If you’re looking to invest in online proofing software, you’ll need to understand the key features and functions of a robust and versatile system. As with any business product or service, there is a wide range of solutions that aim to solve this problem, so let’s break down the main requirements, see where proofing sits within the creative process and reveal the best solutions on the market for creative teams looking to smarten their creative project management.
Before we begin, let's go over what online proofing software is used for. Online proofing is a secure process for reviewing and approving creative work using an internet-based workflow. Before the recent introduction of online proofing, creative and marketing teams would often use paper-based methods or long email chains to approve their design work, which was inefficient and cumbersome.
Online proofing software provides an efficient and accessible way of approving digital and print creative work by removing key technical and practical barriers that can slow down the approval process.
Creative projects easily become overly lengthy and complex without the use of online proofing software. Emails with multiple attachments might be sent to various collaborators, making it difficult to keep track of what has been seen or approved. Exported files from Adobe programs can cause further confusion as there is no central platform where all versions of the proof can be viewed together. This may also lead to publishing errors and missed deadlines due to a lack of clarity regarding who should sign off on the artwork, and which version. Finally, printed proofs can often get lost or damaged in transit, denying some collaborators the chance to see the work.
Adopting online proofing helps creative and marketing teams to save time, improves the collaboration between their designers and stakeholders, and gets work approved and released faster. It also prevents mistakes with interpretation and allows multiple teams to review the same documents remotely from any location.
Any robust online proofing software solution will include the following key features:
Who benefits from online proofing software?
Many creative or marketing agencies are an ideal fit for this type of collaboration tool, due to their interaction with a wide range of clients and large quantity of creative projects. But any industry sector or business that employs their own in-house design and marketing team, or has a need for workflow management, will get value from investing in proofing software to ensure everyone in their team and business are on the same page.
Typical team members and users include:
The proof and reviewing stages take up the bulk of the creative process and a streamlined approach here will save time and money. Below is an overview of the creative process.
Brief: This stage kicks off the creative process. The client, either internal or external, provides a creative brief. It will outline their needs and requirements for the project.
Request assets: The project manager or account manager will request all required assets from the client. This typically will be a brand pack or guidelines and can also include logos, font collections, and imagery, such as illustrations or photography.
Assign or request creative: The project/account manager will assign the job to either an internal creative or pass it to a freelancer. They will supply an outline of the project brief and any assets required.
Design: The creative will produce the artwork or design. This could be logos, magazines, website and web pages, videos, or audio. This will depend on the initial brief.
Internal review: The creative passes the design back to the account manager for approval. This can be proofed to ensure that it fits their vision of the client's requirements. If required, this artwork can be passed back to the designer to make the necessary changes or amendments.
Client feedback: Once the account manager is happy with the design, it is then passed on to the client for approval. Any changes they request are passed back to the account manager. They can then determine if the changes are outside of the original scope of the brief and if not, pass them on to the designer for action.
Amendments: The design receives the feedback and actions the amendments as required. These review stages of Design - Internal review - Client feedback - Amendments can repeat for several rounds (typically three) until the brief has been met and all parties are happy.
Sign of and approval: Once the client is happy, the artwork is signed off and approved.
Final delivery: Once approved, the creative delivers the completed artwork and this can be passed on to be printed, produced, or developed.
The proofing process generally takes place over the following stages: Design - Internal review - Client feedback - Amendments - Sign off and approval as part of the wider creative project management workflow.
There are many providers of online proofing software, who offer a wide variety of features and solutions, below is our round up of ten of the best solutions for 2023.
Oppolis Cloud not only handles the proofing process, it streamlines the entire creative job, creating unified team collaboration with real-time approval. For Adobe Creative Cloud users it is fully integrated within their Adobe apps such as InDesign Illustrator and Photoshop. Unlimited reviewers are offered across all packages who and can take advantage of the large array of proofing tools, the 'version history' functionality, and user comment threads. A free account allows anyone to sign up and experience the power of Oppolis Cloud first hand before purchasing. With an extensive after-sales support network included, Oppolis Cloud user can navigate any issues they may face by taking advantage of the ‘how to’ guides, the free Udemy course, and online, email and telephone support.
Approval Studio integrates with Slack and Adobe Creative Cloud when an upgraded package is purchased. There is currently no integration with Microsoft Teams. Mobile and desktop reviewing and a selection of proofing tools are available on the standard package, but an upgrade is required for video proofing.
Aproove is a convenient online proofing tool for users who seek an uncomplicated solution. It does not offer integrations with Slack or Adobe Creative Cloud, but it does include features such as @mentioning, proof status filters, flatplan and flipbook view, and instant sharing. All creative files are compatible and can be uploaded to Aproove, but unfortunately there is no mobile option available.
Filestage is an online platform designed to make team collaboration more efficient and productive. With Fileshare, users can easily share, discuss, and approve files of all kinds - documents, images, videos, websites, and audio files. Filestage offers tailored packages for creative teams of all sizes but upgrades are needed to access features such as single sign-on (SSO), onboarding, and advanced security settings.
GoVisually provides powerful proofing tools that streamline the creative team's workflow, helping them deliver projects quickly and free of email chain confusion. Standard features with GoProof are included, but integration with Adobe Creative Cloud, Slack, and Microsoft Teams is not currently available. Video proofing can be activated with a package upgrade as well as @mentioning and smart compare functionality.
The PageProof online proofing tool makes the reviewing and approval process effortless. It can accommodate a wide variety of creative files, including Adobe Creative Cloud, Microsoft Office, web banners, videos, and emails. PageProof boasts an array of features and integrates with Adobe Creative Cloud; however, enterprise upgrades are required to access features such as single sign-on (SSO) and multiple teams.
With ProofHub, teams have access to an easy-to-use and flexible platform to collaborate on projects. The software is available on both the Android and iOS operating systems. It comes with a variety of proofing tools as standard but an upgrade is required to unlock additional features such as project manager settings, activity logs, custom workflows, and white labelling.
QuickReviewer is the perfect tool for teams looking for a quicker design approval process. It supports the review of videos, websites, PDFs, images, and audio files. Its packages include an array of proofing tools from versioning and activity logs to custom branding and email templates; however, only some of the Adobe Creative Cloud apps are integrated with QuickReviewer - like Photoshop and Illustrator – with others such as InCopy or Premiere Pro not currently supported.
With WebProof, graphics businesses can easily collaborate and review projects from anywhere, anytime. The WebProof solution eliminates the barriers that come with traditional workflows, cutting costs and drastically speeding up project completion. Upgrade customers enjoy all the benefits of a proofing solution, including revision history and commenting tools plus exclusive access to InDesign integration.
Ziflow makes it simple for creatives to create and deliver remarkable content. The platform offers an interface for clear feedback on videos, digital, web, documents, images, audio, banners, GIFs, and more. Ziflow seamlessly integrates with top creative and project management apps, allowing users from the enterprise upgrade package exclusive access to all integrations. For those in the standard package, unlimited reviewers and version control ensure a smooth and efficient workflow.
When considering which online proofing software solution could meet your requirements, look into features such as native integrations with other programs, such as Adobe Creative Cloud for collaborative design critiques, rather than just relying on emails for communication. You'll also need to make sure additional user counts are adequate enough for your team's needs, along with evaluating how much support you expect to receive going forward, should you need the additional help.
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