vCard tips

13/09/2011

The most appropriate use case for QR codes on business cards is to have one that contains a vCard. The vCards are the samething like the paper businesscards except in electronic version. When a QR Code that contains a vCard is scanned the reader (most will do) will offer to save the contact details from the vCard to your Contacts. In this post we will provide you with some tips about the vCards

Use a proper vCard not a URL that leads to an online vCard

Some online QR Code generators & tracking systems allow you generate a QR Code that points to a URL that actually contains the vCard; in this scenario the vCard is offered as a downloadable file. This approach is taken for two reasons:

  • tracking of the scans
  • some systems will allow you to change the content of the hosted vCard

While these are important features the hosted vCards have to major usability issues:

  • in order to download the vCard one have to have data plan activated
  • the download of vCard is not supported on iPhone - it fails with an error
  • on Android the download works, but after that there is no automatic message to invite the user to add it to the Contacts

As Apple (with iPhone) is a major player in the mobile devices market the issue with the downloadable vCards on iOS is a showstopper. Because of this and the requirement of data connection we do not advise you to use hosted vCards.

vCard QR Code tips

When a QR Code that contains a vCard is generated always aim for a smaller (less complex) QR Code. Some mid-range devices that have 2Mpx cameras the more complex codes are not readable (even if the code is not customized). As the vCards can contain a lot of information including address, title & organization if you will all these and the standard data like name, phone number and email you will get an enormous and very complex QR code. When it is shrunk to the phisical size of a business card it doesnt look good and may not scan at all.

In order to reduce the resulting QR Code you can do two things:

  • If the QR code is not going to be customized choose the lowest possible error correction level. Compared to the highest correction level this will reduce the size of the code significantly.
  • Do not use all the fields that you can have in a typical vCard - you can go only for Name, Phone, Email & Organization or Name, Phone, Email & Web Site or other combination.
  • If you need to use the address fields do not fill the Country field if it is clear to your customers that you are based in their country
  • Before you print a business card with a QR code on it always do a test run and then test for readability.

Few words about the QR Code Readers

Some QR Code Readers support vCards in a sense that when they read one they will present the user with options relevant to the vCards like "Add to Contacts", "Call this number", "Open Web Site" (if there is a website specified), while other readers will just display the encoded text of the vCard. This behaviour is not an issue with the QR Code itself but it is down to the reader.

The following readers do support vCards:

  • i-nigma
  • Scan (by Tap)
  • RedLaser
  • BeeTagg
  • Qrafter
  • ScanLife
  • QRdroid
  • BarcodeScanner
  • QRdvark

The following list is of readers that do not support vCards:

  • NeoReader
  • ShopSavvy
  • QuickMark
  • zappit
  • QRReader

The different readers may react differently and offer different options when a vCard is scanned - there is no uniform behaviour; this also may depend on which platform/OS the reader is used. When saving it to Contacts some readers may put the email under Home while others to put it under Work; the same is valid for the phone number. There is way in the vCard encoding to provide a hint to the QR Code reader under which category (Work, Home, Mobile etc.) the phone number should be added but we found that there are readers that get confused when this is used so we made our Generator generates the most compatible version of vCard without any instructions in this sense.