Where are we now with QR Codes in museum interpretation?
In 2008 we had a discussion about using QR codes and the consensus was that they were not quite ready for visitors yet. Seb Chan looked at the potential of QR codes in this 2009 blog post, with some useful practical instructions about how to use them. Two years on with the explosion in mobile uptake, I see that QR codes seem to have come back in to fashion in museum interpretation. I have been collecting a range of readings about QR codes which I thought I’d share.
Mashable identifies the Five Mistakes to Avoid in Your QR Code Marketing Campaign – “not testing the code; getting too fancy with text; serving up non-mobile pages; putting QR codes where there's no data signal; and Not offering enough value”. The author reminds us that “QR codes by themselves are fundamentally neither good nor bad, they’re just a means to an end: an offline-to-online delivery mechanism”.
Nina Simon writes about her experiments with QR codes, reminding us that the purpose if using the codes must be clear – does it add value to the visitor experience or does it lead to more frustrations? Seems to me that we should not become complacent about labeling, saying “we can just add that to the QR Code!” There are other ways for visitors to access associated rich media in an exhibition (especially now in use of iPads but that’s a post for another day).
Kathleen Tinworth, in her wonderful blog expose.your.museum, posted Destination QR which gives a nice couple of practical examples of QR Code use. I particularly liked the idea of outdoor interpretation making better use of QR Codes. At the re-launching of the Grant Museum of Zoology they are using QR codes and iPads in their interpretive labeling and it looks pretty interesting.
A recent post from the mobilists, QR Codes in Museums, states that “QR codes are a great way to enhance the visitor’s experience. They can bring life to exhibits, allow communication between visitors and educate at all levels.” They have listed some really great examples and tips – a must-read if you’re thinking about QR Codes.
As identified in several of these posts, the area that really needs attention I think is the way the codes are introduced to visitors so they are able to access them. A great example is the Powerhouse Museum’s Lovelace exhibition, and the app was pretty good too. Seb has blogged about their experiences here. The images on the right are taken from the exhibition entry and offer a good template I believe. Be keen to see how they are received by visitors.
To finish, as part of a Smart Services CRC Research project, Measuring the Value of Mobile Applications, we conducted a second study asking how visitors to the Australian Museum use and value their apps. We asked visitors to pick the statement that best explained them in relation to QR Codes. Of the 100 sampled so far, we found that:
We will be doing more surveying and experimenting in the near future so watch this space...