QR Code Tips & Best Practices

As promised, here are some tips and best practices for using QR codes in your library:

Use codes sparingly and wisely

QR codes are awesome, I agree, but beware of QR code saturation.  Wallpapering your library with QR codes may actually be counterproductive.  If students are overloaded with too many QR codes they might end up blocking them out.  If  they stop noticing them, then all your work would be for not.  So use them sparingly and wisely in places that will be of benefit to the student, which leads right into the next tip.

Link to content that adds value

Always consider the perspective of the end-user.  When you create and place a QR code always ask yourself, “How will this benefit the student?”  “How does this add value?”  Imagine again the situation with the art exhibit using QR codes to provide extra information about the art and artist.  This is a good example of linking to content that adds value.  If a student makes the effort to read your QR code only to be disappointed by the content, then s/he may be reticent to view another.  This is counterproductive, so always make sure the content linked to your QR codes add value.

Link to mobile content and sites

An important part to adding value is ensuring that the content is mobile-friendly.  Even if the content theoretically adds value, if it is not easily viewable on a mobile device, it’s not actualizing its value.  Basiclally it’s not doing its value-adding job!  People gravitate most towards things that are interesting and easy.  Being forced to pinch and drag to resize content for optimal viewing adds a layer of difficulty that may turn off your patrons.  So make sure you preview the content yourself first, before you promote it via a QR code!

Provide directions on getting a free scanner app

Always provide information on your promotional materials about how to get a free scanner app for mobile devices.  Otherwise QR codes will be nothing but interesting little squares around the library.  If students have never scanned a QR code before (and many haven’t), then they need that extra bit of help to make your QR codes successful.

Use a URL shortener

URL shorteners are very useful when using QR codes for several reasons.

First you can use one to shorten lengthy URLs on flyers (such as the parts instructing students how to get a free scanner app). Shorter URLs are easier to input by hand into a mobile device and increases the liklihood that your QR codes will be successfully utilized.

Shorter URLs generate simpler QR codes. Simpler QR codes are more easily read by a larger number of mobile devices, thus giving your QR codes wider readability and increasing your success!

Some URL shorteners also track usage, which is a good thing. Librarians like to keep statistics and track usage.  Two good ones are Bitly and Goo.gl.

Test the QR code

Once you have created your QR code, be sure to take it for a test drive.  You don’t want your QR code to take students somewhere crazy or unanticipated.  You also want to make sure you QR code just plain works! Have some of your colleagues and staff try it out as well to make sure it is accessible on multiple devices.

Track usage

And of course you want to track usage using Bitly or Goo.gl.  One nice feature of both of these  URL shorteners ist hat when you input a URL, not only does it shorten it for you, it also generates the QR code for you!  They are extremely convenient because of that and also with the tracking services they provide.  Personally, I prefer Goo.gl.  Bitly requires you to create an account for tracking, and I already have a million accounts with every app, social network, etc. that I use, so the thought of creating another one is not very enticing.  I already happen to have an account with Google, so it’s easier for me to just use Goo.gl, but that is my personal preference.

So what about you? Any suggestions for additional tips?  How are you using QR codes in your library?

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