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Episode #71: How to Manage Client Revisions to Design Proofs

Managing client revisions.

Do clients often point out that you missed some of their edits in page proofs? I’ve got a bulletproof process to help you stay on top of them. These tips on how to manage client revisions to design proofs will help you save face and save time and will make for an easier revision process.


Show Notes


Do clients often point out that you missed some of their edits in page proofs? Sometimes this is because you didn’t double check the edits. Sometimes it’s due to unclear communication on the part of the client. And it usually means you end up creating more drafts than you need to, which slows down the process.

I’ve got a bulletproof process to help you stay on top of them. These tips on how to manage client revisions to design proofs will help you save face and save time and will make for an easier revision process.

Your Process for Getting Edits From Clients

First off, you should always let the client know how you want them to send edits. Lead the process. Otherwise, you don’t know what you will end up getting, and you don’t want to have to ask the client to redo things the way you wanted them to be done originally because you didn’t specify that up front.

For example, early on in my career, a few times, clients sent me a whole new Word document—and usually without tracked changes. Ugh! Redo the whole layout with a new file? No, thanks!

The Importance of PDFs for Page Proofs

Now, for page layout, PDF is the way to go to get edits from clients.

Convenience

One reason is because PDF makes it easy for clients to convey edits.

I’ve had clients send emails with lengthy text explanations. I’ve had clients take photos of pages they printed out and wrote on. I’ve seen all kinds of things that look like they were a lot more work than they needed to be—lots of steps.

Placement in the Layout

PDF not only makes it easy for clients to convey where an edit is needed, but it makes it easy for you to see where an edit needs to be made in the layout. A picture is worth a thousand words, right?

Nothing’s worse than getting emails or a Word document telling you to “move this paragraph to page 5, paragraph 2.” By the time you’ve made those kinds of edits, other elements have changed position. So any other references the client has made in terms of relative positioning like that will be off.

That’s so frustrating! Then you have to pull up the previous proof to figure out what the heck they were talking about.

PDF makes it so you can view the layout but with the comments, so it’s faster. No hunting around for things or trying to figure out what used to be paragraph 2 on page 5, for example.

Clearer Edits

With other forms of providing feedback, unclear edits are often an issue. It’s time consuming to go back and forth and question something because the client didn’t write legibly, or you can’t tell what they were pointing to, or there are multiple comments in the same spot, making them hard to distinguish from one another.

Also, I don’t know how many designers nowadays understand proofreader’s marks or how many clients use them anymore.

So PDF is the way to go for any page layout. It just makes it so easy.

Numbering Proofs by Round

Before I send out proofs to clients, I always give the file name a number at the end to denote which round we’re on. That makes it easy for both parties to know where things stand, especially if you’ve (hopefully) allotted a specific number of drafts to the project.

Sending Design Proofs for Review

So how about sending design proofs for review?

Acrobat

I’m sure you’re probably already emailing PDF proofs to clients and hopefully only to one point of contact, which I recommend.

Acrobat Send for Comments feature in toolbar.But did you know you could also send a PDF to clients from within Acrobat? It’s a feature called Send for Comments. You can send a PDF to one or more people for review.

What I like about this feature is that:

  1. You don’t have to worry about sending large files through email, which can be problematic. The file gets stored in the cloud unless you use the Send as Attachment option.
  2. If the client needs to discuss something with other people, then you can add them to the review. Plus, they don’t then have to email around the PDF to others either, trying to keep track of multiple versions and what’s been reviewed and by who. They can just discuss it right in the PDF.
  3. You can see if they’ve opened the PDF and you’ll get notified as they comment.

To send a PDF for review from within Acrobat:

  1. Export the PDF.
  2. Open it and review it to make sure everything looks OK.
  3. Click the Send for Comments icon in the righthand vertical toolbar.

If you don’t see the Send for Comments icon there, go to Tools, Share & Review and click Add under Send for Comments.

Acrobat Send for Comments panel.Once you click Send to Comments, you’ll see a few options.

You’ll see the filename at the top and then a space to invite people to review it by adding their email addresses. You can invite multiple people to review. I add my email address to it as well, so that I get the email with the link to the proof.

You can choose whether you want them to view the file, review it, or fill and sign it. Choose “Review file” for proofing purposes.

You might also want to assign a deadline to it.

Alternatively, you can choose Get Link and send the link to anyone who needs to review it. The recipients will then get a link to the PDF via email. That will take them to the online PDF review in their web browser.

They do not need to have the full version of Acrobat in order to use this feature or to access the commenting and markup tools.

In fact, this is how I’ve sent files for years to people who didn’t have the full version of Acrobat, just so that they could access the commenting and markup tools.

Dropbox

Dropbox commenting feature.In Dropbox, the process is very similar. You simply:

  1. Export the PDF.
  2. Upload the PDF to Dropbox.
  3. Share the file with the client or send them the link to the file.

What’s cool is that the client can then comment right within Dropbox on the PDF.

InDesign

You can also send a file for review from within the latest version of InDesign, 15.1. It’s a feature called Share for Review.

Apparently, it negates the need to create a PDF. because the recipients view the file in their web browser.

You access it at the top of the InDesign interface. It’s the icon next to the lightbulb icon.

The file then gets uploaded to the cloud to your Adobe account, and recipients get an email about it. You can then find the file under your account in Your Work.

I have not used this feature myself. There is a lot of discussion about it in an article called Introducing Share for Review on the InDesign Secrets website and the pros and cons to this versus a PDF.

Viewing Client Revisions

Now, once the client is done marking up the proof, you’ll need to access it. Of course, they can just email it back to you if that’s how you sent it initially.

Acrobat

But if you’re using Acrobat’s Send for Comments feature, there are several ways to access the marked-up proof:

  • Go to Acrobat, then Home > Shared by You. There you’ll see a list of files that you’ve shared, and you can sort them by date of last activity or by file name. It can help to view this list both ways, if you’re trying to see which file has been commented on most recently or if you want to view a particular file.
  • Get the link via the email that Acrobat sent you, if you included yourself in the review.
  • Log into your Adobe account online or the Creative Cloud app, where you’ll see notifications telling you which file has been commented on, by who and what the comment says.
  • Go directly to documentcloud.adobe.com, where you’ll see the list of files shared and when they were last modified.

When you open the PDF to view the revisions, you will see a list of sticky notes, strikethroughs, highlights and so forth.

You will also see who made each edit or comment. You can reply to a comment or you can tag someone by typing an @ symbol and the start of their email address.

What’s cool is that no matter which way you opt to view the PDF, everything is synched. So it doesn’t matter where you view it—whether that’s online or in Acrobat. If you view it online, there’s the option to open it in Acrobat.

Dropbox

If you’re using Dropbox (I use the free version), you will also see a list of comments and who left them, similar to how you would in Acrobat.

Now, I know there is Dropbox Paper, a collaboration tool, but I’ve never used that, and I don’t know if that’s for getting feedback from clients. So I can’t comment on that.

Making Client Revisions

When it’s time to make edits to the source file, you might want to do the quicker edits first or maybe you want to do the more time-consuming tasks first. So you might end up skipping around the file. That’s fine. But you want to make sure you don’t miss any edits.

So it’s really great to be able to check off each comment as you go in the PDF in Acrobat or the comment in Dropbox, whichever method you’re using.

Filtering and Checking Off Comments

What I really like about Acrobat for this is that you can filter comments—and by many different options:

  • Read vs unread,
  • Checked vs unchecked (as in checked off or not) or resolved or unresolved;
  • Commenter, and
  • Type (sticky note, highlight, etc.).

This is the key right here to ensuring that you’ve made all the edits. It couldn’t be any easier!

You’ve got your list of comments. Once you’ve made the edit in the source file, just check it off in the PDF or mark it as resolved, whatever you’re doing. If you’re using Dropbox, just mark the comment as resolved.

There’s just no excuse to miss any edits that the client has sent you, even if your document is hundreds of pages long!

Like I said, it also makes to easy to skip around or to work on sections of a document and know what you’ve done and then where you’ve left off.

Acrobat Send for Comments sort options.In Acrobat, you can change how the comments list is ordered:

  • Page, which is the default, segmenting the requested edits by page number in the PDF file;
  • Author of the comment;
  • Date the comments were posted;
  • The type of comment; and
  • Read vs unread.

By the way, I’ve got screenshots of these items on the episode page.

Acrobat Send for Comments search comments.You can also search comments. All of this makes it easy to find what you need.

I don’t know… Maybe I’m geeking out over this too much. But I’ve worked on a lot of large, complex publications, so I need this.

Plus, I remember the feeling early in my career when a few clients pointed out some edits I had missed that I really shouldn’t have missed. I hadn’t checked my work, and I should have.

I also know how many clients have told me over the years how I’ve set myself apart from other designers by being so reliable, in part because I check my work and I pay attention to detail.

Asking the Client About an Edit

The other thing I like about checking off comments in the list is, if you have a question on one of the edits, leave it unchecked or unresolved to remind yourself to ask the client about it.

If you’ve used the Send for Comments feature in Acrobat, you can reply to a comment or tag the commenter and ask a question right there.

Saving Comments

Now, if you’ve emailed the PDF to the client and they’ve emailed it back, rather than using the Acrobat Send for Comments feature—which is fine—you can save the PDF file as you go down the list and check off the comments or mark them as resolved, whichever method you choose.

Using Send for Comments, though, if you save the PDF, then you will only be saving comments made up to that point. So I ask the client to let me know when they’re done reviewing, and then I save the PDF with comments and I keep it for my records with the project and in case I need to refer to it later. I’m all about keeping track of those things just in case.

If you’re using Dropbox, the caveat is that the comments do not save with the PDF. So if you want to save the comments—and I recommend that you do, especially for more extensive projects—then you’ll need to take screenshots of them or do a Loom screen recording of the document.

That will at least give you the ability to retain them somehow, but you won’t be able to search the comments anymore because they’re no longer live text on the web page in Dropbox.

Importing Comments

If you’re using InDesign, you can import comments from the PDF into InDesign by going to Window > PDF Comments. The comments then appear in a list in that panel in InDesign. Each comment has a corresponding icon on the page where the comment was left, just like you’d see in the PDF.

As you work in InDesign, you can tick off the comments in the list there.

I’ve not used this feature other than to try it out while preparing this episode. I went and imported comments from a PDF of one section into an InDesign file of the full book. The comments showed up in the panel but they didn’t correspond to a comment icon on a page. But maybe that’s because I imported comments from only one section. I don’t know.

There is some discussion on importing PDF comments into InDesign on the InDesign Secrets website too.

Conclusion

I really hope that these tips will improve your workflow, making it more efficient for you and your clients. Plus, it will put you in charge of the process and show clients that you pay attention to detail, which will get you more respect. Clients don’t want to babysit (and those are their words, not mine).

If you found this helpful, would you please do me favor and leave a review on whichever app you tune in from? I want to continue creating content like this for you—and more often—and that would really help me out.

For more tips on presenting your work for feedback, check out episode 24, 7 Mistakes When Presenting Design Work and Asking for Critique.

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