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James Royal-Lawson

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Stop using QR codes!

This autumn the use of QR codes in advertising in Stockholm has exploded. There are more codes visible now than ever before. Unfortunately the majority of them are poorly implemented.

If the QR code doesn’t add to the user experience, don’t use them!

In this blog post I’ve collected together a number of recent examples of QR codes in the wild here in Stockholm, Sweden.

Almost every single code took me to a standard desktop website (or campaign site). Most of them led to a page that was not designed or adjusted for handheld devices.

If a fishy bites, hold on!

QR codes are not going to be scanned by a large number of people – irrespective of the hype, most people don’t know what the hell they are, don’t know how to scan them, or don’t care about scanning them.

When you get someone who does know what they are, and does bother to scan them – you want to make sure you hold on to them! This means what happens once they’ve scanned the code needs to help them take the next step in a relevant context.

Build for the context

By and large this means always think mobile when you are using QR codes. This is the context your target audience are in when they scan. Anything other than mobile-ready content or service will make their interaction more difficult. This will reduce their happiness, reduce the chance of meeting your goals, and potentially damage your brand.

QR Codes in the wild

Nokia N9

Nokia N9 advert with QR code

The code leads to the full desktop website. No handheld or responsive version available.

FV Seleqt

FV Seleqt Sugar Snaps with QR code

Scan this product packaging and you are taken to a desktop site showcasing their products.

Krusovice

Krusovich sign at an event with QR code

Leads to a page that has been designed for mobiles. The page contains a form, but there is still room for optimised it to make completion as easy and as successful as possible from a touch-screen device.

Biltema

Biltema catalogue with QR codes

Two tiny codes, very close together. One for the Android app and one for the iPhone app. They do both scan, but you have cover up one of the codes to ensure you scan the correct one.

Scan

Scan advert with QR code

I didn’t manage to get this code to scan. It was very badly positioned (right at the bottom of the advert) meaning I had to get down on my knees to try to scan it. The code was also relatively small and contained a lot of data.

Norskfisk

Norskfisk advert with QR code

Scan the code and you end up at a recipe, on a desktop web site. No mobile version.

SEB

SEB advert with QR code

Code to apply for a loan.

Stockholm Film Festival

Stockholm Film Festival programme with QR code

This year’s film festival site is really quite good, but shame they used a code that pointed straight to the desktop site. No mobile site is available, but there is an iPhone app.

Skanska

Skanska advert with QR code

This code was featured on an advert on the Stockholm metro leads to a desktop website.

Pantamera

Pantamera adverts with QR code

One of the few better implementations included in this blog post. The codes lead to YouTube videos, which serves a mobile version of it’s site (or can even open directly in the YouTube app on many mobiles).

Flickr

You can find all of these QR codes (and more) in this set on my Flickr stream.


James Royal-Lawson is a digital strategist and web manager based in Stockholm Sweden.

QR codes: how not to use them in your campaign

During the summer months, Sveriges Radio, the public service broadcaster here in Sweden, broadcasts a series of programmes featuring talks by guest presenters. Sommar i P1, or “Sommarpratare” (“Summer talkers”).

On my metro train this morning, there was an advert for the radio series. What caught my attention was that it featured a QR code.

SR advert on the Stockholm metro featuring a QR Code

Armed and ready to scan

Naturally, this meant just one thing. I had to take out my phone and try to scan it. Being who I am, I know exactly what one of these funny little square codes is – I also have a barcode scanner installed on my mobile and my tablet. I’m armed and ready to go.

I was sat on the train (which is pretty normal for my journey) and the advert was about 1.5m to my right, on the inside of the window.

On the Metro here in Stockholm, the seats are grouped in clusters of four. This meant I had three other people sat around me. Standing up and getting a closer shot of the code wasn’t going to happen – if I was going to scan this code, I needed to do it from my seat.

So, out came my phone and I pointed it discretely (as discretely as you can on a morning train into the city) at the QR code and waited for the app to focus and get a lock. Nope. Nothing. It was just too small to scan from this distance.

Linking to a non-mobile site?

Not wanting to give up, I entered the URL included on the advert. It was good that they’d included a link (as well as the QR Code) – at least this meant I wasn’t totally dependent on the code – presuming that the code contained the same link!

I entered the link into my mobile’s browser and erk! Everything ground to a halt, my smartphone pretty much locked up. I hadn’t been automatically redirected to the mobile version of the page, instead I ended up at the full standard version of the site – complete with built in radio player – was loading and trying to come to life. Not the mobile experience I was hoping for.

When I got to the office, I brought up the picture of the code (that i’d uploaded to Flickr during my journey) and managed to scan it off the screen. It decoded to the same URL as on the poster.

This isn’t helpful.

Think mobile

You always scan these codes from your mobile. It’s an advert on a train, there’s not really any other option! Any content they contain has to be useful, accessible, and relevant for a mobile user.

The saddest part of this story is that SR do have a mobile version of their website – including a programme page for the summer programme.

Offline meets online

It’s crucial that you consider exactly how people will consume your advertising. If you are going to join the offline and online worlds together – which you should – then QR codes is a good tool, but if you don’t think mobile, you might as well not bother.


James Royal-Lawson+ is a freelance web manager and strategist based in Stockholm Sweden.

Facebook page marketing: How not to do it

A familiar shaped postcard appeared in the post the other week. A big Facebook “like” thumbs up. My kids thought it was excellent (as 3 and 5 year olds, they haven’t really been infected by Facebook yet). For me, it just sent my web-sense into overdrive.

ICA Maxi Nacka

The postcard was sent from ICA, the largest supermarket chain in Sweden and Scandinavia, or more specifically, from one of my local ICA stores that I visit pretty regularly.

Postcard in the shape of a Facebook like thumbs up

This mailshot will have been sent to a large number of ICA Maxi Nacka’s customers – thousands at a guess. The Facebook page had 98 fans on the day the mailshot arrived. Today it’s got twenty more. So we can safely say that this is an example of how not how to market your Facebook page.

We’ll start with the post card itself. Where is the next step? what am I supposed to do? The advert isn’t going to magically click on a like button for me. I need some help. Where’s the URL to the facebook page? OK, perhaps a QR code to scan? Nope. A search term to put me in the right direction? Well, perhaps, but you can’t be certain. Maybe the Facebook page name is Maxi ICA Nacka?

Flawed marketing concept

The whole concept of the mailshot is flawed in this situation. I’m expected to do a series of improbably things. I’m expected to look at this and be convinced that liking this particular ICA store is going to give me something sufficient in return. They do explain that on their Facebook page “You will find inspiration, recipes, events, special offers”. Maybe that’s a big enough return for my Like-love…

Hello, what’s your name?

If that has convinced me to “like”, then I have to get myself to a computer, bring up Facebook and think of something to enter into the search box in order to find their incredibly compelling page. Perhaps if I’ve found the advert that compelling I might have taken it with me to the computer to help me (or perhaps I pulled out my tablet there and then in the kitchen, taking a pause from opening the rest of the mail).

You may remember that the postcard had “Maxi ICA Nacka” in the text. This is one of the names the store calls itself. Unfortunately for them, almost all ICA stores are known as ICA [place name], and the larger Maxi stores as ICA Maxi [place name] – and more often that not you don’t need to say the place name, there’s not that many of them nearby.

If you enter ICA Maxi into Facebook, you get a whole load of results containing supermarkets from all over Sweden. You’d have to work hard and long to find the Nacka store amongst them. So, let’s add Nacka to the search phrase giving us ICA Maxi Nacka. Surely that’ll work?

Screenshot from Facebook showing two search results

As you can see. You get two results. Both of which are Facebook Places. Joe Shopper is starting to lose a bit of the overwhelming urge to “like” this ICA store. The lack of profie pictures makes them instantly less “likable” and convincing too. They clearly aren’t the right pages.

Are we there yet?

Let’s put the phrase from the postcard into Facebook’s search. Maxi ICA Nacka. As Facebook provides instant search results, you’re going to naturally pause after typing Maxi ICA (as ICA stores appear at this point). None of them are Nacka. Let’s continue typing. Nope. It’s one of those Facebook places again.

Screenshot from Facebook showing four search results

Maxi Nacka – who needs ICA!

At this point, if anyone is still hunting, they are hunting for the page out of pure frustration and stubbournness. In one last try, we go for Maxi Nacka. Yes! Bingo! Of course! Obviously as an ICA store you are going to make sure that the main brand of your company is totally missing from the page name.

So we’ve made it to the page. Probably. Apparently this business is based in Nackawic, New Brunswick. At this point, i’ve stopped crying and i’m starting to laugh.

Screenshot of ICA Maxi Nacka's Facebook page

Despite being over the 25 fan threshold for choosing a custom name for your page, the page still has the ugly 14-digit ID number in it’s URL – 167901786576697. I understand that they don’t want to use that URL in their marketing material.

Perhaps they did think about claiming a better name, but just forgot to actually claim it. They do, after all, have a (broken) link to http://www.facebook.com/Maxi-Nacka on their Info page.

Over 150 dollars a fan?

The page had 98 fans on the day when the postcard arrived. A few weeks later whilst I’m writing this blog post, they’ve gained a well earned 20. Designing, printing and distributing an advert to a large number of your customers isn’t something that’s free. Even if i’m kind and say that the campaign cost 20000kr (design, print, distribution) they are looking at a cost per fan of 1000kr (approximately 150 dollars).

Given the amateur nature of this entire effort, I’m going to stick my neck out and presume that they didn’t have any specific, measurable, goals for the campaign. Suffice to say, I imagine they expected to earn more than 20 new recruits. I’m starting to feel I should like their page out of sympathy rather than enthusiasm!

Digital marketing is easy to execute – anyone can do it. This is both it’s advantage and it’s disadvantage. Anyone can do it, but not as many can do it well.


is a freelance web manager and strategist based in Stockholm Sweden.

Did the mobile web reach tipping point?

A year ago I said that 2010 would be the year that the mobile web reached tipping point. The question is, did it?

There are many ways you could measure it and we could argue all day about what is the best way to measure it. Mobile page views? smartphone devices sold? Mobile web bandwidth use?

Visits and Pageviews

I’m going to use figures for pageviews and visits from a client’s website in this article to help illustrate how much mobile web use has grown in 2010. I’m going to leave the site anonymous, but I will give you a few background details.

The site is based in Sweden and it’s visits are predominately from the Stockholm area. It’s visited by a full cross-section of Internet users from all generations. There is no mobile adjusted site available – all visitors use the same, full, desktop version. The number of pageviews a month is around 45,000.

600% increase

number of mobile visits rising during 2010 with a jump in July and year end

Up to November 2009 the site had received no visits from mobile devices. In the three months from December 2009 to February 2010 this increased to 1.7% of visits. In December 2009 only 1.1% of pageviews were served to mobiles with most being to iPhones. (Note that I’m including the following devices in the statistics for “mobiles”: iPad, iPod, iPhone, Android, Symbian).

In December 2010, this figure had increased to 6.5% of page views and 8.5% of visits. The iPhone still dominates, with the iPad and Android devices sitting pretty and fighting over 2nd place.

Mobile pageviews: iPhone most with 59.49%

Tipping point reached

The tipping point for this web site came at the end of July 2010. The end of July saw the launch of the iPhone 4 here in Sweden. Once people returned to work after the traditional summer break the number of pageviews served to mobile devices pretty much doubled and hasn’t looked back since.

It would also appear that plenty of people got an iThing for Christmas judging by the spike of pageviews since then. It is, of course, too early to know for sure if this new doubling of mobile visits will be sustained, but so far it hasn’t dropped back.

Bear in mind that all of these figures are for a website that has made no attempt to attract mobile and handheld visitors, and has made no adjustments to cater for them either. These visitors are the people who are deciding to use the site regardless of the limitations – presumably because accessing websites via their handheld device has become a standard form of behaviour for them.

As big as Chrome

Given that the total number of mobile pageviews is over three times as many as for IE6, and pretty much the same percentage as pageviews served to visitors using Google’s Chrome browser – It’s crucial that you regularly check your website on mobile and handheld devices.

You need to check your site regularly, not only during development development or design projects. Just as it has been standard practice for many years to check a range of web browsers, it is now standard practice to check a range of handheld devices too.

Best practice: Updating videos on YouTube

It’s not actually possible to upload new versions and “update” a video clip on YouTube. As someone who helps managers a number of websites for various clients, it’s not unusual for me to receive an email that says “Can you remove from our YouTube account. We’ve got a new version to replace it”.

The problem is that your original video has become a social content. When you posted it, it became alive. People starting viewing it, commenting on it, liking it, sharing it, embedding it.

Deleting the video ends its life. You break links, you remove comments, you will even lose some “video juice” as YouTube uses number of video (and channel) views as part of its ranking algorithm – you other videos could appear lower down in search results as a result of deleting.

What should you do?

Deleting content always has an impact, so most of the time you want to avoid it. Especially so in cases like YouTube where you have no control over where deleted pages redirect to.

Best practice tips

Here are my best practice tips for updating a video:

  • Upload your update video as a new video
  • Tag it the same way as the original, paying some attention to improving the tags at the same time.
  • Use a similar description as the original, again taking the chance to improve it during the process
  • Add it as a video comment to the original
  • Add an annotation to the old video with a message saying it’s no longer up to date and give a link to the new version
  • Promote the new version in all the ways you would normally promote a new video

Why is that best practice?

By following the above best practice you don’t lose your total “views” or the position of that video in search results. At the same time you provide useful and relevant information to people who happen to view the old video clip – you give them a link to a newer version. You’ve helped them. You’ve used the ecosystem of the web in a much better way than just deleting the old, out of date, video.

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