What is Online Proofing?

What is Online Proofing?

Online proofing software, often synonymous with “review and approval software” allows marketers to more easily share and collect feedback. They are positioned as improvements over traditional ad-hoc methods such as email, printouts, or hallway conversations. The primary advantage of online proofing has over those traditional methods is the centralization feedback in a single location and the increased precision/effectiveness of feedback.

Who Uses Online Proofing?

Marketing teams - within both agencies and brands - use online proofing applications to streamline the review and approval process for creative content. In many cases, agencies and their brand clients use the system collaboratively, sharing and collecting feedback in real-time. Attempting to do this over email could quickly lead to miscommunication and missed feedback, which contributes directly to missed deadlines. Marketing teams of all sizes, from small, specialist teams to the largest global organizations, benefit from online proofing. The benefits are the same irrespective of organization size, although the higher the volume of content produced, the more people involved in review and approval, and the more compliance in place, the greater the benefit of online proofing. Key benefits are:

  • Streamlined review processes
  • Faster project delivery through streamlined review and approval process
  • Reduced cost through fewer revisions and rework  
  • Greater job satisfaction through the elimination of repetitive administrative tasks


How Does Online Proofing Work?  

 It all starts with a piece of content - a design file, a PDF, web page, an image, etc. Files are uploaded to a secure server and the shared with a specific set of individuals. Settings can be leveraged to secure the proof to only known and authenticated reviewers.  When setting up the review group, the proof owner can also identify those team members with decision-making roles so that decisions can be documented - a fundamental requirement for pushing projects to next steps.    


Once a proof has been created and the reviewers identified, team members are notified, and are able to access the proof via their browser.  This ensures that all team members are reviewing the same content in the same context; there is no risks of file types not being compatible, resolutions causing issues or file access excluding team members.   

From there, reviewers can collaborate within the content itself, providing comments, replies to comments and marking up specific areas of the content for precise and actionable feedback. It’s this precision of feedback which helps cut down on miscommunication, time loss and even rework due to missed feedback.  

Notifications can be set to alert team members of new comments being made, as well as any decisions made on a proof.

From there, a new version can be created and compared - down to the pixel level - to previous versions, so that team members can required changes were made.  

Why Online Proofing is Superior to Email as a Feedback Tool

Online proofing applications are more advantageous than email, as it allows for feedback to be provided directly on the content being reviewed. This context - what specific aspect of the content feedback is being provided for - drives greater clarity.


Additional reasons to consider online proofing over email as a feedback tool include:

  • More control and visibility into the review process that what the “to” line provides
  • Improved status tracking
  • Better collection of feedback and collaboration
  • Stronger version control and version comparisons

Online Proofing Can Help Organizations Save Money

A significant portion of any creative organization's’ budget is typically personnel, both full time, salaried employees, as well as part-time or contractors. According to the recent In House Creative Industry Report, 86% of creative leaders planned to at least maintain, if not grow, their freelance hiring plans. 60% indicated that there were no term limits in place for freelancers.

Online proofing can demonstrate, almost immediately, tangible cost savings. That is true for savings related to the reduction of contract personnel for job spikes, but also the avoidance of unnecessary costs, such as rework that may arise due to errors and poor quality control, as well as tactical costs such as printing costs.

Online Proofing Can Help Organizations Prove Marketing Compliance

Within the marketing resource management landscape, Gartner attributes the majority of their client inquiries to requests for creative production management. This is mainly due to interest in the following: the compliance review process; managing and tracking collaborative reviews and approvals with annotations in one system. This is often driven by compliance requirements, both externally and internally driven.

For many industries, marketing content needs to meet strict compliance requirements and can include, but not be limited to the following:

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

The risks of noncompliance can be significant - customer confidence lost financial penalties and legal liabilities. to name a few. This is all before any re-work, often an unrecoverable cost in the agency world, is required.

Online Proofing System Capabilities to Consider 

The following are a few of the most important capabilities to consider when evaluating online proofing software vendors:


Commenting and markup capabilities: the ability to quickly provide comments and perform markups to pieces of content is an absolute requirement for an online proofing solution. Comments should be easy to provide and respond to and markups should be as easy as using PowerPoint or Google Sheets.

Version comparison and control: An online proofing system should make it easy to create new versions of existing proofs, while at the same time facilitating the comparison of versions on a single screen. This helps to validate requested changes were made, as well as see progress made across versions. Another requirement is for the comments of each version to be maintained, for informational and audit purposes.

Comprehensive File Support: Given the explosion of marketing channels, your online proofing system should support the review of a wide range of file types across design files, static content, website pages and rich media such as audio and visual files. This allows for multi-channel campaigns to be reviewed simultaneously, within the same system, avoiding time-sinking context switching between apps.

Integration Capabilities: An online proofing system should work with your existing and planned technologies, such as project management, DAM, and chat. This will not only increase overall productivity but also allow for faster internal adoption of the online proofing system.

Security and Continuity: rigorous security standards, both in terms of content accessibility as well as the infrastructure of the web-based technologies being utilized. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Review group member authentication
  • Proof download administration
  • Encryption at rest
  • Disaster recovery
  • Support and up-time SLAs



When considering the core benefits of implementing an online proofing solution, it’s important to also factor in the impact of the status quo. The impact of leaving inefficient processes unchecked can have significant opportunity costs associated with them. It’s not only processes which can be improved. Leaving unnecessary costs to continue can stunt growth over the long term.

Online proofing has been called “the quickest win in marketing technology”, mainly due to the ease of implementation and internal adoption of focused, best-of-breed offerings. As discussed herein, there are also long term, tangible benefits to driving greater efficiency in marketing organizations.

For more information on Ziflow’s approach to online proofing, you can visit our product page or contact a product specialist to get further information.

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