Don’t allow technology to complicate things!

I apologize for getting my post up so late! Apparently I was in la-la land this weekend and it completely slipped my mind.

In Chapter 4: Information Design, the sentence “…knowing not just how to do things with technology, but also why and when actions needs to take place” grabbed my attention right away. One piece of technology that the non-profit organization that I volunteer at has started using recently is QR codes.

Here is an example of a QR code:


For those of you who don’t know how these work, you’re able to create these QR codes online by using a QR Code generator, which allows you to link a web address to a QR code. From there, many companies add it to their marketing material because when they’re scanned by a smart phone (with the proper app), it brings you to that designated web site.

The organization I mentioned earlier thought this would be a great way to get the word out about their mission and proceeded to plaster these on promotional t-shirts. Great idea in theory, right? Unfortunately, for whatever reason, they couldn’t be scanned on these t-shirts and the failed to include a web address apart from the QR code that people could go to as an alternative.

This idea really drive the points Salvo and Rosinski make about information design. While companies often want their customers to view them as tech-savvy  and ahead of the curve, it’s really important to be thoughtful in how we approach a situation.

Front-end Strategy

You want the findability to be easy to navigate, so it’s important to work through front-end strategy (site maps, wire frames). I’m a huge fan of mapping out projects before digging into them and realizing you only have half the information you need. I think site maps are a fantastic way to get everyone involved on the same page.

Posted on November 1, 2011, in Literacy, Workplace and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. I’ve resisted QR codes and other location-based checkin sites like 4Square [as well as the Places feature on Facebook]. I know the QR codes work a little differently because once you get to the site there may be a discount or customer loyalty perk, but as you pointed out, this is still a new trend and it doesn’t always work. It is interesting to point out that a tweet with a discount code could do the same thing, but in text form, while the QR code requires a smartphone app to scan. So the question is, are we moving to a world with less text, even less than a tweet!?

    • You brought up a great point about the QR codes – they require that you have a smart phone AND the appropriate ape but also that the QR code actually work. Another difficulty is the longevity of the QR codes – do they last a long as you piece of collateral does?

      At this point, it makes the most sense to stick with web sites with the offer or discount clearly stated. We shouldn’t complicate things just to appear trendy.

  2. Stephanie—

    Your post reminded me of a Coca-Cola machine I saw last Friday (1028/11). First I must let you know that I rarely go out to eat. Not because I’m cheap, it’s just that I don’t like people (it’s a long story). Any who, I needed to fill my cup and the Coke machine had a touch screen and I had no clue how to use it because I had never seen one before. All I wanted to do was fill my cup with ice and Cherry Coke but I couldn’t do it. Finally this guy helped me and I got my Cherry Coke.

    Coke took a machine that used to be simple and made it way more complicated. Instead of having three steps to get a Coke, it takes about six or seven and the end result is the same. I don’t get it.

    • Too funny! I don’t go out to eat because I’m cheap! 🙂

      I have yet to see a pop (yes, I’m from Minnesota) machine like that and, yes, you’re right, that seems ridiculous to complicate something like that. This falls under “If it it isn’t broken, don’t fix it!”

  3. Stephanie – You raise an interesting point with the QR codes. I first saw them when one of my former help-desk employees posted one as his Facebook picture. I had no idea what it was at first. When I figured it out, I went and downloaded an app for it on my phone. I was so excited about the idea, but I ran into some of the same problems. I was trying to show my boss how they worked, but the item I had with the code on it was a to-go coffee cup. It’s curved. I became increasingly frustrated (and less impressive) every minute. I finally got it to go, but it was such a pain that it was barely worth it.

    The first one I saw on campus was on a poster. It was a picture of the back of a lady wearing a bikini and was shot from midback to right below her bottom. The QR code was photoshopped right onto her bikini-clad posterior. I was kind of embarrassed for her.

    I also have found that, especially on campus, some of the QR codes lead to either just a landing page, or a barebones, under-construction site. They obviously just put it up because of the QR code, instead of the other way around.

    Another thing I’m seeing is really weird ones. There’s one on the back of my bottle of Aveeno hand lotion that’s just miniscule. My QR reader completely turns its nose up at that one. Why even bother if it’s not even going to work? Way to jump on a trend without thinking it through…

    Nate – I’m guessing they wanted to make the machine “cleaner.” Those old kinds where you push the cup against the little bar and soda comes out? Those are just narsty bacteria traps. I remember when I worked at Perkins, that was one of the worst offenders when the health inspector would come through. I don’t know if the sugar is just a bacteria magnet or it’s polluted because so many people touch it, but Perkins almost always got cited for it. I’m guessing the new machine would be easier to clean…

    • I agree with you, that at this point QR codes are more work than they’re worth! Unless they can make them more accessible, it doesn’t really make sense.

      Thats crazy that you noticed it on your Aveeno bottle – that’s one of the first places I noticed a QR Code.

  4. Stephanie,

    Your QR code remains me of a funny story. A coworker of mine was working with our CIO’s Chief of Staff on creating a poster for a Community Fund Drive event. My coworker put a QR code on the post and the Chief of Staff didn’t know what it was. My coworker explained it and said, “trust me, Ann (our CIO) will like it.” The Chief of Said, “Take it off. No one know’s what it is.” Did I mention I work for the Office of Information Technology and the poster was for our staff? I pretty sure technical staff would know what a QR code is.

  5. Did you know your QR code is for I was curious, and wanted to know what your code would reveal!

    Technology makes life fun, but I agree; technology sometimes complicates life. This is why I don’t think people will ever stop distributing paper. People like to feel things in their hands when they look at it. Paper consumption, like the “Mapping the Future of Enterprise IT and Enterprise Capture” PowerPoint from our readings this week showed that paper consumption by companies remains steady.

    My Starbucks instant coffee packets come with a little brochure describing the recipes one could make with the coffee granules. Starbucks could have said, look online to see our recipes, but no, they decided to create a cute little brochure. And I read it, as I’m sure many people do.

    • I had no idea, actually! I just google searched images for “QR code.” That’s too funny that you checked out what it was – I suppose I could have gotten in trouble with that one!

      You’re right, it’s nice to hold physical things because it eliminates one step that relies on the consumer to go to a web site to find the information, instead of accessing the information at their fingertips.

  6. It is so important to not only embrace new technology but also to actively work to understand how it will improve the customer or client’s experience with a specific company. For example, at my place of employment we have a fancy Kurig coffee maker in the lobby for our patients. Most patients love it but others become frustrated with it since they cannot figure out how to use (even though there are directions posted) and they get annoyed since all they want is their, “damn cup of coffee!” Technology can be a blessing or a burden depending on how the change will effect the consumer.

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