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What is online proofing? Understanding the key features, benefits, and steps

10 min read
Aaron Marquis

The demand for high-quality creative content is insatiable. Brands need to produce content to stay relevant to their customers. As the number of channels increases and the shelf life of content decreases, creative and marketing teams are under pressure to deliver ever-higher volumes of high-quality content in less time.

But between long email threads, swapping creative assets for approval, chat messages buried in your notifications, or weekly meetings with crowded agendas, how are creative teams supposed to stay agile without seeing quality dips? 

Online proofing is the solution you’ve been waiting for. Losing feedback notes and missing deadlines are a thing of the past when you add online proofing tools to your creative workflows. 

What we'll cover

What is online proofing?

Online proofing is the process of sharing assets for feedback and approval using online proofing software. This software consolidates feedback into a centralized software solution where all team members and stakeholders can review, approve, and leave feedback on creative assets.

Think of all the ways you typically gather feedback. Jotting down notes during a meeting? Slack or Microsoft Teams convos? Multiple hundred-something emails-long threads?

With online proofing, feedback lives in one place, so you won’t have to dig through old conversations to find what you’re looking for. 

Marketing teams will streamline their processes with the right proofing solution. Share and provide feedback on marketing assets, communicate directly on the creative collateral, and maintain version and comment histories for accountability — all inside your online proofing software.

Guide to online proofing software

Decision approved on online proof review  - Ziflow UI proof viewer dashboard

Online proofing software vs. traditional methods (like email)

Online proofing applications are far more seamless than traditional feedback methods. Common traditional methods for receiving feedback include shared Dropbox folders, email, printouts, Slack, or Microsoft Teams.

When using online proofing software, feedback is provided directly on the content being reviewed. The benefits of online proofing include:

  • Greater clarity and visibility into the review and approval process
  • Improved status tracking
  • Better collection of feedback and collaboration
  • Stronger version control and version comparisons

Bring content into your creative production workflows

Who uses online proofing software?

Creative and marketing teams, both in-house and at agencies, use online proofing software to streamline the review and approval process for creative content. 

This includes everything from PDFs and packaging to social media and video content. All kinds of file formats can be used in online proofing software. 

Agencies and their brand clients use the system collaboratively, sharing and collecting feedback in one central location. Attempting to do this over email could quickly lead to miscommunication and missed deadlines — particularly for remote and hybrid teams who need tools that support both synchronous and asynchronous communication.

From small, specialized teams to the largest global organizations, companies of all sizes benefit from online proofing software.

The more content produced, the more people involved in the approval process, and the more compliance in place, the greater the benefits of online proofing. 

Download online proofing guide

Team of creatives discussing on a project and proofing

Why implement an online proofing software? 

Outdated traditional proofing methods slow your team down. They’re clunky, inefficient, and a bottleneck for your workflows. When you switch to online proofing software, you’ll transform your error-prone process into a streamlined machine. 

Cost savings

Switching to online proofing software correlates to tangible cost savings. 

Personnel is one of the largest expenses any creative team has. Creative teams can easily spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on personnel, from full-time employees to contractors. With more effective workflows, you’ll be able to tackle revisions quicker and easier, and your project pipeline will be simpler to manage. That means your team’s need for external freelancers will also dwindle (translating to even greater savings on resources). 

You’ll also decrease the amount of rework required to finish a project. If you’re at an agency, you can take on more clients, bringing in more revenue. Fewer errors mean less money wasted on printing mishaps or low-quality digital assets. 

Online proofing might be the quickest win in MarTech

Control over high volumes of content

If you’re juggling massive amounts of content without a centralized platform for feedback, you’re begging for a migraine. The best online proofing tools support teams by preventing bottlenecks that lead to delays.

How? Automation features.

By automating your review process, the next stakeholder can be automatically pinged when it’s their turn to review. They can even get reminders as deadlines approach.

Automation keeps everything on track. The right people will see each asset at the right time. This ensures higher quality content even at scale.

Coordination among numerous collaborators

Whether you work with a large team, several stakeholders, or multiple clients, online proofing is a must. It’s imperative to have everyone on the same page. Otherwise, you’re stepping on each other's toes, work gets muddled, and tensions rise.

Dynamic proofing methods keep things running smoothly. Built-in markup tools make it obvious what needs to change, and conversation history means you won’t waste time going back and forth. Creative work is completed faster and with less friction.

Faster review and approval processes

Online proofing speeds up the review and approval timeline by streamlining your workflow. Gone are the days of pinging your colleagues or clients about their notes. Instead, designate key stakeholders and decision-makers and automate notifications about deadlines. 

Every decision is traceable, keeping transparency at the forefront. When working on complex projects with large teams, this is a lifesaver. All team members will be kept in the loop, decision-makers can easily sign off on changes, and projects will cross the finish line more quickly.

Maintaining marketing compliance

So many industries have to navigate marketing compliance regulations. Project management is a puzzle when you’re also jumping through compliance hoops, such as: 

  • Brand compliance
  • Disclosures
  • Comparative claims
  • Special offers
  • Substantiation
  • Sweepstakes and contests
  • Marketing to children
  • Collection and use of marketing data

Marketing compliance: What it is & how it affects your role

Non-compliance leads to financial penalties, legal liabilities, and a loss of customer confidence, to name a few. This is all before any rework is required.

An online proofing platform empowers teams to adhere to brand guidelines and compliance rules. By adding more structure to your review process, you’ll catch compliance concerns before they become costly errors. 

Video motion specialist creating and editing content in a program on a desktop pc

The benefits of online proofing for creative operations

When you start using online proofing software, your review cycles will change for the better. No matter what file types you decide to proof, expect to see these benefits along the way:

  • Better tracking and visibility: Online proofing creates an audit trail that is easy to follow, holding everyone accountable.
  • Faster project delivery: Reduce cycle time and deliver projects by their deadline so that you can work on the next big thing.
  • Reduced costs: Earn a higher ROI for each project by reducing overhead costs and improving work quality to create better creative outputs every time.
  • Client and stakeholder satisfaction: When marketing campaigns are easily reviewed and edited, your customers and key stakeholders will be happier than ever with your services.
  • Better quality of creative output: No more slogging through revision notes only to make edits that still don’t get approved; create higher-quality work the first time.
  • Regulatory and brand compliance risk mitigation: By improving visibility and increasing review structure, you’ll lower the possibility of non-compliance without sacrificing speedy turnarounds

Key features of online proofing software 

Let’s dig a little deeper into how exactly online proofing tools can transform your workflows. These four key features make online proofing software a non-negotiable for creative teams.


With the right online proofing software, you have a centralized location for all projects. Relevant docs, screenshots, comments, and versions are stored in a singular place. The functionality of your workflow will improve. Spend less time searching for files and feedback to shorten your revision cycle and increase approval speeds. 


Real-time collaboration is crucial for any project management tool. Online proofing software supports real-time commenting, threaded discussions, and simultaneous viewing so that you can work together with ease — even from different locations. 


With customizable automation templates, online proofing software helps orchestrate a seamless review and approval process. Gone are the days of manual routing and constant follow-up emails. Your projects will move down the pipeline efficiently (without wasting your team’s bandwidth), so you can scale up to bigger projects. 


The right online proofing software for your team will integrate with other tools already in use. When adding another software, ensure it connects with active project management and digital asset management systems your team utilizes. Robust integrations are crucial for long-term satisfaction with any tool, providing increased functionality as your content needs scale. 

Ziflow workflows stages visualized with decision status included

How online proofing software works step-by-step 

This step-by-step guide takes you through the best ways to use online proofing software.

1. Uploading content for review

It all starts with a piece of content — a design file, PDF, web page, or image. Focus on high-resolution assets that are properly named for easy identification.

When establishing the review group, the proof owner can identify team members with decision-making roles. This way, decisions are documented — a fundamental requirement for pushing projects to the next steps.

All media types supported by online proofing

2. Routing and notifications

Routing assets to the right parties at the right time is a full-time job — unless you start relying on automation. Free up important internal bandwidth by incorporating automation into your workflows. Participants can receive notifications regarding updates, new comments, and needed actions without slowing down project momentum. 

5 signs your marketing team needs online proofing

3. Feedback and version control

Feedback is a breeze with online proofing. By clearly designating reviewers, you eliminate the risk of file incompatibility, working on incorrect versions, or accidentally excluding team members with incorrect file access. Reviewers can mark up documents and leave comments for requested changes. From there, a new version can be created and compared to previous versions, so team members can verify the required changes were made.

3 steps to getting team members to break ties with legacy review & approval tools

4. Collaboration with internal and external audiences

Reviewers can also collaborate within the platform to provide comments and mark up specific problem areas with precise and actionable feedback. This cuts down on miscommunication, time loss, and even rework due to missed feedback.

8 best practices for sharing marketing content between internal & external reviewers

5. Consensus and approval, decision communication, and final file transmission

Gathering approval from stakeholders is simple during the online proofing process. Designated decision-makers use in-software communication tools to give a thumbs-up to the finished version. Then, approved files are securely transferred through the platform.

6. Project history and auditability

Creating a comprehensive audit trail using integrated edit histories is vital for quality control and compliance. Should any disputes arise, they’ll be easy to resolve. 

Online proofing workflows visualized with Ziflow dashboard on a laptop display screen

Discover how to master online proofing with Ziflow 

Online proofing has been called “the quickest win in marketing technology” because it’s easy to implement and provides lasting benefits. Ziflow simplifies processes for creative teams by offering seamless integration with your existing workflows. 

Looking for more tips and strategies to revolutionize your creative review and approval process?

Ziflow’s ultimate guide to collaborative proofing is your one-stop master resource for transforming team collaboration, accelerating project delivery, and elevating creative quality. Download your copy now. 

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