How To

Who can use QR codes?

Three things are required in order to successfully decode a QR code: a smartphone, a QR code scanning application, and a connection to the Internet (either through the phone's data plan or over a site-generated wireless network).

The Phone

In order to use QR codes, you need to have a cell phone capable of running decoding software. These phones can download and install applications, can access the Internet, and have cameras. These types of phones are loosely referred to as "smartphones"; the most common examples are iPhones, BlackBerries and Android phones.

The Application

There are a number of applications which can be used to decode a QR code, all of which work in similar ways. We have chosen to use ScanLife, a free app which has versions for a wide range of phones. Going to the website - - on a phone's Internet browser will automatically detect the type of phone and guide you to the appropriate version of the application.

The Connection

Because the QR code is a link to online content, you need to be able to connect to the Internet in the location where the codes are placed. Smartphones can connect to the Internet in two ways: through a 3G data connection, or through WiFi.

3G Data Connections:
A data connection can be accessed anywhere there is good cellphone signal strength. It is a feature like talk time or text messaging, and most customers are given only so many MB or GBs of data a month-if they download too many things or visit too many websites, they can be charged a significant amount for overages. The benefit of relying on a data connection is that it is automatic: visitors do not have to set up or configure anything, and it is accessible almost anywhere you can make or receive a phone call. This simplifies thing by removing the burden of creating a good network from the shoulders of the museum. There can be some problems, however, with using the 3G data network which can result in visitors going over their monthly allotments and seeing charges on their monthly bill. It is also not as accessible to visitors from out of the country, as fees for data roaming- i.e. accessing a data connection outside of your home country-can be very expensive. Additionally, coverage in rural areas is still inconsistent between service providers.
Most smartphones are able to connect to a regular wireless Internet network, AKA " WiFi." This is the same kind of network which allows laptops and research stations in the museum to go online. When a cellphone is connected to the WiFi connection the user does not have to worry about data and roaming charges; they can watch as many videos and look at as many pictures as they please. However, it becomes the museum's responsibility to ensure that coverage is good throughout the area which will have codes, and that individual visitors are able to connect to the network. This can be especially complicated if the wireless network is password protected. For this reason it is recommended that you have an open, password-free wireless network, as this provides the best experience for the most users
If the museum is going to share its wireless network with visitors it needs to ensure that any computers on that network are secure. To do this, make sure that that file and print sharing is turned off and that all user accounts on your computers have secure passwords. You should also secure your router by changing the default username and password; instructions on how to do this can be found in your router's instruction manual. Some routers also have advanced features that you should use if they're available. One feature you should look for is the hours of operation security. This feature lets you designate certain hours that your wireless network will be active. For example you can set the wireless network up to start when the museum opens in the morning and automatically turn off at the end of the day. This is important because if you leave your wireless network open and unprotected, anyone with a laptop from outside or near the building would be able to make use of your Internet connection. If this option is not available, it is a good idea to turn off the router at the end of each day. If you are not sure how to set these features up, or you cannot find the information you need from documentation or searching the manufactures website, you should consult a computer technician in your area to help with this set up. Because unprotected wireless networks can easily be exploited for a variety of reasons it is very important to address this.

Short URLs and Tracking Codes

It is important to be able to track how many people are using the codes once you have installed them. We found that the easiest way to do this was by using a URL shortening service, like URL shorteners take long links and make them short. This is helpful for reducing the overall size of a QR code, as the more text it has to encode, the bigger it has to be. More importantly, however, by generating a new unique URL that is associated only with the QR code, it is easier to see who is checking out your content through the code itself as opposed to people who are finding your content by searching YouTube or clicking on browser links. automatically keeps track of who is viewing your link and how with charts and detailed information.

Screen capture of google url shortener. Shows urls being condensed to a format such as:

To use this service, navigate to and paste the link you would like to shorten into the text box, for example the address of a YouTube video you have uploaded. A short link will be generated when you click "shorten." The service is free and does not require an account, however it is easier to keep track of the URLs you have generated if you are logged into a google account. Google accounts are free and can be created at

After generating the short URL, click on "details" next to the URL's list entry to view charts and more detailed statistics. This statistics page should be bookmarked or otherwise recorded, and checked regularly once the codes go live.

Diagram of Web traffic. It shows track clicks to a URL, including the date of use, country where the 'click' was originated, the navigation software, and hardware platform.

Generating QR Codes

QR codes can be created for free using any number of web-based forms. It is as simple as copying and pasting the desired link URL into a text box and hitting "enter." You may have noticed that even generates QR codes on the display page; this image can be saved to your computer and used. However, only generates very small codes that are unsuitable for most printed materials. For that reason our project used the QR code generator located on the Kaywa website, a site which provides services for the mobile web. It is located at

Making a Code with Kaywa

  1. Copy the short code for the content that you generated with
    Screenshot of cut-and-paste procedure to copy a shortened URL.
  2. Open and paste the address into the field labeled "URL".
    Screenshot showing how to paste a URL into the Kaywa website to generate a QR code.
  3. Choose what size you want to generate the code. Select your preferred size from the drop-down menu and click "generate." The QR code will appear in the left-hand side of the screen.
    Screenshot of URL produced by Kaywa.
  4. Right-click on the image of the QR code and save it to your computer. This image can now be printed, emailed, posted online or otherwise used. You're done!
    Screenshot showing how to save the image of the QR code generated by the Kaywa website.

Testing Codes

The best way to test a code is with a smartphone with a working QR code scanner. If a smartphone is not available, software which allows a webcam connected to a computer to scan QR codes is available and listed in Appendix C: Web and Software Resources.

Installing Codes

Installing codes is as simple as printing them. They can be incorporated into other graphics such as exhibit labels or simply posted on their own. However, the codes must remain square and retain a white border around them. They may be as large as you wish; however, don't make them smaller than about 4cm square as they may not be readable.

Contact information for this web page

This resource was published by the Canadian Heritage Information Network (CHIN). For comments or questions regarding this content, please contact CHIN directly. To find other online resources for museum professionals, visit the CHIN homepage or the Museology and conservation topic page on

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