Home Web-Based QR Business Cards Make Networking Feel Human Again

Web-Based QR Business Cards Make Networking Feel Human Again

Spearhead Development has launched an all-new version of its QR Card Us product today. QR Card Us provides customers with a custom-printed business card that contains a QR (quick response) code, allowing smartphone users to quickly scan their contact information. Whereas the first version of QR Card Us displayed a large QR code that contained an entire encoded vCard of one’s contact information, the new QR Card contains a small code that’s just a Web link. The Web page displays the contact’s information, links to websites, one-click connections to social media and the option to save a vCard via email. Anyone can type in an email address, but signing up for a free Spearhead account allows email saving with one click.

By moving from a direct vCard scan to a Web link, QR Card can now provide users with detailed analytics to measure the effectiveness of their networking. But if this sounds like some robotic, dystopian vision of the future, with people scanning each other’s bar codes instead of shaking hands, you’ve got the wrong idea. Michael Schade, 19-year-old creator of QR Card Us, has designed this whole experience around getting the contact exchange out of the way, so people can concentrate on getting to know each other. “Existing technologies are great in their initial idea of making things automatic,” Schade says, “but unfortunately, the technology tends to get in the way of real-world communication, and we want to get rid of that. It should make things better, not make it harder to connect.”

Making Technology Accessible For Everyone

Schade, based in St. Louis, MO, has been a technology consultant since he was in 7th grade. He and his mother, Dina Fanetti, co-founded Spearhead Development in 2006. Spearhead consults with businesses to help them take advantage of Web technologies. “She and I are best friends,” Schade says. “We work really well together. She’s from the print world; she’s great at laying things out and advertising, and I immerse myself in tech.” Schade says this balance leads to solutions that consider both physical and digital business concerns. He and Fanetti have experimented with their approach in support of local St. Louis businesses, and this launch of the new version of QR Card Us is their foray into the wider world. “We’re looking to launch a service that is nationwide and eventually worldwide,” Schade says.

“We want to make sure this technology is accessible,” says Schade. Spearhead is used to customers with a range of experience with new technologies, and Schade expects many less savvy users “won’t care about analytics.” But the flexibility of the Web platform makes advanced uses possible, while the simplicity of the scanning and the interface accommodates users at all levels. “The mission of Spearhead as a whole,” he says, “is making technology accessible for everyone.”

QR Card Features

QR Card Us began in April as an experiment, Schade says, “to see how people react to the QR Card idea.” The first version of the card was large, in order to embed the data from the whole vCard into the QR code, and Schade says the card’s size was one of customers’ most frequent complaints. The new version addresses that problem, but it’s also much more powerful, since the Web link enables one-click connections to Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, as well as analytics. Anyone who scans the card can enter an email address to save the contact. For logged-in Spearhead users (accounts are free for anyone), the contact saves automatically, so all they have to do is scan. They can get right back to talking to the person and download the contact info later.

Another advantage of the Web service, Schade says, is that it allows Spearhead to quickly add new features via the Web form, without requiring customers to order new cards. On the order form, QR Card Us allows for a few customizable font, color, and layout choices that will match between the physical card and the Web form. At launch, there will be four layout choices available. A “Made with http://qrcard.us” tag is available to allow customers to “show their love” as well as direct new customers to the service, Schade says, but it’s optional.

An Experiment With QR Codes
We’ve covered other digital business card solutions that use a variety of technologies, but no one approach has caught on in the real world. We’ve taken some apps for a testdrive, and the results were okay, but the interaction was still awkward. There are so many barriers, from bad interfaces to required third-party applications, that can turn the encounter into more trouble than it’s worth. By slimming down to just a Web link to a page of one-click options, QR Card Us can get the exchange over with in a snap.

Many existing solutions scan business cards using optical character recognition, just reading the text on the card, instead of QR codes. The main advantage of OCR is that no one has to get a new business card. But OCR can make mistakes, and it can’t convey some data, like profile pictures, that QR codes and Web links can handle easily.

The use of QR codes in mobile computing is on the rise, but the latest studies show that they’re still mostly being put to old-school use. Most businesses seem to be using QR codes to pick the low-hanging fruit, reaching wealthy young consumers with traditional marketing efforts, mostly as supplements to products.

But QR Card Us is built around the interaction, not just the newfangled technology. It’s designed not to call attention to the futuristic barcode but to get it scanned, saved, and put away. Does this sound like a good way to network to you? Let us know in the comments.

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