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Monday, January 17, 2011

Using QR Codes

With the advent of smart phones bar code scanning is becoming a big deal. The codes are popping up all over the place. I'm seeing them in magazine adverts, on billboards and on home for sale signs. Because this technology is clearly gaining traction in the real estate industry I wanted to add it to my business card to allow my customers to quickly access my web site and electronic contact information. More after the jump.


When I started seeing a QR codes on real estate sings I knew it would be advantageous to give smart phone users a quick way to access an electronic version of my business card and web site. So after some research I found this could be done through Google's chart API. (The above bar code was generated this way.) It is pretty simple to do, here is the link:
Its that simple!

So to create a QR code for the back of my business card I entered the link I wanted, did some quick tests to verify it was working, and then emailed the resulting link to my graphic designer. This way she could scrape the graphic out of her browser and add it to the design. 

To create a QR code of your own you will need to know what the parts are for calling the Google chart API. If you look at this link:
 http://chart.apis.google.com/chart?chs=250x250&cht=qr&chl=http://blog.brighthouseimages.com
The two relevent parts in bold above are "chs=250x250" and "chl=http://blog.brighthouseimages.com". The first is the size the chart which and the second is the text representing the URL you want your users to go to "chl=http://blog.brighthouseimages.com" (in the sample here a link to my bolg). If you wanted to generate a QR code for sample.com it would look like this:
"http://chart.apis.google.com/chart?chs=250x250&cht=qr&chl=http://sample.com"  
If you wanted it smaller it would be:
"http://chart.apis.google.com/chart?chs=100x100&cht=qr&chl=http://sample.com". 
If you wanted to have it go to a spacific page you would just add that link like so:
"http://chart.apis.google.com/chart?chs=100x100&cht=qr&chl=http://sample.com/qrcode.htm"

One good thing to know is the shorter your URL the smaller your bar code will be. So keep it short. My web address is a little long so I try to keep things as short as I can only using a couple of numbers or letters for my links. This also allows me to create a landing page specific for the QR code. I can then track its use to help determine if it adds any value.


A couple more things for reference, here is the actual Google doc on the API (probably way more than you need to know) http://code.google.com/apis/chart/docs/gallery/qr_codes.html. I also found these links informative on QR codes in general http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/QR_Code and http://www.denso-wave.com/qrcode/index-e.html.


While conducting my research I found Microsoft has created their own special codes and reader called Microsoft Tag. While Microsoft Tag is pretty cool, I decided to use the more well recognized and supported QR code. I was afraid my users wouldn't have the MS software installed to scan my bar code and didn't want my bar code or Tag controlled by a third party.

Hope this has been informative, happy bar coding!

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