James Royal-Lawson

qr codes

Why IMD? Testing an advert in The Economist

IMD, provider of executive education programs, ran an advert in the printed version of The Economist. The advert encouraged you to download a special app to your mobile in order to decode the advert and view a video

advert from the Economist with a close up of the instructions

I thought I’d have a bit of fun and make a video of myself following the instructions in the advert. My initial reaction when I saw the ad was: this is a very long winded way of getting readers to view a promotional video. My video clip is 9 minutes long, and apart from some chat at the beginning, it took pretty much that long to get to IMD’s video clip.

Many people are complaining about QR codes being pointless. When implemented correctly and in a context where it helps, they can add value. Unfortunately time after time they are badly implemented and just become an obstacle.

This “see the page come alive” stunt by IMD is worse than a poorly implemented QR code. I say it is worse as you need to use a specific app for this specific ad. a 14MB monster of an app that requires (at least on Android) a whole load of permissions well beyond what it needs for its simple functionality.

When running campaigns that involve scanning or “reading” content, then you should always print a (simple to type) URL in the ad. This makes the content accessible to the reader/viewer even if, for whatever reason, scanning isn’t possible or doesn’t work.

Perhaps I’m being mean, and under-estimating the time and enthusiasm for such gimmicks that Economist readers interested in executive education programs have. Judging by the 10-50 downloads on the app’s page in Google Play, I’ve got a feeling I’m not under-estimating at all.

What do you think? Money well spent, or ill conceived gimmick?

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

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.


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 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 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 advert with QR code

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


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 advert with QR code

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


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).


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.

Add sharing to printed newspapers with QR codes

QR codes aren’t all about campaigns and coupons. They can quite easily be used to add value and to help customers/readers/visitors do what they’d like to to. I’m going to give you an example of how they can help improve sharing of printed articles.

Despite the looming figure of Death hanging over their shoulders, traditional printed newspapers are long from their EOL. That said, the way in which we consume media is developing all the time. I read most content digitally, through a web browser (on my laptop and my tablet) or via an app (on my tablet).

I regularly share the links to content I consume, often adding my own little comment and opinion. The channels I use to share are varied, but mainly Twitter, Facebook and Yammer – and myself (somethings have to be saved to be read later – there are only so many hours in the day!)

The Economist

Despite my digital life, I still have a fondness for printed newspapers and magazines. That said, the number of publications I subscribe to has reduced dramatically over recent years, but one that has remained is The Economist. I enjoy it’s stability and consistency. A 15 year-old James wouldn’t be shocked at how the present-day Economist of 38 year-old James looks.

What is frustrating is that I still have the same urge to share when I’m reading the paper version as I do when reading articles digitally.

This is where QR codes could add real value for me.

Printed share buttons

So why not add share buttons to printed articles? Okay, it’s obviously not possible to put actual sharing tools in printed paper, but it is possible to print a scannable barcode alongside the article.

Rather than have direct link to the digital version of the article encode in the code, why not take one step further in helping the reader and provide a link to a ready made sharing page?

I’ve taken the Wikipedia page for How to win friends and influence people and made it into an example document. In the footer of each page I’ve placed a QR Code. This code links to a simple share-page that I’ve made. (It would be sensible to include some indications of what the QR code does when scanned – I’ll update the example document later to include that.)

(function() { var scribd = document.createElement(“script”); scribd.type = “text/javascript”; scribd.async = true; scribd.src = “”; var s = document.getElementsByTagName(“script”)[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(scribd, s); })();

The share page

Scanning the barcode takes you to a share page that shows the article title and then offers a number of easy to press links enabling you to share the article on Twitter, Facebook or via email. Or if you fancy – you can even be a little crazy and open up the actual web page.

Screenshot of the share page taken on an Android tablet

Increasing sharing

If The Economist printed a little QR code at the end of each article, I’d share plenty more articles with my friends and followers than I currently do.

If you produce a printed publication, why not try it out? My share page is just a simple example, but it would be relatively easy (and low-cost) to produce a branded, slightly more advanced, version. Producing the QR codes is straight forward, and even possible to automate.

Let me know how you get on!

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

5 Twitter newspapers

Previously I’ve created and shared with you 5 social memetrackers using Twingly.

Now it’s time to present to you 5 created “newspapers”. organises links shared on Twitter into easy to read newspapers. You can create newspapers from Twitter lists, Twitter hashtags or advanced Twitter searches.

So, if you aren’t active on Twitter – or you simply don’t have time to keep up with the incredible pace of the real time web – then take a look at these papers. Bookmark the ones you find useful, add an alert for the ones you really don’t want to miss – and if you’re a Twitter user, log in and create a few of your own.

I’ve spent a little bit of time trying to make these newspapers relevant and on topic. A bit of digital curation if you will.

Included in the list is a bonus paper from Jens Wedin – The UX Daily featuring articles about user experience.

The Intranet Daily

Based on my Intranet Twitter list that includes the prominent Intranet bloggers and experts. Intranet managers everywhere should add an alert for this paper!

The Eye Tracking Weekly

A Weekly newspaper created from an advanced Twitter search in order to pick up all eye tracking related tweets.

The Swedish Daily

Based on my Swedish Twitter list that contains people based in Sweden who are following me on Twitter or whom I follow. A great number of the articles featured are in Swedish.

The QR Codes Daily

Another paper based on an advanced Twitter search, this paper gives you a daily digest of articles about QR Codes. Great source of example and inspiration for using barcodes.

The UX Daily

A bonus paper – Created by Jens Wedin and features articles about user experience design. This too is a paper with focus and a high relevancy rate.

Enjoy the newspapers! Have you created a useful newspaper? Let me know about it in the comments below.

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