Proofing is an essential process of any creative workflow. It allows stakeholders to review and approve a mock version of creative work (the “proof”) without printing or producing the full version of the deliverable.
However, the proofing process (and the approval workflow in general) is often a significant bottleneck in any creative workflow, slowing down the whole process in general.
In short, streamlining the proofing process to ensure it’s as optimized as possible is crucial if you want to improve your business’s efficiency and productivity.
Thanks to technology, however, now we have online proofing as a more optimal method to improve the speed and efficiency of the proofing process, which in turn will provide numerous benefits for the business.
The Proofing Process
The proofing process originated when printing was invented with the famous Guttenberg printing machine.
Back then, a “proof” is a mock print that a printing company provides to its client for approval. For example, a client ordered 1,000 pieces of brochures to be printed, and in this case, the printing company first printed one brochure as a “proof.”
Only when the client has approved this proof will the printing company start the production of 1,000 brochures, so as you can see, an approved proof prevents potentially costly errors and acts as an approval agreement between the printing company and the client.
The evolution of the proofing process
With the invention of computers, however, the proofing process has also evolved. With the popularity of home PCs since the late 1990s and early 2000s, a creative agency can now show “soft proof” by showing the computer screen to a client.
Then, the internet was widely available, allowing us to send image files over the internet. This enables creative workers to send digital proof files via email, and thus the email-based proofing process becomes the standard.
Online proofing: the key to optimizing approval workflows
Email-based proofing, however, isn’t perfect and has its significant flaws.
First, different computer monitors might not be color calibrated so that they may produce different colors. Second, is that email is not a practical method when it comes to real-time collaboration and file sharing.
For instance, if the project has been going on long enough and we’ve shared multiple different files via email, it can be challenging to look for a specific file (version) when it’s needed. Accountability can also be an issue: we can’t tell whether an assigned approver has opened the email and reviewed a deliverable thoroughly, which is another common issue in email-based proofing.
Online proofing was invented to tackle these issues with email-based proofing.
An online proofing process uses dedicated online proofing software to facilitate centralized communication and collaboration between creative workers and approvers.
A graphic designer can share their deliverable on the online proofing system and send a link to the approver. The approver can then click on the link and view the deliverable on the cloud-based online proofing system right away. No downloads and installations are required, then the graphic designer can communicate, leave feedback, and collaborate in real-time on the platform.
Also, all shared files on the online proofing platform can be easily searchable whenever they are needed.
How Online Proofing Software Works
While the actual online proofing process may vary with different software solutions, a typical online proofing software will work in the following manners:
- A creative worker uploads a file (the digital “proof”) to the online proofing platform
- The creative worker invites other collaborators and approvers by sending an invite link (or other methods) so the other parties can also access the online proofing software
- The invitees can join the cloud-based online proofing system without needing to download and install anything
- Communications and collaborations can happen in real-time on the online proofing system. Approvers can view files and leave feedback without needing to move to another app or screen.
- When revisions are needed, the creative worker can upload another file (the revised proof). All the different file versions will be stored in the online proofing software.
With these features, online proofing will streamline the whole approval process while at the same time improving the transparency of the process and accountability of all stakeholders involved in the proofing process.
Why You Need Online Proofing Software
To really understand the benefits provided by an online proofing software solution, we have to first discuss some of the common problems that happen in traditional hardcopy-based or email-based proofing processes.
Common issues without online proofing software
- Frustrating, back-and-forth proofing process, often with endless revision cycles
- Lack of a centralized platform for communication and collaborations
- Lack of transparency and accountability since we can’t monitor who has viewed (or not viewed) the deliverable, leading to potential confusion and disputes.
- Back-and-forth emails with scattered attachments
- Need to render/export files before we can send proofs to approvers, wasting time and resources
- Prone to errors and mistakes due to inefficiencies and manual operations
- Printed, hardcopy proofs got lost or broken during transport
- Approvers forgot to review the proof, resulting in missed deadlines
Benefits of online proofing software
An online proofing software solution can tackle the above issues and can provide the following benefits for your business:
- Faster and more accurate delivery of your creative projects
- Reduce or completely eliminate the need of lengthy phone calls and back-and-forth emails
- Fewer revision cycles due to a more streamlined, optimized, and transparent approval process
- Facilitating accurate and efficient proofing processes even when your teams are working remotely, including when clients or approvers are located in different cities or even different countries
- Searchable files, allowing traceable changes on files and versions
- Reducing errors, improving the overall quality of deliverables
- Eliminate costs on printing papers, more environmentally friendly
An optimized proofing process can help streamline and improve the efficiency of creative workflows by removing bottlenecks in the approval process.
An online proofing software solution can facilitate a more transparent and efficient feedback process by offering a centralized hub where all stakeholders of the creative workflow can communicate and collaborate in real-time.
As a result, the more effective approval process will make it easier for the organization to manage a higher volume of creative production while at the same time also effectively reducing the compliance risks of the product deliverables.