Who uses online proofing?
Companies that handle a high volume of content or have a large number of people in the review/approval process use online proofing to maintain control over the process, and to have insight into where every asset is throughout that process.
Those for whom time is a critical factor (e.g., brands, package and commercial printers) use online proofing to reduce the number of revisions and shorten the approval process.
Regulation and compliance
Companies that are heavily regulated (e.g., healthcare and financial services) rely on online proofing to provide a record of activity for each proof, to prove compliance.
High brand values
Companies who want to maintain the integrity of their brand value the improved brand control that online proofing delivers.
Managing client relationships
And anyone charged with maintaining important client relationships (e.g., account managers) benefit from the improved collaboration and communication only possible with online proofing.
Main features of online proofing
The main features of online proofing are:
- Viewing a proof for content and colour
- Letting several people view the proof simultaneously or consecutively
- Marking up a proof to show changes
- Viewing old versions and new versions together
- Providing electronic sign-off
- Archiving the proof for later viewing.
So why has online proofing become mainstream?
There are a number of reasons for this.
Much lower costs
The most important fact driving adoption of online proofing is that circulating a digital “proof” is far more efficient than producing and circulating a hard copy proof. This fact was true for soft-proofing and is true for online proofing today.
Better, faster internet
Internet availability and access to high bandwidth has increased exponentially in the last few years. This has made the distribution of digital content faster and cheaper than ever.
People want business apps to be as good as personal apps
People have adopted simple, easy-to-use tools in their personal lives such as Facebook, Hotmail, Gmail and Skype. They now expect their employers to let them work with equally easy-to-use web-based tools in their professional lives. Online proofing is precisely the type of tool that falls into this category.
Explosion of software-as-a-service (SaaS)
Finally, the rapid growth of software-as-a-service applications, pioneered by companies such as Salesforce.com, has made the adoption of new software much easier for companies. Instead of installing and maintaining servers, operating systems, software and data centers, companies can access enterprise-strength applications online.
How is online proofing different?
The first big difference is that online proofing is used for a wide variety of media. It can be used for print, but also for movies, TV commercials, audio files, web pages, banner ads and so on. This is important as so much design work is re-purposed for many media channels. Creative content now encompasses a huge range of media types, including documents (e.g., PDF, Word), presentations (e.g., PowerPoint), web content (e.g., .html, .png, .jpg) audio (e.g., .mp3), video (e.g., MPEG-4) and interactive (e.g., Flash) content, all of which need to be reviewed and approved before it can be released.
Used at all stages of creative development
The second big difference is that online proofing applications are used far earlier in the creative process. They focus on content and layout in addition to colour. Is the content correct? Are there any typos? How does the layout look? Have the correct images been used? Is everything on-brand? As a result, online proofing tools need to be highly collaborative, so that the creator can work closely with reviewers to make sure that the brief has been met.
No apps to download, install and manage
The third major factor is that users access online proofing tools through their web browser, they don’t download anything to their Mac or PC. This makes it easier to use and easier for team members in different locations to collaborate seamlessly. The days of each person have a separate copy of a PDF on their desktop are over.
No upfront costs
The next big difference is that online proofing tools are usually purchased on a pay-as-you-go basis. This means that companies can pay monthly or annually, rather than having to find tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in capital expenditure.
Moving to the mobile internet
The final big step is the move to mobile. Members of review teams are highly mobile and want access to proofs on mobile devices. These include iPhones, iPads, BlackBerrys, Android phones, etc.