Type in “online proofing tool” into a search engine and you will be overwhelmed with the results. The surge in options for online proofing is one indicator of the digital transformation many businesses have been undergoing for the past few years. Additionally, with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the ability to share and give feedback on work in a fully digital format has become an absolute necessity.
Creative teams though, they need something more from their online proofing tools. First, they need a proofing solution that is built into a full, end-to-end creative workflow solution. Stand-alone proofing tools are too disjointed, and force teams to waste time jumping between systems that don’t talk to each other or are poorly integrated. Here at inMotionNow we’ve known the importance of integrating review and approval into the full creative workflow for a long time. Over 20 years ago we began as an online proofing solution – but we soon saw that online proofing delivers much higher value when it’s seamlessly integrated into the entire creative workflow.
Second, creative teams need much more robust functionality than other departments when it comes to review and approval. Creative teams need their reviewers to do more than simply take a glance at a file and leave a couple comments, yet that’s all that most proofing tools that are a bolted-on after thought on a generic project management software are capable of.
Here are what creative teams really need from their online proofing and approval platform:
Collaboration with reviewers. Proof reviews should be a two-way street, a process where creative teams share their work, get feedback from reviewers, and respond to that feedback. Designers should be able to present a proof with context – explaining why certain design decisions were made or asking reviewers to focus on a certain aspect of the proof. Reviewers and designers should all be able to have back-and-forth conversations in the comments of the reviews, and it should be easy to bring in additional stakeholders who may not be a key reviewer but can still add valuable insight.
Proof routing. The most tedious and time-consuming part of sending a proof for review is chasing down all the reviewers that need to provide feedback. This becomes even more complicated if there is a certain order that reviewers need to see the proof in. For example, a designer may need their creative director to sign off on a proof before it goes out to the client. Automating this process with a proof route lets the designer be hands-off. If the proof is approved, it will go on to the next reviewer. If not, it automatically comes back to the designer for necessary edits.
Proof routing also makes it easy to incorporate optional reviewers – this maintains transparency while keeping the proof moving. Proof routing can also be a life-saver when it comes to needing sign-off from one person within a group – for example if one person from the legal department needs to approved the final version, proof routing sends the proof to all the lawyers, but as soon as one signs off, the proof closes and the designer can keep the project moving forward. Automatic review reminders alert reviewers when they have outstanding reviews. All this automation means that a designer can focus on design and not on chasing approvals.
Clear, actionable feedback. Every version of a proof that goes out for review should be productive. Designers should be able to take that feedback and make impactful revisions that move the proof closer to a final product. When feedback is vague, or doesn’t indicate a clear action, progress grinds to a halt, and the project ends up having more rounds of review than should be necessary. Online proofing and approval software should make it easy for reviewers to leave high-quality feedback that keeps the project rolling. A selection of mark-up tools should help them leave targeted, specific feedback in the context of the asset. Version control should give them access to reference previous versions, but only leave feedback on the current version. Finally, they should leave a final approval status that clearly indicates what they expect for next steps. Avoid options like “approved” or “rejected”. Look instead for statuses like “Change and Resubmit”, “Approved with Changes”, or “Approved As Is”. Each reviewer should be able to leave a status on each page of the proof, and the system should then aggregate those statuses up to provide an overall status for each reviewer and the proof as a whole. This gives designers deeper insights into exactly how they should move forward.
Seamless Integration with Adobe Creative Cloud
Creatives and designers spend most of their time in Adobe Creative Cloud applications like Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign. The best review and approval platforms recognize this and make it easy for creatives to move seamlessly between design work and feedback collection. For example, the inMotion Extension for Adobe Creative Cloud allows creatives to spend more time in their favorite Adobe apps as they route proofs for review, receive notifications from their team, and review feedback. With one-click access creative teams can navigate into the full inMotion ignite when they are ready for deeper collaboration with their team and stakeholders.
As you’re considering online proofing and approval solutions, keep in mind that the best solutions come as part of a complete end-to-end creative workflow management platform. Here are some features to look for in proofing and approval software:
- Support for a wide variety of file types, including image, video, PDF, webpage url, html email
- Proof routing to make sure all necessary reviewers submit feedback in the correct order
- The ability to set both essential and optional reviewers on a proof route
- Options to set up automatic reminders so that reviewers submit feedback on time
- Message or instructions to reviewers
- A variety of proof mark-up tools, like drawing, highlights, insert, and strike through
- Threaded comments with @mentioning
- The ability to attach files to comments on the review
- Visibility for designers into individual and aggregate approval statuses
- Version control to make sure reviewers are giving feedback on the most current version
- Side-by-side version comparison
- Visibility into which reviewers have opened the proof, and when each tier of the route has begun their review
- Actionable approval statuses
- Checklists to keep track of completed edits
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Elise Hauser is a product and content marketer with a passion for telling brand stories. She has produced inMotionNow’s annual In-House Creative Management Report for 3 years, webinars, content sessions for major industry events reaching audiences of 1,000+, and of course, countless blog posts. When Elise isn’t writing about the marketing and creative industry at inMotionNow she is teaching economics and hanging out with her cat, Tucker, at her home in Raleigh, NC.