Everything About Online Proofing and How to Find the Right Tool for Your Agency

Do you know that 50% of work activities can be automated using technology, leading to higher productivity? Among several other repetitive, time-consuming tasks that you perform daily at your creative agency, proofing is a major task that can be automated easily.

Research shows that approvals (during proofing workflow) can be improved by 36% by switching to automation. An online proofing tool can up your game.

In a nutshell, online proofing is a way to get all involved in a project – from the design team through to the client – to sing from the same hymn sheet. By doing that, online proofing prevents delays by reducing confusion and human error so all can work from a single document.

Throughout this blog, we’ll explain what online proofing is and how it can make you, your creative teams, and (most importantly) your clients much happier with the process.

The Challenges of the Existing Proofing Workflow

What is the current proofing process?

Most creative agencies know their proofing workflow needs improvement. Take a moment to think about what online proofing for designers and other creatives looks like right now.

A typical proof review involves one team making their comments, saving the file, uploading it to Google Drive, and sending an email to the other team. That team then has to download the file, make the changes, and re-upload it to the cloud. The first team goes back over the changes, and makes more comments where necessary before uploading the new file to Google Drive so the other team can work on it again. And so on, and so on, until the file is finally ready to present to the client.

This basic proofing workflow has existed for years, and there’s no denying its inefficiency. Agencies are constantly bouncing creative ideas between different teams – in addition to clients – and it’s so easy for notes to get lost in the shuffle, adding more time to a project.

It’s not smooth, but creatives are so used to the process they get on with it and don’t complain too much; they don’t realize how much time is lost in the endless waiting and constant delays. Even if they do, they may not realize that there are alternatives that could massively speed up their proofing workflow.

What’s Wrong With the Existing Proofing Workflow?

Firstly, working with a PDF is unfathomably difficult.  Sure, they look like a slightly fancier Word document, but making even minor comments requires downloading specific software and having a fundamental knowledge base of how it works. Unlike a document through Word or Google, PDFs don’t allow editing without additional software (and sometimes a lot of video tutorials and tears later). When a senior team member needs to review a PDF, they’re either forced to endure the previously mentioned process, or they’re forced to make extensive notes somewhere else and email them separately.

The real problems arise when clients get involved. They don’t spend their time submerged in a sea of PDFs. They might not be familiar with the best practices for making comments or might not use the same software your agency uses and require it to be set in a different format. Whereas your team might use Google Drive, they might work solely within Word. You may upload to one cloud while they upload to another. Sometimes they make comments on the local document and when they upload the PDF, the changes disappear. There are all kinds of ways the current proofing process can get delayed. Do you see how this can get messy quickly?

Something as simple as a different client proofing tool wreaks havoc on your existing workflow. The result is always the same – more time spent on reworks not just based on the client’s comments, but also due to disappearing changes and the need to adapt to whatever the client decides to do with the file. Hours can be lost due to an inefficient proofing workflow. And those are hours that you can’t spend on other projects, limiting your creative agency’s growth.

Not only does this whole scenario cause a lot of headaches and frustration, but it also wastes precious time and resources. This is true on both ends, with both the creative agency and the client suffering losses.

It’s easy to dismiss these complaints because they’ve been experienced for so long now. This is just the way things are done, right? Sure, it’s not ideal, but what can you do? Turns out, there are actually technologies out there that streamline the proofing experience for both the creative agency and the client. These client proofing tools double as tools that can provide online proofing for designers and managers as well. Lucky for you, we know all there is to know about online proofing and the easy-to-use technology that is just waiting to revolutionize the creative industry.

A Robust Online Proofing Tool Coupled with Team Collaboration

Streamline your workflow and boost your productivity with an integrated agency management solution

What Is Online Proofing?

Online proofing refers to sharing content and files for collaboration and feedback among teams. The documents are shared virtually through the client proofing tool and team members can share their feedback, add comments, and collaborate simultaneously on a single document while sitting in different offices.

Online proofing is an easy, convenient way to cut out any physical distance between clients and their creative teams when working together. It eliminates obstacles like PDFs, unmatching software systems, and communication issues by offering a unique platform that provides an “all-in-one” experience and streamlines the proofing workflow.

With online proofing, all the edits and comments are made in one place. It all comes down to centralization. Rather than forcing teams and clients to ping many different versions of what is ostensibly the same file around – creating the possibility of missed edits in the process – all work takes place in a single file. Once the document is uploaded to the online proofing software, people can be invited to collaborate. They’ll be notified via email that they have been added to the proofing document and that their feedback is required. From there, they can review the file and make their comments.

Better yet, the notification processes are automated. Human error, such as forgetting to send a file once edits are made, is removed from the proofing workflow, with each person who has access to the document also able to see changes occurring in real-time.

When everyone has had their turn reviewing the document, the creatives can dive in and make the changes. If required, they can again upload the document and invite the required people to leave their feedback. If this sounds familiar, it’s because creative proofing software is somewhat similar to software like Google Docs. Just as you can easily comment and edit on a shared document in Google Docs, you can do the same on shared images, videos, audio, and webpages on online proofing software. This can all be done on a web browser, eliminating the need for software compatibility and access issues.

By creating an open space where everyone with a stake in the document can easily communicate and collaborate, it not only makes the work easier and faster, but also more personal. The client feels like they’re being heard and respected, and the creative team gets the most accurate feedback possible, leading to a final result that everyone is happy and proud of.

5 Benefits of Online Proofing Software

Some of the benefits of creative proofing software have already been highlighted. It introduces automation and real-time change tracking – both essential in keeping your workflow as smooth as possible. But there are many benefits to bringing online proofing software into your tech stack besides those two.

1. It eliminates the need for email approvals

Long back-and-forth email chains can be a huge hassle. Someone clicks on the wrong file, an important email gets buried, or messages get skimmed and key information isn’t properly conveyed. The room for error is boundless.

Research shows that email is the biggest time waster at the workplace with up to 39% of people spending as much as an hour per day checking emails:

While online proofing isn’t an alternative to email, it helps a lot in reducing time wasted on checking emails by streamlining the proofing process at your creative agency – leading to higher productivity.

With online proofing software, all your correspondence happens in one place. Just like that, many of the most common causes of mistakes are gone. When you replace the need for back-and-forth dialogue via email with an online proofing software, you save everyone time (and sanity) while also maintaining the integrity of your project. Despite being such a simple change, it can truly save your project and the valuable relationships your agency has with your clients.  

The only emails that get sent are the ones that those working on the document receive to notify them of changes. As a result, collaboration rockets up as every member of your team – plus the client – can see changes and comments as they’re being made. Frustration with having to wait around for emails is eliminated because you know that a quick check of the document shows you its exact status.

2. It provides greater transparency into the projects’ status

Project managers aren’t always sure exactly where the project is at. Sure, it got sent to the client a few days ago. But have they looked at it? Did everyone make comments? Are those comments even useful? An online proofing tool allows project managers to quickly pop into the project and check if any progress has been made. If a client was granted access two days ago and they haven’t made any comments, they can then follow up to ensure the deliverables stay on track. This saves people from feeling like they’re putting something out into the deep, dark void and just waiting to hear a distant whisper of acknowledgment.

Transparency is never a bad thing for a project that requires collaboration. When everyone on the project’s team – from the client to the creatives to the managers overseeing it all – can see the state of a project at any given time, it makes life a lot easier for all involved. No longer will anyone have to worry if the right person has checked on the project yet, or if a piece of feedback was utilized, or if the project is on track for the agreed timeline. Ultimately, you get more visibility in the process during a stage that is often invisible in the traditional proofing workflow.

3. Online proofing allows for consistent markup

Right now, many people use Adobe Acrobat for the light edits that most revisions require. However, that’s not the case for everyone. Some may use the default app on their Mac, or some other PDF reader they bought ten years ago and refuse to move away from. This can create all sorts of issues and limitations with providing feedback, especially when you have to deal with a client proofing tool that is outdated and incompatible with whatever you’re using.

Having to work with a variety of clients who all use their own software creates a plethora of possible issues for everyone involved. Miscommunication and frustrations are bound to pop up within the first 24 hours of a project. When online proofing software is utilized, everyone has access to the same tools every time they give feedback. That means that everyone involved in the process, from clients to project managers, becomes more familiar and efficient with the tools available to them. This cuts out any possibility for these issues and replaces it with the guarantee of an easy, efficient, and collaborative experience every step of the way.

4. Eliminate unneeded chores from your proofing workflow

Take a moment to think about all of the “extra” work that goes into your proofing process beyond commenting and editing documents.

You may have spreadsheets that you create to track changes made since you can’t rely on the changes staying in place for each version of a file. As a project manager, you may even use these spreadsheets to track key performance indicators (KPIs) for your designers – all work that you can do within a good online proofing tool.

Online proofing takes the best part of the current proofing system, that clients and creative teams can be spread out across the world, and removes its most annoying features—most notably the never-ending struggle to edit and communicate via a PDF.

5. Enhanced security throughout the proofing workflow

Imagine that you’re working on a sensitive project for a client – one that won’t be made available for public consumption until the client’s ready. But you’re sending the files related to that project via email. There’s minimal password protection or encryption, the lack of each being potentially devastating in a world where nearly a billion emails were breached in 2022 alone.

Imagine losing a file to a hacker. Or, worse yet, having that hacker hold the file to ransom, forcing a payout or a long-winded retrieval via law enforcement. Neither is an attractive option. And thanks to the combination of password protection and access rights you can grant through online proofing software, you’re less likely to face these security issues when dealing with sensitive files.

Online Proofing vs. Traditional Proofing

There are quite a few differences between online proofing and conventional proofing. Here’s how the two compare:

  1. Online proofing uses software like Function Point whereas traditional proofing is done (mostly) through email attachments in the absence of any dedicated platform.
  2. Online proofing is automated where everything is recorded in real-time. Multiple users can access and work on a file simultaneously without hindering productivity. Conventional proofing, on the other hand, requires manual editing and comments.
  3. When you use an app for proofing, you get access to a complete suite of features and services that aren’t available with conventional, manual proofing. For example, you can work on multiple file formats, you can control user permissions, version control, collaboration, task assignment, etc., which are some major features that you get with leading online proofing apps.

How online proofing works

Here’s how proofing software works:

Step #1: Document sharing

The proofing workflow begins by creating a project in the proofing platform which usually includes uploading a document. The file can be in any format including PDF, image, video, etc., depending on what types of file formats your proofing software supports.

You control visibility and security of the content you upload and only people you choose can view the document.

Step #2: Create rules and invite others

The uploaded document is then shared with the people by setting appropriate rules. You can invite clients and team members to collaborate by adding their comments and notes. All the individuals get notified that they are added as a reviewer for a document with a link to access the document.

Step #3: Proofing

The proofing process begins when invited people add their comments. Everyone else is notified when a new comment is added, replied to, or closed. Multiple individuals can access and work on the same document simultaneously which significantly improves productivity.

Here’s an example of how Function Point’s proofing app works:

You can collaborate with your clients and team members right on the document to avoid miscommunication. You don’t have to limit yourself to proofing, but members can add and assign tasks right on the app.

Step #4: Repeat

Once all the comments are addressed by the relevant team members and the document is ready, you can approve the document and move to the next one.

How to Find the Right Online Proofing Tool for Your Agency

Now that you have the answer to “what is online proofing?” you can see why it’s so superior to the processes your agency currently has in place. You wave goodbye to long email chains and the tedious (and time-consuming) back-and-forth of bouncing PDFs around departments until everybody is finally happy with the result. In place of those processes is an online tool that exists to create efficiency and eliminate much of the stress placed on project managers by outdated proofing workflows. The quicker your creative agency brings online proofing software into the fold, the quicker you can complete projects and the happier your clients will be.

Here is a list of key factors you have to look for when choosing a creative online proofing app for your creative agency:

1. Must-have features

The right client proofing tool should offer at least the basic, must-have features that are necessary for proofing. The core features include:

  • Comment and task management
  • Annotations
  • To-do lists
  • Collaboration
  • Task assignment
  • Revision history and version management
  • User access management.

Besides these basic features, look for specific features that you need. For example, suppose you own a marketing agency and need client proofing software. In that case, you might have specific needs such as team collaboration so you can assign comments to relevant team members right from the proofing software.

2. File types

The proofing app should support different file formats. The more formats it supports, the better.

The common file formats include:

  • PDFs
  • Images
  • HTML files
  • Videos
  • Web pages
  • Office files.

Going with a low-end online proofing app that supports a few file formats might seem to be an attractive option price-wise, but you are more likely to face issues as your agency grows.

3. Security

Your documents are stored in the cloud by the proofing software which makes security a key concern. Look for security features such as:

  • End-to-end encryption
  • Two-factor authentication
  • Password protected files
  • Access management and permission control
  • Backup and disaster recovery.

Encryption is the major security feature that you should look for. Ideally, you should go with online proofing software that offers encryption at rest, in use, and in transit for 100% security of your files.

4. Integration

You can’t use an online proofing app in isolation. It has to be integrated with other apps in your tech stack for proper function and automation.

For example, if the proofing app doesn’t integrate with Google Docs, you’ll have to manually upload files for proofing. It might sound OK if you have a few files to proof, but things get complicated when you have to deal with hundreds of files (as your agency grows).

Similarly, you’d expect the creative online proofing software to work with the project management app and communication app you are using in-house.

Don’t ignore integrations.

5. Price

Most online proofing platforms charge you a monthly subscription fee and it is more likely to increase as your agency grows as you have to pay per user.

When choosing an app for your agency, the pricing should be evaluated based on two factors:

  1. Scalability of your agency. How quickly you expect your agency to grow in coming years and how much you’d be paying per user after a few years.
  2. Is the proofing app scalable? What’s the maximum number of users it supports?

The price multiplies quickly and can go from under a hundred bucks per month to a few thousand dollars as you grow. So, don’t just look at the current price, look for long-term pricing and ask yourself if you can afford it when the number of users doubles.

Having a sophisticated client proofing tool in your tech stack ensures that you make your team and clients both happy. It offers much more than automation and a boost in productivity, it streamlines proofing workflow with transparency.

At the end of the day, the success of your design agency relies on several factors, and creative proofing software is one among them.

Final Thoughts

With all of the previously mentioned benefits, as well as plenty of others depending on what online proofing software you decide to use, it’s obvious why this technology is quickly becoming the fan-favorite in the creative world. When everyone is able to be on the same page at any time of the day, all while enjoying an easy and efficient platform, there’s truly no downside. As soon as your creative agency brings online proofing software into the fold, everyone from your creatives to managers to – most importantly – the clients will find value and happiness in not only the end results of their projects but the process, too. Who doesn’t love the thought of that?

Make sure the tool you use is nothing short of perfect and offers a complete suite of multiple services and features like the one we have. Function Point is an all-in-one creative agency management software that has a robust online proofing tool coupled with team collaboration that gives you everything you need to succeed as a creative agency.

See how FP’s Online Proofing tool can help your team save time and increase productivity. Contact us at sales@functionpoint.com for a live demo.

3. Online proofing allows for consistent markup.

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