Proofing is the process of providing a mock version (a proof) of creative work. It used to be a term exclusively used for printed products (printed billboards, posters, etc.). However, the term “proofing” still gets used today when the file we present for approval is digital rather than printed proof.

So, we can think of the proofing process as similar to the approval process.

On the other hand, the approval process is a significant bottleneck in any creative workflow, and the need for an efficient approval process is increasingly becoming more important these days. 

Review and approval are no longer focused solely on the end-stage aspect of creative production but nearly every creative process stage. 

This is where the online proofing system comes in.

What is Online Proofing?

To answer what online proofing is, we have first to discuss the brief history of the process. 

Proofing has been an essential process of creative works for centuries, ever since the day of the Guttenberg printing machine. Today, we have the luxury of presenting our creative work in digital formats, but everything historically was printed as a proof.

Historically, we provide a hardcopy proof document, and only after the client had approved the hardcopy proof could the final product go to press. 

When the computer and internet were invented, soft proofing emerged as the more cost-effective alternative to the traditional proofing process. Creative workers can now show files on their computer screens for their clients or send the file over email. 

However, soft proofing is by no means perfect. Computer and device screens are diverse in color production, and standardized calibration was challenging to implement. 

On the other hand, email is also not a very effective collaboration platform. Have you ever been in a situation when you engage in back-and-forth approval emails that can result in multiple proof versions spread over different email chains? 

Real Online Proofing solves this issue and more. 

Online proofing software allows a more efficient, accessible, and manageable proofing process. While it may vary depending on the platform, a typical online proofing process will be as follow: 

  1. The creative worker uploads the proof file to be reviewed and approved in the online proofing system.
  2. The creative worker invites reviewers and other stakeholders that need to be involved in the approval process from within the online proofing system 
  3. The reviewer and invitees will get a link where they can access the cloud-based online proofing system without downloading and installing anything.
  4. Reviewers can leave comments and feedback on the proof file itself without moving to another screen, so that everyone can view the proof in real-time.
  5. If necessary, the creative worker can upload another (revised) proof, and all the different versions will be stored in the online proofing system

As we can see, online proofing offers a much better collaboration between creative workers/content creators/designers and reviewers/stakeholders, allowing creative work to be approved and released faster, ultimately saving more time and money. 

Why You Need an Online Proofing System

An online proofing system allows us to change the approval workflow to be more transparent, accountable, and efficient. 

However, to understand the benefit of an online proofing system, let us discuss some of the common problems that happen when you don’t use an online proofing system. 

Common problems without an online proofing system

  • A lengthy and frustrating approval process
  • Lack of a centralized place to discuss the deliverable
  • Back-and-forth emails and scattered attachments
  • Need to export/render files before sending the proof to reviewers
  • Errors and mistakes are regularly made due to inefficient workflows
  • Printed proofs lost or broken during delivery
  • Reviewers forgot to review the proof or miss the deadlines
  • Lack of transparency and accountability since we can’t see who has viewed or not viewed proof files, disputes, and confusions

If the issues above often happen in your business, then an online proofing system can be a great solution for your problem by providing the following benefits: 

  • Fewer revision cycles due to a more transparent and streamlined approval process
  • Faster and more accurate delivery of your projects
  • 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
  • Improved quality of deliverables
  • Eliminate costs on paper while also being more environmentally friendly
  • Reduce or eliminate lengthy phone calls and back-and-forth emails 

How To Choose The Right Online Proofing System

Online proofing is going to be beneficial for your business’s approval process, but choosing the right solution is still very important to maximize its benefits. 

Here are some essential factors to consider when choosing between different online proofing solutions:

  • It’s best to choose a system that can integrate easily into your existing approval workflow to minimize the adoption process. 
  • Identify what types of content are being reviewed most often, as well as the typical volumes. You’d want an online proofing system that can accommodate your needs.
  • Identify the sharing and authentication functions that you’ll need. For example, will external reviewers need to be authenticated with credentials (passwords)
  • Types of annotation and markup tools you’ll need
  • Measurement and navigation tools you’ll need in a typical approval process
  • Data security capabilities. You’ll need comprehensive security features if you often work with sensitive data
  • Integration with other tools and solutions you currently use in your workflow, as well as tools you’ll probably use in the future
  • Tracking, analytics, and reporting features 

Closing Thoughts

An online proofing system can significantly improve the approval process in your business, which is often a significant bottleneck in any creative work. Online proofing will allow creative workers and reviewers to collaborate in real-time in a centralized hub, which can help improve the transparency and accountability of the approval process.