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QR code research

  • 1.  QR code research

    Posted 04-02-2015 09:36 AM


    I am curious to know if any of you have come across studies about the effectiveness of QR codes in exhibitions. Do a significant number of visitors use them? Do you use them to expand content or to direct visitors to websites? Do you provide information about downloading a QR code reader in exhibits that have QR codes? I have an opinion based on anecdotal evidence, but would love to put my hands on a visitor study that could give quantitative evidence.



    Teresa Goforth
    Exhibitions Manager
    Michigan State University Museum
    East Lansing MI

  • 2.  RE: QR code research

    Posted 04-03-2015 10:52 AM

    Hi Teresa,

     We did a small test run of 2 or 3 in a small exhibit space. Mainly in our children's area for the hope that parents would scan to learn more about the activities the users was using.  In doing more research, we found that not many people use QR codes.   Most individuals do not know what they are.  

    You could provide instructions on how to download a QR code app, but then you run into what app to use and how effective is the app.  You could go the route of building an app yourself so it has your institutions name tied to it.  That might get more usage.  But you also get people who do not like to have apps on their own devices unless they do the initiating of the app search.

     The best thing I have found (this has been done at the Indianapolis Museum of Art) is the usage of renting or loan out devices (iPads, tablets, iPods) and build an app specifically for the exhibit space.  Locked down to that app of course.  

    This tends to make it more accessible for the user because now they don't have to use their own device to download an app they don't know about.  

     If you go the QR code route be ready to answer a lot of questions from users who are not familiar with the technology.  I would go the route of using a number system where the number corresponds with the specific exhibit or the specific item in the exhibition space.  But have your number system tied to the app and have the app (on a rented or loaned device) serve up the rich content.

     Check out the Indianapolis Museum of Art's TAP project.  They open-sourced the general project using what they called TourML, which is an XML framework.  They tied it into their CMS for content management and media management.


     But that would be the route I would take. Not QR but the number system. 

    Carlos Mosqueda
    UI/UX Designer and Developer
    Denver Museum of Nature & Science
    Denver CO

  • 3.  RE: QR code research

    Posted 04-03-2015 06:40 PM

    Hi Teresa,

    When we had a study about what technologies are/will be used in museums, QR codes were mentioned fairly frequently. All responses show that QR code pick-up rate (<1% or 2%) is considerably lower than other technologies used in museums, such as audio guide. From those interviews, a few observations were concluded. First, the process of QR code use- get the device, turn on the app, scan the work, get redirected to information- is a long one. This process is completely not natural to visitors. Second, psychologically people related QR codes to advertisement, reducing their willingness to use. Third, people tend to view QR codes a distraction to the short text next to the work, instead of considering it as a gateway to richer information. This is simply because QR code is fixed there before people need the information. Finally, physical limitations, which require a visitor to stand within certain distance to the code and to hold his/her device at a certain angle, naturally prevents people from using it. 

    However, the four concluded reasons are also just one reason- QR codes are a common medium connecting an object to a set of information. And today, there are many other technologies superior than QR codes out there that can help museums provide more relevant/personalized information to visitors at the right time. So the real questions about whether QR code is right for museums are three: 1. how to design visitor engagement experience where above barriers of using QR code can be removed; 2. if not, what other technology can better fit to the desired process/ visitor experience; 3. can the low cost/ quick deployment of QR code outweigh its limitations? To some extent, these are difficult trade-off questions...

    Yu-De Lee
    Graduate student at University of Michigan
    Ann Arbor MI

  • 4.  RE: QR code research

    Posted 04-04-2015 01:23 AM

    We used QR tags and found that users did not have the app and most were not willing to download the app just to use it in the museum.  Also I found that there are several types of QR apps on the market and could not control what apps people may have installed and how my mobile web site would look in the app.  

    Handing out devices for an exhibition is not really an option since we don't have the money for devices and staff to hand them out and make sure they are returned.  Most people have access to a browser on their smartphone and know how to use it so my solution for this was to create a simple URL (Not the sites like Tiny URL) I registered a simple URL that did not have numbers or dashes that would require the user to switch from the letter keyboard to numbers keyboard and made sure the URL was short.  Our URL is I used this URL for our Norman Rockwell exhibition with the intention on creating a landing page for other exhibition audio tours from that URL.  So for example your museum I would suggest or

    In a 3 month period we had about 1600 visits to the site which did considerably better then ones that used QR tags.  On weekends we averaged about 30 visitors per day.

    As for the content; the Rockwell one the content was provided we just re-recorded in the curators voice.  But for my other projects I ask the curator to provide content that is different then the label copy.  I ask them to provide background stories or interesting information that most visitors would not know about.  When I can I provide 360 degree image of an object or the back side of an object or images of a zoomed detail.

    We feel the visitor can read the label copy the audio tour should add value not repeat what is already there.

    Raymond Stivala
    Manager of Web/Multimedia Development
    The Newark Museum
    Newark NJ

  • 5.  RE: QR code research

    Posted 04-06-2015 09:41 AM

    Raymond's post is spot on. People hate steps. Most people don't want to have to download your app to do something- they want the information right there, right now. If you see a QR code, you have to:

    1) Know what a QR code is

    2) Value the information it could give you (and generally, have an idea what that information will be)

    3) Know how to use it. 

    4) Download an app

    5) Possibly register/create an account/sign in

    6) Scan the thing, and hope it works (PS- it means you have to make sure that the code always directs to the right place)

    7) Wait for the thing to load...of course this is dependent on your wifi speed, which I can tell you, in most museums is not that great. 


    That's a pretty optimistic view of user behavior. If you have a responsive site and decent wifi, the actions look like this.

    1) Type in address

    2) Use tour

    Which is much more realistic. Further, I've said this in a couple other places, but it deserves a wee bit of repeating...iOS/Android app development is expensive, and changing it is not as easy as one would think. A responsive site can be handled in house (or out of house) for a lot less, depending on your web staff. That way, if something goes off view, a gallery goes in to rotation or renovation, it's not left on the tour because there's not resources to update it (bad user experience). You go in to the site code, pull out that portion, and on you go. 

     Apps and QR codes have their uses, but in general, I think that QRs are better left for postage and industrial uses, because they're great for computers and robots. From a human user perspective, they're maybe less than ideal. 




    Tracey Berg-Fulton
    Collections Database Associate
    Carnegie Museum of Art
    Pittsburgh PA

  • 6.  RE: QR code research

    Posted 04-05-2015 11:38 AM
    Also don't forget when creating signs you can put the URL as the "http://www." is not need. ------------------------------ Raymond Stivala Manager of Web/Multimedia Development The Newark Museum Newark NJ ------------------------------

  • 7.  RE: QR code research

    Posted 04-06-2015 11:30 AM

    Aaah, I feel a great sense of relief! I have believed all of this to be true, but had no real evidence to back it up. I greatly appreciate your time and suggestions to our question. This is such a great forum.




    Teresa Goforth
    Exhibitions Manager
    Michigan State University Museum
    East Lansing MI

  • 8.  RE: QR code research

    Posted 04-06-2015 11:51 AM

    I'm going to have to slightly disagree with a lot of the comments on this thread :) Though I certainly agree that QR codes have substantial limitations, the cost and ability to effectively add additional content with QR Codes is, for me, a no brainier. Many QR code readers are free and for those of us in small and mid-size institutions who can't necessarily loan out ipads or incorporate touch screens into each exhibit area, QR codes offer a way to supplement content and offer a technological element for the younger demographic.

    Until a better and equally economical technology comes along I still feel that the QR code can play a substantial role in exhibit design.

    Matthew MacVittie
    Collections & Exhibits Manager
    Seward House Museum
    Auburn NY

  • 9.  RE: QR code research

    Posted 04-09-2015 07:36 PM

    Wanted to agree with Matthew's point.

     Often times in exhibit design and installation, things are left on the cutting room floor. By far the easiest way for institutions to let visitors explore some of the "bonus features" (to continue the DVD metaphor) is some qr codes, strategically placed that connect the interested visitor with content that for whatever reason wasn;t easy to fit into the exhibit.

    Once you've created the template, QR based additional content can be added at little cost in terms of staff time or fabrication: post your content to a server, generate a code, laminate it, and boom....

    brad evans
    Bishop Museum
    honolulu HI

  • 10.  RE: QR code research

    Posted 04-06-2015 12:11 PM

    Hello Theresa,

    Our main problem with QR codes (we have them in our animal ID labels at the zoo) is that most of our visitors don't have a data plan, even though they have smartphones. They use wifi to connect, so we would need to have wifi in all the zoo to facilitate the use of this tool (that should be easier in a museum setting). On our last visitor study (timing & tracking), we evaluated the use of our ID labels, including QR codes, and found out that less than 1% of the sample interacted with QR codes, and the average time was 45 seconds. 70% of our visitors are middle low and middle income, so it is important to know your demographics in order to understand the reasons behind their usage.



    Farah Ajami
    Executive Director
    Barranquilla Zoo

  • 11.  RE: QR code research

    Posted 04-07-2015 09:27 AM

    My family donated Apple and Android private label apps to Newport Mansions in RI. The apps are primarily to phase out Newport's physical audio guides and add revenue generating tools. Newport has physical audio guides with numbers on their exhibits that a visitor would press to know more about the exhibits. The apps are following the same numbering scheme as the audio guides and added easy gestures like swipe to go to the next exhibit. The apps have come out very smooth with pictures, text, voice and floor plans. In addition, it also offers revenue generating tools such as donation opportunities to the visitors, adding mobile gift store, mobile sponsorship, mobile ticketing and visitor profile collection.

    We donated the app to Newport. However, they are designed to be used by anyone else without any new programming at all. We are looking to make this platform commercial and need five museums for beta site testing. As a part of beta testing, you will get your own Apple and Android private label apps for free for a few months and after that about $100/month (small museum pricing). Just email us your pictures and text; we will set them up for you.

    Will you have interest to be a beta site ? (more info at, 508 801 0856)

    Snehal Shah
    Action Data Systems, LLC
    Barrington RI