What is online proofing?

Our definitive guide to online proofing, its key benefits, and what to look for in an online proofing solution for your creative team.

Online proofing is a term that describes the secure process of reviewing and approving creative work using an internet workflow, normally driven by online proofing software. Before this type of software was developed, creative and marketing teams, ad agencies, publishers and designers, etc. often used either printed outs or long email chains, which included vast to-do lists, to approve design work; which was cumbersome and slow.

A proofing workflow that adopts online proofing software provides a more efficient, accessible, and manageable way to approve creative content. It removes key technical and practical barriers, which complicate progress, and allows for a more engaging and modern approval journey that can be reached from anywhere. Online proofing saves time, improves collaboration, and gets work approved faster.

How does the online review and approval process work?

An online proofing process uses the internet to provide a structured creative review process within a secure portal where users are able to gather feedback on creative content. Web-based approval software allows collaborators to get easy access to work from any location, and at any time of day.
An online proofing tool doesn't stop there. Depending on the quality and features of the proofing solution powering it, creative designers, project managers, or content writers can also make huge productivity gains from integrating with Adobe Creative Cloud.

Collaborators can draw upon copy editing functions too, making quick and easy changes to the text without having to send it separately. They can also submit assets, videos, and other files directly through the proofing platform, rather than having to use a file-sharing service.

Why are online proofing tools so important?

Online proofing has been instrumental in transforming the approval workflow from a traditional, less efficient process to a more streamlined solution, and one fit for the modern world. Here are two examples of how creative teams have been known to collect feedback:

Paper-based review and approval

In traditional paper-based proofing workflows, single or multiple-page designs are printed off and stuck into a communal folder, which is passed around the building to everyone who needs to review them.

The required stakeholders would take turns to look at the designs and make chicken scratch notes on them indicating what they liked, disliked, felt needed changing, or wanted to add.

The process is very manual and therefore unreliable, with the folder often never making it onto someone’s desk or it stays sitting in the in-tray or home of someone who’s on vacation.

That’s if it hasn’t been lost altogether.

Email-based feedback

Relying on emailing documents such as PDFs around to reviewers helps with traceability and backup but still has its fundamental flaws.

Emails may go out at the same time but they can come back at totally different ones. Sometimes, as two or three versions one after the other from the same person, the text descriptions are normally in the body of the email, not on the actual design.

But the biggest issue by far is that there’s no collaboration. Everyone is working separately on their own, with no visibility of what their colleagues are saying or suggesting.
Discover the power of online proofing software. Sign up for a free trial of GoProof today!

How do I know if my business needs an online proofing platform?

Almost all successful proofing workflow is driven by a reliable cloud-based online proofing tool, so it’s pretty much a given for your team.

It is, however, a great idea to go through a quick self-qualification process ahead of choosing your software package, so you know that you’re looking for the right solution. Here’s a list of  issues experienced by teams not using online proofing software workflows.

Common issues using traditional proofing methods

  • Marketing assets taking too long to approve
  • Separate emails and attachments pinging everywhere
  • Comments not submitted in one place
  • Having to export files to share work from Adobe
  • Deadlines being missed
  • Publishing errors regularly being made
  • Printed proofs getting lost or ruined
  • Collaborators not getting the opportunity to view work
  • Confusion over the most up-to-date version
  • No central place to collaborate
  • No idea who has seen or not seen work
  • No clarity on the responsibility for signing off
If just a few of these issues sound familiar, then online proofing software will go a long way to streamlining your creative approval process.

Key benefits of a creative review process

  • Faster turnaround of creative assets
  • Removes frustrating tasks
  • Cut costs with a digital workflow
  • More control throughout the proofing process
  • Easier access for collaborators
  • Reduce lengthy phone calls discussing changes
  • Deeper engagement from collaborators
  • Eliminate PDF and asset file-sharing issues
  • Completed projects with fewer versions
  • Traceability of all changes
  • Compare versions of creative designs
  • A centralised feedback
  • Greater accuracy and quality of work
  • Everyone working on the same page
  • Access for multisite or multinational teams
  • Actionable feedback
  • Streamlined project management
To help you understand how online proofing works, we’ve broken the workflow down into the 7 key steps of online proofing.

7 steps for a successful online proofing process

Online proofing uses the internet to provide a structured secure portal for versions of work to be uploaded, shared, and reviewed. All users will access the same platform to share creative assets, in a range of file types, from a central hub where the whole team can provide feedback.

Any robust online proofing solution will have its own workflow, but what follows is the online proofing workflow used by GoProof, the market-leading online proofing system.

Step 1: The content

Once the initial creative artwork is created, gather the content you need and send the artwork for feedback. The proofing workflow can be streamlined depending on which file route you are taking, as you’ll see in Step 2.

Step 2: Sending proofs for review

A good online proofing solution should have the option to share content in at least two ways.

Export file uploader

This is done by either browsing for files stored on a local machine or network or in a cloud system such as Dropbox and then uploading them to the proofing website portal. It’s the basic way to submit export files or documents such as PDFs for review.

Direct from Adobe Creative Cloud

Most graphic designers and video producers use an Adobe app such as InDesign, Premiere Pro, or Photoshop to produce creative work. Proofs can be shared straight from inside these apps using extensions or plugins, cutting out the lengthy process of needing to export files into another format first or using the file uploader.

The interface inside GoProof guides you through the process of sharing your work. Depending on the Adobe app being used, the options may include setting deadlines, attaching files, allowing copy edits, creating teams of collaborators, adding custom messages, and more.
All collaborators invited to the proof receive a notification via email or mobile app with a secure link to the proof.

Step 3: Assigning collaborator roles

An important part of the review process is to be clear on who has what responsibility. This could be for numerous things including commenting, copy editing, inviting new collaborators, requesting changes, uploading files, and signing off work. Online proofing simplifies this by allowing the sender to assign roles to collaborators. These collaborator roles play a major part in keeping reviews on track.


A user who can view proofs but not make any comments or join in the conversation.


A user who can view proofs, make any comments, @mention others, and upload files.


The person with the most responsibility can make all the actions of a Reviewer and add collaborators, request changes, and sign proofs off.

Step 4: Proofing and collaboration

One of the biggest benefits of online proofing is having a single proof that everyone accesses and comments on, rather than separate copies being routed around on emails or print-offs. It’s vital to give collaborators the most effective ways to convey their thoughts and make actionable feedback with pinpoint accuracy. Designers can then clearly understand the instructions for the creative work and action it correctly.

Here are some of the features you should expect to see in the collaboration zone of an online proofing system.

Collaborator status

It's important to know who has seen or not seen the proof, regardless of whether any action has been taken on it. This is something that online proofing can easily track as part of the current status display of the collaborator.

Proofing tools

Online proofing is a huge leap forward from confusing long-hand statements written in the body of an email. Look out for a healthy range of proofing and mark-up tools outside of standard comment pins, such as text edit, highlight, and zoom.


Using comment threads next to the proof, collaborators can easily see who’s saying what and inspire each other to produce better creative results. Using @Mentioning is also a great way to engage with each other users and speed up the review.

Copy editing

A huge barrier to efficiency within the proofing process comes when edits are required to the copy. Traditionally, a copywriter would email text or send an attached document, which the designer would reformat into the document. Online proofing software makes this process smoother by allowing editors to submit text as if they were making a comment, cutting out all the extra time and work.


Artwork regularly goes through numerous versions before being approved. A handy feature is seeing the history of comments and comparing previous versions with the existing ones is an essential part of this.

File sharing

To keep things simple, online proofing allows everyone to share files when making comments. This could be anything from a replacement logo, to an instruction video or a spreadsheet of financial information.

Proof status

Online proofing helps to clarify the key stages or milestones of work as it moves through the creative journey. It’s done by collaborators with the relevantly assigned role placing the proof into a specific status such as 'In Review' or 'Changes Requested'.


If a hard copy of the proof is still required, for traceability or procedural compliance, hard copies of proofs can be printed off or downloaded as a PDF.
Discover the power of online proofing software. Take a free trial of GoProof today!

Step 5: Getting change requests back

There are two main ways for creatives to receive feedback from reviews and take action on them.

The collaboration zone

Here the creatives track the comments being made next to the proof and then work out what needs doing. Once a proof has been marked for a new version to be produced, the creative sets to work, referring back to the proofing software throughout the process.

Directly from Adobe Creative Cloud

This is where maximum productivity is achieved for creatives by using an extension that sits inside Adobe. Creatives receive all comments, changes, and files right into their document or video side panel. Meaning they don’t need to leave Creative Cloud to view feedback and can see it exactly in context, page by page.

They can then just hit ‘Apply’ to place copy edits directly into the document.

Step 6: Sending new versions

The designer produces a new version of the creative inside their  software and then follows the same process as before to share it for the next review round.

Proofing software helps to save time on the review steps by remembering the settings from the previous review. Alongside this, insight reports are generated to help creative teams evaluate the time being taken on reworking, which can be used to measure output against forecasted time.

Step 7: Final sign off

The last step for online proofing is 'sign off', which ends the active review. In most cases, this can only be done by a collaborator assigned with the appropriate role to protect the proof from being published without the correct permission or authority.

Throughout the whole process, collaborators are able to manage and keep on top of their reviews via a proof dashboard where they can filter on status, project, client, deadlines, and much more.

Who benefits the most from online proofing software?

Any people involved in creating or sharing content or any individual, team, or agency sharing content requiring input or approval from other teams working on the same project will benefit from online proofing. As far as software users are concerned, there are usually two types of users to consider: the people who share proofs for review and the people who provide feedback.

Here’s a list of the most common users, but these really are just a selection, as there are many types of team members, in various industries and job roles that will benefit from any one of the handy features listed above.

Proof senders

  • In-house marketing teams
  • Adobe Creative Cloud users
  • Creative directors
  • Compliance managers
  • Health & safety departments
  • Design agencies
  • Publishers
  • Collaborators
  • C-level stakeholders
  • Marketing team leaders and team members
  • Clients of agencies
  • Sales and commercial teams
  • Legal teams
  • Printing companies
  • Packaging manufacturers


  • C-level stakeholders
  • Marketing team leaders
  • Clients of agencies
  • Sales and commercial teams
  • Legal teams
  • Printing companies
  • Packaging manufacturers

What's the return on investment (ROI) for online proofing tools?

Our customers love telling us about their return on investment, here are just 8 of the savings, gains, and issue resolutions you could also benefit from when implementing online proofing tools within your marketing or creative operation.

ROI for online proofing software

  • 1 hour every day is saved for creative administration
  • Work is approved up to 50% faster
  • Publishing errors are reduced by 3x
  • Up to 90% cost savings from paper and ink
  • Better collaborator engagement
  • 80%+ reduction in time-consuming phone calls
  • An increase in procedural compliance from staff
  • Less time spent working for free on amends
Discover the power of online proofing software. Take a free trial of GoProof today!

Frequently asked question - FAQs

What is online proofing software?

Web-based review and approval software allows collaborators easy access to creative content from any location, and at any time of day, using an internet browser.

What are the key features to look for with online proofing software?

Proofing software varies greatly but the key features to look out for are: easy of use, value for money, integrations with existing systems, and being creative collaboration ready.

What are the benefits of online proofing software?

The key benefits of online proofing software include: Faster turnaround, deeper engagement with collaborators, tracability and a streamlined creative project.

Is GoProof free?

GoProof offers a free 14-day no obligation trial to test drive the software.

Do you want to learn more?

Let us walk you through the key functions, features and benefits

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