QR codes – best practice

This is the fourth post in a tips and tricks series about QR codes. The full series includes an introduction to QR codes, tracking QR codes, examples of how they are being used in libraries, and best practice tips.

So, having read each of the following blog post on QR codes, have you decided you’d like to use them in your library? You may want to consider the following points:

Purpose
Don’t use QR codes just because you think they’re cool. Is there a purpose for them? Something your library would like to do that QR codes can help with?  They’re more likely to be useful if they have a defined purpose.

Staff awareness
As with any new technologies, staff will need to be familiar with QR codes and understand their use. Before using QR codes in the library, ensure staff know what they are going to be used for and how to help users if they are unsure.

User awareness
Some users may be tech-savvy but QR codes are still only used by a small section of the population so they may well be unfamiliar with QR codes. It might be worth doing some research beforehand to see if they currently use QR codes or would be interested in doing so. Help and guidance should also be offered (through staff training, FAQs etc.).

Destination
This is a really important point. If you’re going to use QR codes you need to make sure the destination will work on a mobile device. It’s no good adding a QR code to an e-book if it will only work on a desktop computer, or linking to a webpage full of text and images that won’t display correctly on a mobile phone. Ideally, you’ll want to link to mobile optimised websites. YouTube videos can be made mobile-friendly so this is a good way of creating mobile-friendly videos.

Design
If you’re going to use QR codes you need them to be easy to read. Simpler codes are better (hence shortening URLs before creating the code so they’re not so complex), but you will also want to make sure the size of the QR code is appropriate. This will depend on the context – will people be scanning from right next to it (e.g. on bookshelf) or from far away (e.g. on billboard)? You might need to test it out before printing a final version. If you want something a bit different and are feeling adventurous you could try adapting the design of the QR code (more examples here).

Measuring success
Remember to have everything in place to evaluate the QR codes. The earlier post in the series on tracking QR code usage offers three different options to achieve this. Keep an eye on the statistics, and consider the reasons for low or high usage. Do they perform better in a particular place in the library? Use this information, along with user feedback to shape future developments (and don’t be afraid to scrap them if they’re not working).

Please feel free to add any extra tips or advice in the comment section if you have been using QR codes and have anything to share.

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4 thoughts on “QR codes – best practice

  1. Andrew Preater (@preater)

    Some things we’ve learned at University of London…

    Include a call to action. Don’t just plop down a QR code out of context as library members will have no idea what will happen when you scan the QR E.g. “Scan the QR code to view our online exhibition”. Keep it brief.

    If possible include the content of the QR code in an alternate format. E.g. a URL alongside a the QR code so people can type the URL or write it down without needing to use a QR code app.

    Double-check and triple-check. A QR code isn’t human readable and it’s very easy to mix them up so check with your phone before deploying them.

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