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It’s hip to be square…when you’re a QR code

You know what QR codes are, right? They’re those little, weird looking squares that marketers are putting absolutely everywhere now to get you to check out their service, visit a web site, enter a contest, or get product information. Scan it using a code reader on your smartphone and “read” the information. You can find both free and inexpensive readers in app stores. When used correctly, they’re super cool. You can create the codes for free using any number of bar code creator programs, either online or in existing software, and you can even design them with a photo or image in the center.

I’ve seen a number of local governments using them recently with several different functions.

Cool way to use a code…building permits. Scan the code as you pass a construction site and get a mobile friendly link to the most current information about the building project, including owner and contractor information, city contact info and expected completion dates.

Cool way to use a code…print them on individual documents. Scan the info and get a link to the county’s web site to get your full property tax assessment on your phone. Though you might not necessarily need to have this information at your fingertips, it is interesting to have. This site is not actually mobile friendly, but it is relatively easy to read on a small screen.

Cool way to use a code…the back of a business card. These are my business cards. Scan it and my contact info pops up, ready to be saved in your contact list. You may lose the card, but you still have my info!

Most QR code use offenses I’ve seen consist of a link to a fully functional non-mobile friendly site. Don’t do that! I can’t see your whole site on the small screen, and I likely won’t be able to use most of the functionality on it anyway.

What are some interesting uses of QR codes that you’ve seen governments use? (Share a link or photo if you can.)

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Profile Photo Steve Cottle

I’ve noticed TSA has been placing them on more and more signage in queuing areas to provide travelers with additional information about screening, lost and found, and other relevant travel issues: http://www.tsa.gov/press/qr_codes.shtm. Good example of an instance where, as you point out, the landing page had better be mobile-friendly.

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Profile Photo Emily Landsman

Thanks, Steve. I like the idea, but nope! The links bring you to the regular pages. I hope the posters they show here are not the ones that are in use now!

Did you try to use them or do you just remember them being there? I’m curious. I’ll have to look for them next week in the airport when I travel.

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Profile Photo Emily Landsman

Yeah, Jerry, this piece is great. I totally agree. Misuse of the codes doesn’t help show people what they are and how they can be used. If marketers would use them correctly, a lot more information could be easily and properly promoted.

Thanks for sharing.

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Profile Photo Dustin Haisler

Very cool uses of QR-codes! I agree with Emily, that most misuse of the codes is around not providing enough information on how to read them. One way I’ve seen that mitigated is by also putting a compressed url under the code to provide an alternative way to get the information.

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Profile Photo Michael Cohen

Emily, Thanks for highlighting the value, use, and misuse of QR codes. Several cities across the US that are using Open Town Hall online public comment forums (to augment and diversify community dialogue) have used QR codes to attract smart phone users. For example, check-out these cities: Tempe AZ and German TN.

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Profile Photo Gabrielle Infusino

I used a QR code in our town’s municipal newsletter to promote a community-wide garage sale. The QR code took you to an interactive Google map of all the addresses that had signed up to participate in the garage sale.

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Profile Photo Anne R. Urbanski

I wondered what those things were… I have a dumb phone (I can call people and send text messages, but to save money we don’t use our phones for anything else) so I guess I’ll never find out the magic of QR codes.

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