Playing with QR codes

I’ve been looking into QR codes recently – yes, I know, I’m somewhat behind the times – as part of some research I’m doing into how digital engagement can help in planning.

For the uninitiated, QR codes are square barcode-esque looking things, that when scanned, contain data such as a web address or indeed any other text string.

Though there are other ways of accessing QR codes, most people can do it using their smartphones, through an app that uses the phone camera. The app I use on my iPhone is Quickmark – there’s an Android version too.

(This strikes me as being a bit of a barrier to QR code usage, to be honest. Why can’t it be built into phones from the get go? Having to download an app – even a free one – will exclude a lot of people.)

Here’s an example of how I’m using them as a way of helping people get in touch with me. I’ve created a QR code that links to a site I have created with all my contact detail on it.

Here’s the QR code:

Contact Dave

The site it points people to is one I have created using Tumblr – this is because Tumblr automatically generates a nice mobile friendly look and feel if a smartphone is being used to access it – which is most people as I won’t be promoting it other than with the QR code.

I’ve just ordered myself some new business cards, which have the QR code on them – it’ll save people the hassle of typing my phone number in, if nothing else!

QR codes and planning

Anyway, what does this have to do with planning? Well, at LocalGovCamp in Birmingham the other week, there was a lot of talk of using QR codes on planning notices.

The way this works is that on the planning notices – usually attached to lamp posts and similar – people could read about the planning application and then scan the QR code into their phone, which would then bounce them onto the consultation site where they could air their views.

This seems quite a nice easy way of getting people to contribute. However, I suspect that getting people to the consultation site is the easy bit – you’ve also got to make sure that people can easily get involved once they get there.

So, if your planning consultation platform doesn’t play nicely with mobiles, then the whole QR code thing is probably a waste of time. You need to make sure also that what you are asking people to do is simple and suitable for mobile interfaces – making people read long documents or answer hundreds of questions won’t work either!

So, as usual, QR codes aren’t a solution – but I suspect they ought to become part of the answer.

13 thoughts on “Playing with QR codes”

  1. Agree re: QR scanners being preloaded into mobile phones. An old pre-Smartphone I had a few years ago came with one, last few phones haven’t. PC World uses QR codes instore for promotions and offers. Haven’t seen in other shop settings yet, but more and more popping up in adverts.

    Could QR codes also start making an appearance in council magazines/publications -both in ads and articles – linking people directly to more information? As well as adding value, would also give measurable data on number of people reading and wanting to find out more. As you say though, needs to be in mobile-friendly format. Will be interesting to see how it all develops.

  2. Quite a timely piece this. I’ve been working on QR codes for our planning application notices. I’ve got permalinks for the codes, e.g.:

    This links to the application on our planning website, but also detects if you’re using a mobile browser first, and redirects to a (slightly minimal at the mo, but planning to make it better soon) mobile version of the application in question.

    The next hurdle is getting it onto notices, which I may have sorted, but will have to wait until next week to test and OK with our planning team. Will let you know how I get on πŸ™‚

    1. Great stuff! I like the mobile friendly pages it links to as well!

      Any plans to build in some engagement to those pages too? Maybe a simple ‘I like/hate this idea’ button or something?

  3. I love the idea of using QR Codes in planning notices. If a QR Code was generated to link to each appropriate Planning notice (rather than a generic code that just led to the planning website0 then this would deliver value. Connect and Engage. Near Field Communication will be an alternative but that’s about 18 months away

  4. It cannot but help.

    We’ve plonked a QR code on our Supersport brochure – – and we’ll be looking to use them on more future publications. (About 15% or more of hits on the Supersort web page come from mobile devices – three times the usual percentage. Maybe the kidz are down with the QR.)

    I’ve already tested placing a QR code on our website linking to Customer Service contact details. I’m not sure it’s the best use of a QR code, but we may well go live anyway to get teh peeps to start recognising their use.

    Planning is the obvious use though I suspect we’re going to have technical issues automatically generating the images in planning notices. These will have to match a specific uri. Changing the letter/notice templates in our planning software is not, however, straightforward.

    I look forward to Stuart’s documentation to see if we can go down the same route.

  5. It still surprises me that the iPhone requires an app to be able to read QR codes off-pat. Let’s be honest, the iPhone has driven a lot of the mass market uptake of smartphone specific features, e.g. downloading apps and mobile browsing. The day that the built-in camera recognises a QR code will be the day that using a QR code becomes easy and simple.

    I’m surprised though that other popular app creators like Facebook haven’t embraced QR codes. Imagine, an instant way to ‘like’ a brand simply by taking a photo of a print ad through the Facebook app. Applications like this, where QR codes provide instant info, feedback, offers or some other gratification can work.

    I’m less a fan of simply using QR codes instead of a web address, because as others have pointed above, you often end up going to a long, unoptimised website that is really something you want to read later, rather than deal with that second.

  6. I know QR codes have been around for a while. I don’t use them often however see the benefit when they are used correctly – Like the idea of your business card Dave.

    I can’t help but think barcodes is going to be the way forward but like everything else, I am guessing, barcode technology is going to come in many forms. Jagtag is a prime example.

    It is concerning to me that for the length of time QR codes have been around, people still don’t know what they are. If more forms come available, isn’t going to confuse people?

    Just my thoughts.

  7. I’ve been introducing people to QR codes for a while in workshops i’ve been running recently for the voluntary & community sector.
    Initial thoughts maybe ‘geeky’ and ‘more stuff to get our heads round’.
    But they are won round on:
    – its a way to deep link to the page you want people to visit on your website … often the ‘Donate here’ page, a much quicker route than a long URL
    – they are another form of engagement with the sector’s audience. If its a low cost and easy to use way of engaging – then even better!
    – although primary use will be on printed media, we explored lat week how they could be used on a charity website to ‘transfer’ a visitor from PC based content to an app or page on their smartphone.

    Is it just for ‘da kidz’? Did I read recently there are 15million smartphone users in the UK? First Great Western are using them as links to timetables – see (thanks to @derivadow) and I spotted one on BBC1 during a cookery show on Friday night to access recipe ingredients.

  8. Dave,

    I like the planning application idea.

    I suggested to our local Gallery and Museums that they put QR codes beside all the paintings / exhibits linking to in-depth web content about artists, the works, art movements etc, ie much more than they’d ever put on the wall of the gallery. It wouldn’t necessarily have to be the council’s content although pushing people to the galleries’ site would make sense.


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