for misinterpretations. Additionally, reviewers and designers can discuss any change requests in the comment section, in real time.  

The automatic file versioning makes sure that everyone leaves feedback on the latest version. Plus, everyone can track changes by comparing two different versions of a file. 

Filestage also allows you to set up consistent workflows, automate manual tasks and build connections with other tools, like Slack, Google Drive, or Asana. 

GoVisually

GoVisually - design collaboration tool

GoVisually is another online proofing software, which is used by creative and marketing teams.

The tool fosters creative media collaboration for images, PDFs, and video content. A plus point of GoVisually is its numerous integrations. You can connect the online review tool with commonly used software, such as the Adobe Creative Cloud. 

GoVisually is mainly recommended for smaller teams, as additional users can quickly raise the monthly subscription costs.

Hive

Hive tool

Hive is an online proofing tool, which mainly focuses on task management functions. 

With Hive, you can set up and review projects, add milestones and thus create your own custom workflows. Busy teams are supported by customizable project management features, such as calendars, Gantt charts, Kanban boards, and summary views of all creative projects. 

But some reviews complain about the error-prone email integrations in Hive. 

LookAt

LookAt - design collaboration tools

While the previously mentioned online proofing platforms offer cloud-based review features, LookAt goes one step further and combines feedback and approval with the creative design process.

For instance, LookAt works with editing tools, such as Adobe Premiere or Adobe After Effects, so designers can see comments, while they edit and render their creative content. This makes it also a suitable option for photography proofing

The negative aspects of LookAt are that it lacks some project management key features, such as Gantt charts, which other online proofing software provide.

ReviewStudio

ReviewStudio online proofing tool

ReviewStudio is one online proofing software, which caters to creative studios and ad agencies alike. For instance, you can review multiple files, like videos, PDFs, images, and HTML files, together in one single review process. Further, you can set specific review options, such as deadlines and download options.

Even though the proofing tool offers different pricing options, bigger teams and projects come with a pricey premium version, which might be too expensive for some functional budgets. 

What are the most important features of proofing software for graphic designers?

After all this input, you might ask yourself, which online proofing tool suits your needs best?

To help you with that, the following section outlines the most important online proofing features you should consider when opting for the right approval platform.

features of online proofing software

Comment inside the file

Reviewers need to be able to add annotations and comments directly on the files, so that designers receive clearer feedback, with full context. Therefore, you should look for a stable and easy-to-use commenting feature. 

Collaboration features

Collaboration is key to streamlining the review and approval process and getting actionable feedback. Look out for an online proofing tool that allows reviewers to discuss changes and designers to ask questions. This can also include the option to mention others and communicate in real time.   

Automatic versioning

Automatic versioning ensures that all reviewers work on the latest version of a design. Plus, it makes it easier for designers to keep track of revisions and the file progress. 

Compare versions 

Depending on the time it takes to make revisions, reviewers tend to forget how the older versions looked. Thanks to side-by-side comparisons, reviewers can view two versions of a file at once and see what has changed.  

Compare two versions of a file

Integrations with other tools

When you choose markup tools, integrations are important to connect your used tools and set up more efficient processes. Filestage, for example, can be integrated with commonly used software applications, such as Google Drive, Slack, Microsoft Teams, and many more.

Workflow automation features

Workflow automation features help you automate manual tasks and save valuable time. Good examples are notifications that are sent automatically by the tool, to remind reviewers to leave feedback before the set due date.  

Conclusion

As you can see, online proofing software is a great way to streamline your creative review and approval process and get clearer feedback in less time. 

No matter if you need to review multiple files at the same time, track versions, compare two designs, or get final approval, online proofing makes life easier for graphic designers and reviewers. 

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