Is this the best we can do?

A week or two back, a colleague gave me a sample of the QR code panels that are being piloted along the South Downs Way.


I was quite excited to see it, because it turned out not to be just a QR code, but also incorporated an NFC chip and a LAYAR augmented reality image.

I’m quite dismissive of QR codes, but only because some people get over excited about what is, after all, just another way of inputting a URL into a browser. I keep telling my colleagues that a QR code is only as exciting as the website it points to.

But the addition of an NFC chip and the Augmented Reality suggested that a lot more thought had been put into this pilot than some QR codes I’ve seen.

So, I’ve been playing with it, and I’m disappointed. My phone doesn’t have NFC, so I couldn’t try that. But I could download the LAYAR app and have a go with that.

It took a few goes to get LAYAR to recognise the image, but eventually it said “Getting Content”. Then it said “Point at the page again to view LAYAR content” so I obeyed, and …


Ho-hum. So I resorted to scanning the QR code. The Scan app quickly recognised the QR, and served up … this:


Oh dear. I’d sort of expected a page formatted for mobile devices, not one I’d have to “pinch to zoom” to read. And, more importantly, I really had expected to be taken to a page that told me about the the South Downs way, not a link to a survey about using QR codes.

To be fair, the little red buttons at the top do link to various places along the South Downs Way, but I had expected each QR code to take me to information about a specific place. Click on one of the buttons and this is what you get:



So lessons learned: Format for mobile if you are providing links to web content in the countryside (duh)! Survey your users after they’ve experienced the content. And build the engaging and dynamic web content before you install the QR panels. Oh, what’s that? You did? Well, you and I must have a different understanding of “engaging and dynamic” my friend.

And I might have shared my thoughts with the developers via their handy and prominent survey, had not all the questions been variations on a) “Let me count the ways in which QR codes are splendid” or b) “I’ve never heard of QR codes”.

All in all, I think National Trails have been sold a pup.

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