A proofing process also called an approvalprocess, is a crucial aspect of any creative or business with workflows requiring approval from clients and higher-ups. On the other hand, it’s no secret that the approval process is prone to various bottlenecks.
How optimized the proofing process is (or not) can significantly affect the whole business’s efficiency and productivity in achieving its objectives.
With approval processes in modern creative businesses, all creative businesses are no longer solely focused on the end-stage aspects of the workflow (i.e., product launch. In nearly every stage of the creative process, streamlining the approval workflows should be a main priority.
This is where online proofing comes in.
What Is Online Proofing?
To understand the concept of online proofing, we have first to understand what the proofing process is.
The term “proofing” comes from the fact that, in the early days of the printing industry, printing companies typically produced “proofs” for the clients before they did the final printing of the product.
A “proof” here is a mock-up print for the actual product so that the client can review it and approve the actual printing production. For example, if a client wants to print a billboard 10 feet by 10 feet in size, the printing company may print a smaller proof to show the client. The proof here acts as an approval agreement between a client and the printing company.
While we typically no longer print a physical proof in this digital age, the term “proofing” sticks, although the process has evolved along with technology.
With the invention of home computers and the internet, soft proofing is now more preferred by many creative businesses due to its accessibility and cost-efficiency. Creative workers can show files on their computer screens to the client or send an image file or email, which will act as digital proof or soft proof.
However, soft proofing and email-based proofing have their flaws: email is not a very effective collaboration platform. Have you ever been in a situation where you need to search hundreds of emails to find a specific version of a deliverable? You are not alone.
Here are some of the common problems of soft proofing:
The time-consuming and frustrating proofing process
Lack of transparency and accountability, we can’t easily track who has viewed a proof, who has left a comment, etc., which may lead to confusion and disputes
Back-and-forth phone calls and emails, scattered attachments, and hard to trace file versions
Lack of a centralized place for communications and collaborations
You’ll need to export and render files before you can send the proof to reviewers, time-consuming and often leading to waste of resources
Approvers forgot to review the deliverable, leading to missed deadlines
Online proofing is designed to solve these common issues of soft proofing. By using online proofing software, we’ll have a centralized, cloud-based place where creative workers can upload the deliverable (the proof), and approvers can easily collaborate and communicate in real-time in a single platform.
How Online Proofing Works
Different online proofing software solutions may offer their unique features; the typical online proofing process is as follows:
- A creative worker uploads a deliverable (the proof) to the online proofing software, then invites approvers and stakeholders that should be involved in the approval process with an invite function on the online proofing software
- The invitees will get a link that they can click to access the online proofing system. Most cloud-based online proofing software solutions won’t require any download and installation; new collaborators can access the proof right away
- Collaborators can leave comments and feedback in real-time on the proof file itself without needing to move to another app or screen, allowing a centralized, real-time collaboration
- When required, the creative worker can upload a new version of the proof (during a revision cycle), and the different versions of the file will be stored systematically in the online proofing software
Benefits Of Online Proofing Software
By integrating the right online proofing software according to your business’s needs, you can get the following benefits:
- Fewer revision cycles due to a more transparent and streamlined approval process, every revision cycle is more effective
- Reduce or eliminate lengthy phone calls and back-and-forth emails
- Faster and more accurate delivery of your projects, so projects stay within deadline with fewer errors and within budget
- Allowing efficient approval process even when your teams are working remotely and/or when reviewers are located in different cities or even different countries
- Traceable changes on files and versions, easily search different file versions
- Improved quality of deliverables
- Eliminate costs on paper (for printing hardcopy proofs) while also being more environmentally friendly
How To Choose The Right Online Proofing Software
While, as we’ve discussed, online proofing software can offer various tangible benefits to your approval process and your organization’s efficiency in general, it’s still important to choose the right solution according to your business’s unique needs.
Here are some tips you can use when choosing between different online proofing solutions:
- Type of content: what types of content are you producing the most, and what are the typical volumes of each type? You’d want an online proofing solution that supports your type and volume of content.
- Integration: it’s better to choose a system that can integrate easily into your existing approval workflow and other solutions you’ve already used.
- Authentication: if your workflows involve the transmission of confidential data, then you may need specific authentication and file sharing features. For example, whether the solution offers the ability to authenticate external collaborators with a password or two-factor authentication.
- Annotation tools: the types of markup tools you’ll need.
- Security: Again, you’ll need comprehensive security features if you often work with sensitive data
- Analytics: measurement and navigation tools you’ll need in a typical approval process
Investing in the right online proofing software solution can help you improve your business’s approval process, which is often a significant bottleneck for many creative companies.
By facilitating a more transparent and efficient review and feedback process, you can ensure your projects stay within deadline and on budget, improving your organization’s productivity and overall efficiency in the long run.