I spend yesterday wandering around London and, as is my wont, spotted some QR codes which I think may interest readers of this blog.
The Hayward Gallery are having a Tracey Emin retrospective. At the start of the exhibition is this rather odd QR code.
Why odd? Three main reasons.
- It leads directly to a 14MB MP3 file.
- The code is really quite small considering it's a low-lit gallery.
- Rather that being printed directly onto the wall, it appears to be a separate sticker.
The MP3 is an audio guide to the exhibit. That's a great idea - let people listen on their own equipment rather than the gallery having to fork out for expensive audio playback devices.
The specific implementation has two major problems. Firstly - file size. While 14MB ought not to cost too much - unless you're a tourist roaming - the signal strength in the gallery isn't great, and there's no free WiFi.
The audio isn't that well compressed - I was able to reduce it to 5MB with only a minor loss of quality. As users are likely to be listening on cheap mobile phone headphones, high-fidelity isn't always necessary.
Secondly, there's no warning that you're about to download a large file. The QR code goes straight to the MP3. I think a small mobile-friendly interstitial would have been useful here. Tell the user what's about the happen, how large the file is, etc.
Cambridge University joins Kingston University in the "not-quite-getting-QR" camp.
The CTA is too far away from the code, the URL leads to a non-mobile optimised site, and they've taken the rather strange decision to use "bitly.com" rather than "bit.ly" as their URL's domain - adding 3 extra characters.
It's the use of Bit.ly by both Emin and Cambridge that I want to discuss.
Bit.ly Still Considered Dangerous?
I tell my clients to avoid using Bit.ly where possible. Especially for anything sensitive. I don't fully agree with Ben Metcalfe's analysis of the Lybian owned .ly tld - but bit.ly does have some rather worrying default security settings.
You can see a bit.ly URL's statistics by appending a "+" symbol to the end of the URL. So, here are the statistics from Tracey Emin's and Cambridge University's QR codes. Click the graphs for the full set of stats.
While this is great for nosey people like me who are interested in how well used QR codes are - do you really want your competitors knowing how well your campaign is doing?