Hi everybody! Who else out there uses short URLs when making QR codes that direct to websites? I’m sure a lot of you have come across the tip that writing less information into your codes keeps them simpler and easier to scan, especially at a small size. However, I haven’t seen anyone say ‘*make sure you leave ‘http://’ in front of the URL that you generate your QR code with!*’. Maybe that’s because it seems super obvious – after all, it’s the prefix that allows a URL to be read as a hyper link in the first place. But browsers are changing, and so are QR scanners. I use Google chrome, which did away with the once-ubiquitous prefix altogether.
So let’s say I want to make a QR code that directs to a web page and I copy the URL from my address bar in Chrome and paste it into any QR generator. Or let’s say I am trying to keep my code small and I shorten my URL at goo.gl, where ‘http://’ is left off as well (see link section /below/ the generator). Then I test my code with Barcode Scanner and other Android QR readers and it totally works! So I think ‘Great! I don’t even need ‘http://’! That’s 7 less characters in my code!’ Or maybe I don’t even notice I left it off…
Long story short, I’ve done all of the above and I had no idea it was a mistake until I asked a coworker of mine to test some sample QR stickers I had ordered for our company. I’d personally tested lots of readers on my Droid, but she had an iPhone, so I was curious. She downloaded the first free scanner that came up in the iPhone app store,* QR Reader for iPhone*, and it scanned my code as plain text on a notepad, without even the capability to copy and paste it into a browser (p.s. short URLs look REALLY stupid this way)! And I repeat, THIS IS THE FIRST FREE QR SCANNER THAT COMES UP IN THE IPHONE APP STORE, so I imagine it must make up almost half of the scanners in use today.
She downloaded another one and it worked just fine, but what I learned is that there is still software out there that needs ‘http://’ in order to recognize a link. Most programs fill it in on their own, and I assume that is the direction things are going, but we’re not there yet. So don’t make the same mistake I did and end up potentially losing half of your audience! Double-check that
‘http://; is part of your code before you even make it! If someone goes
to the trouble to scan your code and all they get is “goo.gl/Qnaxw “,
written on a plain text notepad, I have a feeling you’re not going to
get the result you want.
Sarah Weis is an artist and Creative Director of i^3 hypermedia, a
digital production and post-production studio in Chicago.