Online proofing is the process of sharing content for feedback and approval. It’s popular with marketing departments, agencies, design studios, and video production companies, and is especially useful for distributed teams proofing creative work.
But before we dive into the process and how it works, let’s look at the problems online proofing helps to solve. And for that, we need to roll the clock back a bit.
Traditional vs. online proofing: what’s the difference?
Back in the ‘60s, when adland was awash with suits, pomade, and whiskey, the only way to give feedback on creative work was to print and point. Then, as agency networks grew and companies opened offices around the world, email came along to save the day.
Except, it didn’t.
If you’ve ever reviewed work over email, you’ll know how painful it can be. Requests for feedback get ignored and transfer links time out. And when the feedback finally arrives, it’s full of conflicts, so you have to call a meeting anyway to get everyone aligned.
Oh, please make it stop!
So now we’re all agreed that traditional proofing is a living nightmare, let’s take a look at the differences between traditional and online proofing.
Files are shared over email as attachments, transfer links, or presentations
Tracking is handled manually with spreadsheets to mark approvals
Reviewers need to be chased after missing emails or forgetting to give feedback
Feedback is shared in emails with timecodes, screenshots, and long descriptions
Comments include lots of conflicts because stakeholders aren’t communicating
Versions fly back and forth in email chains and nobody knows which version is the latest
Files are shared in a content proofing platform that lives in your browser
Tracking is handled automatically with real-time status indicators
Reviewers are sent automated reminders to make sure feedback arrives on time
Feedback is shared right on top of your content, even for videos, designs, and websites
Comments are always consolidated because stakeholders can discuss conflicts in real time
Versions are organized automatically so everyone knows which one is the latest
How online proofing works in six steps
The key to a successful online proofing process is, you guessed it, online proofing software. With the right platform, you can bring together all your projects, files, versions, teammates, stakeholders, and (most importantly) feedback – all in one place.
Let’s look at the six steps to take your work from v1 to approved!
1. Create a project
In Filestage, a project is like a dashboard for your whole review process. You can give it a name and add it to a folder to keep things organized. And you can invite teammates as collaborators so they can also manage your project.
Once your project is up and running, your dashboard will show you things like:
- Who has approved each file
- How many versions have been shared
- Which files have feedback that’s ready to be worked on
- How many comments have been added
- Who still needs to submit a review decision
2. Set up review steps and invite reviewers
Now that you’ve created a project and given it a name, you’re ready to set up your content proofing process. In Filestage, these are called review steps.
Each review step represents a group of stakeholders that need to review and approve your work. These can be customized for each project, helping to keep discussions focused on specific topics.
There are two main ways to run your review steps:
- In a sequence – you get feedback and approval from the first review step (e.g. Creative) and then move on to the next step (e.g. Account team)
- In parallel – you get feedback from multiple groups at once, then apply all the changes at the same time
Once you’ve created and named your review step, you can invite your reviewers to each step. They’ll then be notified automatically each time you start a new review. And you can rest assured that every file will be approved by the right people on its way to the finish line.
3. Upload files and set due dates
You’ve created a project and set up an online creative proofing process that your whole team can access. Now it’s time to start sharing some content.
With Filestage, you can share:
- Live websites
- Interactive HTML
You can then add a due date for each file and review step, so everyone knows when their feedback is needed to keep things moving forward. And if people still haven’t submitted a review decision the day before your date, Filestage will send them a reminder automatically so you can focus on being productive.
4. Collect feedback from reviewers
OK – the stage is set! You’ve set up your review steps, uploaded your content, and set your due dates. Time to sit back and relax while the feedback rolls in.
In Filestage, adding feedback is as easy as clicking on something you want to change and writing a comment – even for videos. This makes the experience much simpler, faster, and more enjoyable than writing out long descriptions and timecodes over email.
Here are a few online proofing tools in Filestage that make feedback quick and easy:
- Annotations – draw on the content to add clarity to your comments
- Attachments – share references or important files like fonts and logos
- Highlights – select specific words and sentences that need editing
- Strikeouts – select which parts of a document you want to be deleted
And because everyone in each review step gives feedback in the same place, it’s easy to reply and tag teammates to get everyone aligned before starting on the next version.
5. Collaborate until you get approval
This is where online proofing really comes into its own.
You’ve got feedback on all the first versions of your content. And usually, this is about the time that your creative proofing process would descend into chaos. Luckily, Filestage has a bunch of tricks to help with that.
Here are three ways online proofing helps you collaborate on your content:
- To-do lists – the comment sidebar doubles as a to-do list for creatives, so they can tick off comments one by one to make sure they’ve addressed everyone’s feedback
- Compare versions – view two versions of your content side by side so you can quickly check the previous comments and see what’s new
- Review decisions – reviewers can choose to “Approve” a file or “Request changes” so you’re always clear on the status of your content
6. Repeat for remaining review steps
If you like to run your content proofing process in sequence (e.g. Creative, Account team, and Client) the only thing left to do is get approval in the remaining review steps.
Simply hit “Start review” to kick off the next review step. This will automatically share the latest version of your content with the people in that review step. Then collect feedback, collaborate, and repeat until you get approval in all your review steps.
Who manages the online proofing process?
The online proofing process is usually managed by project managers in agencies and production companies. For in-house teams, brand and marketing managers may be responsible. And in smaller companies and startups, this may even be handled by people in the creative team – like designers, video producers, and content writers.
What’s the best process for proofing creative work?
Online proofing is by far the best process for proofing creative work. You can upload your content to Filestage and invite people to dedicated review steps to give feedback on your work. If they love it, they can mark it as approved. If not, you can collect feedback and share new versions until everyone’s happy.
How much time does online proofing save you?
Our Year In Review report found that proofing creative work with Filestage saves each person in your review process 7.2 hours per month compared to email.
Here are a few examples of how online proofing saves people time:
- Project manager – you can set due dates and send automated reminders if people forget to give feedback, so you don’t have to track the process manually and write chaser emails to internal stakeholders or clients.
- Designer – you can get feedback from all your reviewers in one place, instead of consolidating comments from different email chains and chat threads, only to find a bunch of conflicts.
- Client – you can tap on videos to give feedback instead of writing out timecodes, and you can compare documents and designs side by side to remind yourself of your feedback and check what’s changed.
What are the main benefits of online proofing vs. email?
Online proofing reduces the amount of time you need to spend on admin throughout the review and approval process. And by making feedback faster and clearer, it also speeds up feedback rounds and reduces the number of versions needed to get work across the line. This helps to free your team up to create better work, win new business, or simply to finish work on time.
Online proofing is designed to solve every problem you’ve ever faced when proofing creative work. Conflicting comments, reviewers requesting changes on an old version, the list goes on.
If you like what you see and feel like Filestage could benefit your team, why not request a trial and take it for a spin?