Online proofing: A complete beginner’s guide

Miscommunication, inaccuracies, and delays are common challenges when the review and approval process of files is conducted via email. Also, it’s difficult to keep an overview and manage all incoming feedback, when you receive it in different formats and via multiple channels.

That’s where online proofing comes in – it ensures smooth communication, clear feedback, and faster review rounds to help meet project deadlines. Let’s see how it works in detail.

What is online proofing?

Online proofing is a review and approval process that helps you get fast, transparent, and accurate feedback on your work.

From sharing your first draft to getting final approval, online proofing keeps things clear and organized for your whole team.

Online proofing replaces the traditional hallway discussions or the popular email ping pong. Further, it enables cross-functional teams to work together smoothly with colleagues, clients, and external partners.

Online proofing benefits

Online proofing boasts a tonne of unique benefits, in comparison to other channels and methods. If you don’t know what we’re talking about, you should dive deeper into this list of benefits. After reading, you’ll know why it’s worth the switch.

benefits of online proofing

Faster turnaround

If you have ever been in charge of creative projects, you know that time is a very scarce resource. Even if everything goes smoothly, your deadline will still be tight.

Therefore, you can’t afford to lose valuable time during the proofing process. Usually, long email chains remain unanswered and you need to spend a lot of time and effort, just to chase after the approvers.

INC research found that in organizations with strong communication amongst their employees, productivity rose by up to 25%. Online proofing platforms facilitate effective cross-team communication and collaboration.

Therefore, these tools make feedback clearer, easier to access and reduce misunderstandings. As a result, the turnaround time is faster and projects can be completed on time.

Centralize all your projects

Once there is an important project coming up, minor tasks, such as updating website content or replacing outdated images, just get lost in the increased workload. The new project takes all your attention and you don’t find a way to organize yourself.

A centralized platform can help you keep track of all your projects and their files. Your project dashboard gives you a bird’s eye view of all outstanding tasks, so you can easily keep an overview.

Further, centralizing your creative content, comments, annotations, and approvals are easily trackable by all decision-makers involved. Therefore, when you have all your files in one place, you avoid a lot of problems associated with lengthy and confusing email chains.

Ensure compliance

Companies failing to meet compliance guidelines is something that we see quite regularly. One of the main factors at the root of this is a poor review and approval process.

No matter if it’s your own brand guidelines, industry, and legal guidelines, or a particular type of phrasing that needs to be added – compliance guidelines can be confusing, overwhelming, and just hard to follow.

By improving the process of reviewing and approving assets, your company can make sure that every piece has been approved by the key stakeholders and therefore meets the requirements. No matter whether you produce images, written content, or videos.

Improve quality

High-quality content offers many benefits for businesses, as outlined in this article from Hubspot. Besides building brand awareness and improving your brand reputation, good content builds trust in your audience and generates more and better leads.

Online proofing makes it much easier and faster to create high-quality content. All experts can take part in the review process, leave and discuss feedback, and collaborate on marketing assets. This way, everyone involved can share their feedback and thoughts, making the asset the best it can be.

Better collaboration

In research from Queens University, it says that 39% of employees believe there is not enough collaboration amongst people in their own organization. But without cross-team collaboration, mistakes will be more common, and it will take much longer to complete projects.

Online proofing makes collaboration on digital files much easier – whether this is with colleagues, clients, or external stakeholders. Since everyone is working on the same page, communication on assets is easier, faster, and more organized. This leads to more transparency in projects, fewer misunderstandings, and better collaboration.

How does online proofing work?

Online proofing can be implemented best with online proofing software. These tools support many different file types that allow users to share, review, and leave comments and annotations on PDFs, graphic designs, blog articles, videos, or website projects.

To illustrate, suppose a video producer creates a spot for a specific product campaign. When the graphic is done, stakeholders, such as the product and marketing managers, need to review the work, to make sure it meets all requirements.

Let’s see what the online proofing process for this example can look like:

1. Share the file with your reviewers

Upload your video to an online proofing tool like Filestage and invite your reviewers. Now you can share the uploaded file with your team members and external stakeholders, like clients, by adding their email addresses or sending them a review link, through messenger apps like Slack.

2. Collect feedback and discuss changes

Once a file is shared, the reviewers can access it in their browser and leave comments and annotations to make clear what changes need to be made. Feedback can relate to anything, including text, images, format, layout, design, and more.

Since feedback is visible to everyone, reviewers can also react to comments from others, and discuss changes and ideas. This makes the entire review process far more transparent and makes it easier to handle contradictory feedback.

Video review

3. Share new versions in the same place

After all reviewers have left their feedback, the content creator (in our case, the video producer) can view everything and begin making any revisions. This step is performed wherever the file was originally created.

In case any comment isn’t clear to the creator, they can just reply to it, and the reviewer who left the comment will be notified. When all changes, such as typesetting, color correction, and design adjustments, have been fixed, the file is saved as a new version.

Next, you can upload the new version to your online proofing tool. Your reviewers can then compare it with the previous version, side by side, to see what’s changed.

4. Get approval from your reviewers

In the second review round, your reviewers can either leave more feedback and request changes, or approve your video. When every reviewer has given their approval, you can move on to the next step of your project, or publish your finished work.

get approvals on videos

How to choose the right online proofing software for your team

If you want to streamline your approval and review process through online proofing, you need to find the best tool for you and your team.

But how can you decide which online proofing system best suits your team’s requirements?

In the following section, we will list some deciding factors:

What are the key features of online proofing software?

Online proofing systems include many helpful features. These are specifically designed to offer solutions for the workflows of creative and marketing teams. Below, we have listed just some of the key online proofing solution features.

online proofing features

Review and annotation functionality

A powerful online proofing tool needs to have solid comment and annotation features, which allow your reviewers to leave clear and precise feedback, directly on the file. Your platform should also offer a drawing tool for designs, and time-stamped comments for video and audio files. This is important, to avoid misunderstandings and reduce review rounds.

Workflow capabilities

A good online approval software program should also have project management capabilities. This means you should be able to customize projects and set up automated workflows. The best online proofing software lets you create review steps, to separate internal and external reviews or different teams, like creative or legal. This way, you can keep focused as your projects move towards the finish line.

online proofing process

Collaboration features

Online proofing software makes it easier than ever for remote teams to collaborate with colleagues, external clients, or partners. The software allows users to engage in real-time communication in the comment section (without creating a messy and complicated email thread). In addition, reviewers can leave feedback on the same file, at the same time, and even mention other users in their comments.

Version management

With its automatic version control functions, online proofing software ensures everyone is on the same page and no one accidentally edits an old version. It also allows users to go back and check previous versions and comments, at any time.

Further, version comparison features allow users and reviewers to compare two versions of a file, side by side. Throughout the project, they can see what has changed and if all feedback has been implemented correctly.

Compare versions

Supported file types

Make sure that your proofing platform includes a proper file-sharing service. It can be more than annoying if you subsequently find out that certain file types are not supported. Even if your team currently does not produce certain assets, such as videos, you should make sure to be well prepared for the future.

Security

If your marketing team produces confidential content, you need to make sure that the online proofing service provider you use has established an enterprise solution with high security standards.

High security standards prevent leakages and ensure secure communication between your teammates and external partners, through the online proofing platform.

Besides the general security, online proofing tools often include further features, to ensure that only authorized people can access and view your files. This can be done by setting passwords for file reviews and verifying the email addresses of your reviewers.

Integrations

Integrations enable the platform to be used with other tools, such as Google Drive, Dropbox or Asana. Even if you currently don’t see the need to integrate with other tools, sooner or later, the time will come when you want to combine all software solutions onto one single platform.

Integration capabilities are also helpful when your customer insists on using certain tools.

Integrations

Pricing

If the pricing structure of an online proofing platform is purely based on the number of registered accounts, the software will become too expensive, once your company is growing.

For example, if reviewers don’t need their own account to leave feedback or can even have a free account, you can avoid many costs. Therefore, make sure the pricing structure of the software is flexible and can adapt to your changing needs.

Ease of use

This software isn’t just for your creatives and project managers. It’s for reviewers right across your company – from your leadership team to legal. Therefore, the onboarding to the tool should be self-explanatory and the interface should be intuitive.

Every new stakeholder should be able to use the tool and leave feedback within just a few clicks. Because having to guide them through all the steps would be too burdensome and time-consuming.

Who uses online proofing?

A big benefit of online proofing software is that it can be used by a wide variety of teams, across a vast array of project types. These encompass everything from designs and artwork to videos, PDF documents to audios, and live websites to interactive content. Below, we’ll explore some real-world use cases in more detail.

Marketing teams (brands and ad agencies)

Online proofing is used by marketing teams of all sizes, from individual brands to large agencies, to share and receive feedback on all kinds of marketing collateral.

Without a clear review and approval process, it would be nearly impossible to create and manage a huge amount of content.

Since marketing agencies and teams deal with different projects and campaigns, they use online proofing for written copy, websites, interactive content, adverts, posters, social media posts, digital assets, videos, and many more.

Since website content is an imperative element of most marketing campaigns, let’s go with this example. Typically, each one of these digital content pieces will be created by one responsible person in the team. They will then share their drafts on a centralized platform to collect feedback from colleagues or clients.

At this point, the web designers can see how different elements work together, what is successful, what doesn’t fit, and spot any areas of the website that are not brand compliant.

Feedback from all stakeholders is important, to ensure that every element of the web pages is brand-compliant, of high quality, and successfully addresses the target audience. After each feedback round, the responsible creators can make edits, until everyone is happy and the asset gets approved.

review websites

Creative and design teams

With the help of online proofing software, design and media collaboration are revolutionized. The tools enable creative teams to produce designs and artwork faster and to a higher quality.

In the first step, creative and design teams need to ensure that all team members are fully aware of the brief (particularly when they are working with clients). Then, once a draft is completed, creative teams and graphic designers can share their work with all relevant stakeholders, in one place.

Now, colleagues or clients can review it and leave clear comments and annotations, directly on the design. Plus, they can discuss feedback with others in real time. This drastically reduces misunderstandings, improves collaboration, and speeds up review rounds.

With clear feedback at hand, creatives can edit the design to exactly match the requirements or clients’ expectations. After the revision, they can upload the new version to the platform, to get more feedback or the final approval.

Design review

Video producers

Video production is a process that necessitates a huge amount of involvement from team members, who specialize in a staggering range of disciplines.

When working in video production, a video will need to be reviewed by scriptwriters, directors, editors, and other invested stakeholders. It is also likely that this will involve the sharing, proofing, and re-sharing of video files, content plans, scripts, and audio files.

The primary benefit of using online proofing tools for videos is that it allows users to leave time-stamped comments, directly on the video. This enables reviewers of the video to leave very clear and precise feedback that leaves no room for misinterpretation.

But there are other major benefits, too. With online proofing software, all of these large files can be uploaded and shared on one cloud-based platform. This keeps the files secure and allows different users to access them from anywhere.

Since all reviewers leave their feedback on the same file, there’s no need to consolidate feedback from different channels. Plus, reviewers can collaborate on the video and tag each other in the comment section, if they are seeking others’ advice or input.

For video producers, the automatic version control feature ensures that all versions are organized in a clear way and outdated versions are highlighted. Furthermore, it enables the entire team to compare versions with each other, to see what exactly has been changed.

feedback on video

Copywriters

Whether they are part of a company’s internal team, or freelancers working with a range of different clients, online proofing software is an essential tool for a copywriter.

From the perspective of a copywriter, the most important features are the cloud-based platform, sharing functionality, the ability to leave comments and track changes.

With the software, copywriters can easily share work with their clients or team, all in one go. Then, all the comments from the feedback round can be stored in a single document. The writer can see the suggested changes, then use automatically created to-do lists to tick off resolved comments.

feedback on documents

Photographers

Another example of a creative group that can gain huge benefits from online proofing software are photographers.

For photographers, one of the best online proofing software features is the precise annotation tools, which encourage proofers to leave clear, actionable feedback.

Using an online proofing solution, photographers can upload their creative assets into one centralized platform. Reviewers can then use the annotation tools to point out specific areas of the photograph to be edited.

This feature is ideally suited to photographers’ creative work, as it enables reviewers to suggest edits on minute or highly specific details, such as shadows or points of exposure.

feedback on packaging designs

Let’s wrap this up

Online proofing simplifies the process of exchanging feedback on files with colleagues or clients. It enables all team members to work collaboratively and simultaneously on a file, which streamlines the entire project and increases productivity.

So, it’s time to find the right online proofing tool for your team, so you can improve content quality and accelerate your workflow.

 

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