Fresh & New(er)

discussion of issues around digital media and museums by Seb Chan

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Shortened URLs as an alternative to QR codes

May 3rd, 2010 by Seb Chan

The first time we did something with QR codes at the Powerhouse was in 2008 during Sydney Design festival. Last year we experimented with them on object labels with mixed results.

Now for our latest fashion exhibition, Frock Stars, we’ve replaced QR codes on labels with our new shortened URLs.

We’ll be keeping an eye on how these go.

My gut feeling is that these get around the application requirements and the scanning and light issues of QR codes – and whilst they may not attract ‘curious’ visitors, they should be obvious enough for those visitors who really do want to ‘know more’.

Tags: 8 Comments

8 responses so far ↓

  • The idea of page numbers in a website came to my mind exactly when I thought about QR codes for our museum.

    Since then, the page numbers evolved into “Spoken Directions to Web Content”

    Read the whole thing here.

  • So why does it have to be an either/or?

    • Hi Joe

      It doesn’t *have* to be an either/or but in our circumstance we are quite particular about clutter on labels so putting both on would be a design challenge. The real benefit of the shortened URL is that we don’t have to cater for the hideously long domain name of our main site in the design either. As I explained in the QR code posts, there was a real tension between the size needed to make the QR codes scan properly and the design of the labels individually and the desired ‘aesthetic’ of an exhibition full of labels. This is a real problem if you have, say, 500 labels in an exhibition – you suddenly have the visual space cluttered with QRs.

  • I was wondering if the QR codes had to be embedded at the object level labels – perhaps there is some scope for using them on the theme labels which are physically larger – (or a special QR code exhibition label) – perhaps the links from the QR could then bring up a mobile page which has inks to broader narrative themes and/or individual objects with more data?

    • Hi Geoff

      Definitely possible but it really depends on whether you consider that you are designing for people who want more information on individual objects or people who would be satisfied by additional general information. There are quite a lot of studies of user behaviour in museums around label text and theme panels – and they might indicate which exhibition types(and museum types) are more likely to generate interest at the topic or object level. My personal feeling is that if someone is going to make the effort of scanning a QR (or typing a URL) they will expect a level of extra information/depth proportional to their (feeling of) effort expended in accessing it.

  • That’s a pretty good idea! Especially because – at least on you can customize that short url. so you could have had – which i guess would have worked a little better.

  • oh ok, that’s true. Just thought that if you print short-urls readers would keep the special suffixes better in mind. Anyway, still a good idea.