Primarily, QR codes are great for linking the physical world to the online resources. But there are other things you can do with them. While researching QR codes we came across some interesting information on marrying QR codes and contact details. It’s not a mainstream use for marketing purposes as far as we can see, but it is a great use for the technology, so we resurrected this part from the cutting room floor to share with those of you who might want to have a go at this.
In researching QR codes, we found a number of QR code generators that enable you to encode your full contact details into a QR code. Typically they are building a VCF file. VCF is a format used by Microsoft Outlook to store contact information, and widely read-able and supported by multiple devices and operating platforms. Anyone with MS Outlook or Entourage can create them, but the online generators can help by restricting you to key information to embed. Remember, the more data you embed, the bigger and uglier your QR code is going to be. It’s great that you can store full contact details in this format, but you are embedding a lot of data into the code.
We also came across a reference to the MECARD format which Google employees favour Because the format structure is more compact than VCF you are able to embed your contact details in a smaller QR code. I’m guessing that the MECARD format isn’t as widely read as the VCF format, but if Google has adopted it, we doubt that is a big issue. You can create cards in the MECARD of VCF format with this online generator
Another option is to create your digital contact file and then upload it to your website. You can then use an url shortener to create a link to that file, and embed the shortened url into your contact details QR code. Champions of this method argue that should your details change you simply upload an updated vcf file with the same name and location, and your details will be changed. I’m struggling to see how this might be useful, since you will inevitably need to change your business card, but I like the fact that it reduces the amount of data embedded in the code, typically making it easier to be read and gives greater control over the data the code transmits. If you need to embed contact details in a foreign character set not supported by the QR format this is definitely the way to go. If any of you can see any other benefits to this approach, please comment, I’m interested… Just give me the email address
You can also use QR codes to simply communicate an email address. Most devices will recognise an email address through the inclusion of the @ sign, but to ensure the information you are passing is understood to be an email address, it is best to include mailto: element so the email address information looks something like this. mailto:[email protected] Most operating systems will automatically launch a mail application and insert the email address into the address field when given this type of data, with options to add to address book should you just want to store the information. Contact contexts Lots of people are setting up multiple QR code images on their phones to give in context contact details. You simply provide the QR code most suitable to the person you are giving the information to. Useful if you want to separate social and business contacts, if you have multiple roles or if you are travelling internationally and want to provide your details in a different language format.
If you really want a bit more in depth information on this topic check out https://github.com/zxing/zxing/wiki/Barcode-Contents