Effective communication is key to moving design projects forward and is especially important for proofing. In an ideal world, designers and clients would meet face-to-face, but in reality client schedules and locations make it impossible, leaving electronic communication as the only viable option. What designers need is a virtual workspace where they can communicate with their client much like how they would in person. Emails do this to an extent but they are painful to keep organized, make it impossible to mark-up proofs, and require more work from the client and designers than they care to invest.
With so many marketing firms, design agencies, and in-house creative teams, there should be at least one software option out there that works better than email, right? There are actually several tools that can significantly make the proofing process easier and take the stress of project review down a notch. These types of tools offer you a way to automate the proofing process and send feedback to your client and vice versa without jumping through unnecessary hoops. This article lists and briefly describes many potential tools that can streamline your proofing process and make your relationship with clients less of a headache. But first, I need to point out a few factors that can effect which proofing software you choose.
Size can be a big factor in finding a proofing software that works for you. Are you a small company or a freelancer? Maybe you want something that is simpler and more straight forward. Do you manage a large corporate creative, publishing, or design team? A proofing software that offers advanced scheduling and workflow management might make your job easier. Your size and the size of your clients also play into the many security factors you should consider.
Large Agencies and Corporate Creative Departments
If you manage the proofing process for a large agency or company, you might find value in a software that not only gets the job done but also does so in an efficient and organized manner. You will want something that has advanced workflow and scheduling capabilities to make managing your team easier. In terms of security, your clients may prefer their projects hosted on a server that you own and manage rather than a third-party server. This requires more configuration and maintenance on your part but will put your clients’ minds at ease when they know their digital assets are in trusted hands.
Approval Manager includes an integrated annotation tool along with email notifications. It offers advanced workflow and schedule management features which makes it a good solution for larger teams and design firms. Approval Manager also is hosted locally by the user on a personal server so security issues are managed in-house. There is a free version available along with an upgraded version that offers more features.
ConceptShare also offers an annotation tool for marking up and commenting on proofs along with notifications. Users can organize their proofs into collections, workspaces, and folders so they can easily navigate through their proofs. The entire proofing process, including uploaded files, are hosted on ConceptShare’s website. Their website offers a free trial and four separate editions that offer different capabilities based on team size.
ProofHQ is a lot like ConceptShare in that the whole process is hosted online. ProofHQ includes a basic annotation tool, folders for organizing your files, file versioning, and email notifications. Prices range from $17 – $299/month which are based on the number of users, storage size, and the number of proofs per month.
Small Creative Teams & Boutique Agencies
Small design firms may be able to get away with a proofing solution that doesn’t offer as many features as the ones discussed above. As a manager of a small team of designers something that is simple and cheap might be best for your needs. Hosting on a third-party server might be another desirable option because it is easy to setup and you don’t have to waste your resources on maintenance. Granted, this option isn’t as secure as hosting locally, but it is a practical option for a small design firm.
Backboard is a simple online proofing tool that allows you to mark-up a proof using a red pen tool. Users can set deadlines and receive notifications on those deadlines along with feedback and new proof versions. Users can also upload their existing contact lists to Backboard to easily mail out their proofs to existing colleagues and clients. All projects are hosted with Backboard and plans range from $6 – 50/month.
Notable allows you to take a screenshot of your design, upload it to their website, and receive and share feedback between your team members. It also offers user workspaces for organizing screenshot based on projects and clients. Notable offers a limited free version, a free trial, and basic paid plans ranging from $19 – $49/month.
ProofQuick is much like Backboard in that it is a quick and simple online hosted solution for small team proofing. It also offers notifications and an integrated markup tool. ProofQuick was originally built specifically for the yellow page industry but can be used for a variety of purposes. Their website offers a free 15-day trial.
Whether you’re a novice designer or independent expert, a simple and free (or close to free) proofing software solution might be your best bet. If you don’t have as many clients as bigger firms, workflow or scheduling management capabilities may not be essential. You can probably get away with a software that directly emails your clients the proofs and allows the clients to quickly make comments and email them back when they are finished with their review. In this case, the simpler, the better.
With Redmark you can upload an image and send it off to your client for review. The client can then use Redmark’s online annotation tool to comment on the image and email it back to you when they are finished. It also offers a way to archive and view past versions of the image. Redmark is limited in comparison to other online proofing solutions but is a free service.
Ididwork is a free solution that can be used as a simple feedback tool. Users can share what they have been doing with their team members and begin receiving reviews and comments on their work. Users can either sign up as managers or employees so user categories can be defined to a project. This isn’t exactly tailored for a designer/client relationship but may be used to fulfill this need.
DesignSignOff hasn’t officially launched yet, but did recently acquire a popular proofing tool called GetSignOff. Users can present their work to clients who can then give feedback. Clients can stay up-to-date on their project with email notifications and project stats. Once this project launches, it could be a great tool for freelancers and novice designers.
Adobe Acrobat X Pro
Acrobat X Pro offers simple version control, annotation, and review. You can use the “Adobe SendNow” feature to send, track, and share your files online. Adobe X Pro doesn’t offer all the features of a regular proofing software, like workflow, scheduling, and email notifications, but does offer a simple way to receive quick feedback from your clients. This option may be a bit pricey, but Acrobat x Pro does come packaged with Adobe Creative Suite 5.5. Acrobat X Pro costs $449 for the full version and $199 for an upgrade.