How to Use QR Codes to Improve Your WordPress Website’s User Experience
While choosing a mobile responsive WordPress theme is a one way to cater to the growing number of internet users accessing websites on their smartphones, QR codes are another way you can improve the user experience for your mobile visitors – if used carefully.
QR, or quick response codes, are similar to the barcodes you see on the packaging of many products. The main difference between the two is that QR codes can hold a lot more data than traditional barcodes. When scanned by a compatible device, including a camera equipped smartphone with a suitable app installed, that data is extracted. As creating your own QR codes is fairly straightforward, they can be put to use on your website for custom purposes.
While there are plenty of incorrect ways to use QR codes, in this post we’ll look at some helpful uses that could improve the user experience on your site, as well as some free tools for creating them.
QR Codes and WordPress
There are many ways you can use QR codes on websites.
In print media they are often used to make it easier to visit a website by encoding a URL in the code. When scanned the code will open the website on a phone’s browser, saving the user the trouble of typing in the address. However, if your visitors are already viewing your website, this obviously isn’t a useful way to use them!
While it might be tempting to start using QR codes all over your website due to their novelty factor, less is definitely more and it’s best to use them wisely to ensure they really benefit your visitors, rather than become a distraction.
So let’s take a look at some example uses for QR codes.
Improving Your Contact Page
As well as the standard email contact form, another way you can provide an easy way for your visitors to get in touch with you is to add a QR code to your contact page.
Depending on how you create a QR code, once it’s scanned it could allow your users to either send you an email on their phone, or send you a SMS message.
If you prefer not to receive enquiries about your services via email, then this can be a great way to encourage your potential clients and customers to contact you via SMS, while also saving them the effort of manually entering your contact details.
File Download Links
Another way to use a QR code on your site is to link it to a file that can be downloaded by your users. This could be an audio file for a podcast, a PDF containing a map, or any other content that is well-suited to be consumed on the move on a mobile device.
Switch to Mobile Version
Perhaps a visitor is accessing your website on their laptop but it would be more convenient for them to view it on their smartphone. While they could type in the URL, a scannable QR code on the website would allow them to open the mobile version of your website with much less effort.
While this isn’t the move inventive use of QR codes, for pages that your readers would want to access on the go, such as location details, or an article they’d like to save for later, it could save them time and effort.
Open a Map with Your Location Marker
Adding a QR code to your contact page which links to an online map that is locked into your location is a great way to simplify the process of a visitor looking up your location on their phone. This can then be used for navigational purposes when they are making their way to your premises.
Use a vCard to Share Contact Details
Another popular use for QR cards that translates well to online publishing, is sharing contact details using the vCard format.
This gives your visitors an easy way to store your details in their phone as one of their contacts, rather than entering them manually.
If you are offering your visitors a mobile app, or linking out to apps created by others, you can create a QR code that not only links to the app, but also automatically redirects visitors to the correct store based on the device they are using.
Add a “Clickable” Link to Printed Pages
If your visitors are printing pages from your website, a way you can make it easier for them to find their way back to your online content later on is to insert a QR code into the footer of printed copies of your pages.
The free QR Print plugin can take care of this for you and requires no setup beyond installing and activating the plugin. Despite not being updated for over two years now, the plugin worked as advertised when tested with WordPress 4.0.1.
If you are creating printable content and want to do the next best thing after adding a clickable link to a sheet of paper, this plugin is well worth investigating.
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Improve WordPress Site Security
Last but not least is perhaps the most practical use for QR codes on a WordPress site: adding two-step verification to the login process.
As well as, or even instead of, entering your username and password, you can set your website to require that a trusted device scans the QR code on the login page. This helps ensure that even if your passwords get compromised, unless a hacker also has access to your mobile device, they won’t be able log into your site.
If this sounds like an appealing way of increasing the security of your WordPress website, Rublon is a free plugin that adds QR code-based two-factor authentication to a WordPress site.
For an alternative, you can explore these six security authentication plugins for WordPress.
Choosing a WordPress Plugin to Create QR Codes
After trying out a bunch of free WordPress plugins designed for creating and adding QR codes to a website, QR Code Generator by René Hermenau seems to be the best option.
However, if you don’t plan on creating and inserting multiple QR codes into your content, and don’t mind creating them elsewhere, you can use this free online QR code generator tool. This tool lets you insert QR codes to your site similarly to inserting images.
Using an external online generator reduces the overheads associated with having too many active plugins on your website. However, it does mean that should you need to update the codes, you will have to regenerate them and upload the file to your site. This is opposed to simply editing the shortcode content when using a plugin.
Although if you do use an external service and create a dynamic QR code, the data it stores can be updated even after it’s been printed.
The QR codes that you can create with QR Code Generator can contain a range of content that you supply. However, if you want to create more advanced QR codes, and make use of some of the examples listed above, then the aforementioned online QR code generator tool can enable you to do so.
How to Create a QR Code Using a Plugin
If you do choose to use the above free QR Code Generator plugin, then creating codes is fairly straightforward. The plugin adds a shortcode to your website, which you can then paste into your posts and pages to publish the QR code.
If you want to use the shortcode outside of the post editor then check out our guide to using shortcodes outside the post editor to start using them in widgets and theme files.
There are a number of parameters you can use to customize the QR code, including adding the content that will be extracted by the scanning device, the size of the QR code, and whether to provide a credit link to the author of the plugin or not. An example of how the shortcode could look would be something like this:
[qrcode content="Your content goes here" size="150" alt="QrCode" class="qrcode" credit="FALSE"]
While the above is a working example, it’s a good idea to check the documentation on the plugin’s website for the latest information.
Once you’ve entered your content you can preview the post, then test it by scanning it with a compatible device.
While QR codes didn’t turn out to be the next big thing they were touted to become a few years ago, they are still being used by many websites (including big commercial ones). If you’re not convinced, here are some stats on QR code usage around the world.
If you can make the benefits of scanning your code outweigh the involved effort of doing so, then you’ve probably found a good use for them that goes beyond the novelty factor of a scannable image on your website.
What are your thoughts on QR codes? Have you ever scanned one on a website, or have you ever used them to good effect? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.