How your company can capitalise on the QR code comeback.

Remember QR codes? Yes, those blocky but intricate graphics that, at one time, seemed to be the “in” thing for quickly acquiring an exciting web link or online content through a simple scan. They appeared to be rather like futuristic barcodes… and now, they are back. Well, sort of.

At a presentation in June, Apple enthused about various new features in iOS 11, which will be freely available for hundreds of millions of iPhones and iPads in the autumn. However, somewhat buried among the list of those features is the ability to use an iOS device’s Camera app to scan QR codes.

Why is this a big deal? Because, for your business, the supposed great benefit of putting QR codes in its publicity materials – the benefit of allowing potential customers to quickly learn much information about your company – is no longer hindered by the necessity of those people having a separate app.

Is a new QR revolution on the way?

Here is how Apple devotees will be able to use this baked-in QR-code-scanning functionality, at least judging from iOS 11 in beta form. When the native Camera app is open and a QR code enters the viewfinder, a notification will pop up explaining the attached content and how you can open it.

Just look at the promising (especially for businesses) example below, where a QR code can be scanned to accelerate access to the e-commerce platform Shopify. While this QR code support can be toggled on or off on individual devices, it will be switched on by default.

It opens up rich possibilities for your business. 9to5Mac indicates that the functionality will also allow iOS device wielders to scan QR codes to bring up contact information. That’s great for when you don’t want too much such data on your marketing materials for fear of a cluttered look.

Maybe you will have an exciting event coming up after iOS 11’s public release? You could distribute, on leaflets and flyers, a QR code letting users speedily add that event to their device’s calendar. You could also print a code that, when scanned, brings up your company’s location on Apple Maps.

All of that will be possible with iOS 11 – as will the ability to phone a number without needing to dial it manually. Instead, reading a QR code can prompt the call. Imagine the possibilities when your company attaches its own number to a code that it puts on marketing materials.

Don’t let the “QRevolution” pass you by

9to5Mac‘s own experience suggests that QRStuff.com is a great tool for making QR codes that will work well with iOS 11. Here at Jak HQ, we can also help draw people’s attention to those codes in the first place by providing attractive and engaging content – contact us today to learn how.

Finally, finally, finally, Flash bites the dust

We don’t want to give the impression that we’re celebrating the long-awaited demise of Flash, but, erm… we’re celebrating the long-awaiting demise of Flash. We’ve even had some cake in the office to toast the occasion (well, we have, albeit not for that reason… but we digress).

Anyway, let’s get back to the point of this blog post. After a rather protracted decline, Adobe has finally sounded the death knell for the plugin that those of us in web design circles for so long loved to hate, but for an equally long time, also so routinely used.

The once-popular software nears its end

You probably don’t need us to remind you just how ubiquitous Flash once was, especially during its late 2000s ‘salad days’. There’s also no doubt of the central role that it played in bringing into being the sophisticated graphics and gaming that we now take for granted on the web.

But let’s be honest… it was also annoying, and came to be used way too often and inappropriately. Its widespread use also made it a frequent target for hackers, aided by the prevalence of outdated versions of the software.

Then, came one of the worst blows of all – then-Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ famous April 2010 letter in which he took the plugin to task in response to criticism from Adobe of the Cupertino firm’s refusal to support Flash on its iPhones, iPods and iPads.

Citing a series of issues ranging from security to the performance of the software on mobile devices, the late Apple founder declared that “the mobile era is about low power devices, touch interfaces and open web standards – all areas where Flash falls short… new open standards created in the mobile era, such as HTML5, will win on mobile devices (and PCs too).

“Perhaps Adobe should focus more on creating great HTML5 tools for the future, and less on criticizing Apple for leaving the past behind.”

Has Adobe finally taken the hint?

It would seem so – and that it has, in fact, been doing so for a while. Apple never did support Flash on its mobile devices, even after Jobs’ sad passing and Tim Cook’s rise to CEO, and it seems that much of the rest of the technology world has long moved on, too.

Modern browsers and HTML5 enabled the replication of Flash’s functionality without third-party plugins even being required, while browser vendors have also been deprecating Flash support in recent years. Google, for example, made Flash a ‘click-to-play’ plugin that users needed to explicitly enable in order to use it.

Even Adobe has dropped enough hints lately of a declining commitment to Flash, so its latest announcement – on 25th July – that it would cease to update and distribute the Flash Player by the end of 2020 isn’t a great shock.

So what about the future?

Adobe’s VP of product development Govind Balakrishnan has spoken of the company being “very proud of the legacy of Flash and everything it helped pioneer”, and it has every right to be – after all, we’re struggling to think of many technologies that have been so influential in the Internet era.

However, it’s also true that time is a cruel mistress, and that the future ultimately belongs to the alternative solutions that have long superseded Flash in dominating the web.

Get in touch with Jak HQ today, and we can begin to show you the possibilities for your own organisation’s up-to-the-minute online presence.

 

 

Picture this: making a positive visual impression on Twitter

Imagery has become a crucial aspect of modern language, doubtless encouraged by a generation wielding smartphones through which posting emojis and other pictures to social media now feels like second nature. This sheds light on a truth that your business has to get to grips with: for the best promotional effect on Twitter, text often needs to be paired with carefully selected imagery.

Emojis: are they the new words?

Emojis have become particularly prominent among online imagery – to the extent that they have been made into pillows and given starring roles in an upcoming animated film, The Emoji Movie. Oxford Dictionaries went as far as making its 2015 Word of the Year an emoji: the “Face With Tears of Joy”. In a statement quoted by TIME, Caspar Grathwohl, the Oxford Dictionaries president, called emoji “an increasingly rich form of communication … that transcends linguistic borders”.

But then, you had probably already garnered a strong idea of all of this – particularly if you have regularly scrolled through Twitter feeds and spotted abundant imagery across the promotional tweets. What isn’t always so obvious is exactly how a company can use a picture to the most fruitful marketing effect on Twitter. Still, on the subject of fruitful, what better place to start with than the smoothies purveyor Innocent Drinks?

An Innocent tweet that made a big splash

You might initially struggle to think of an image that would be enthusiastically retweeted while still strongly evocative of your brand. However, the connection with your own company can be more tenuous than you might have originally thought of aiming for.

On the day of the UK General Election in 2015, Innocent Drinks tweeted a photo of some dogs at a polling station and included the to-the-point hashtag #DogsAtPollingStations. Though this tweet attracted little attention back then, the hashtag was among the highest trending ones on the UK General Election day earlier this year.

The tweet’s subject matter might have had no obvious connections to fruity drinks; however, it was cute and endearing. These qualities could be considered crucial to the brand of Innocent Drinks, which has often promoted its products as healthy and ran a Big Knit campaign, with which Innocent smoothie bottles have been sold wearing little woolly hats. With the sale of each bottle, 25p was donated to the charity Age UK to help preserve the warmth and wellness of older people.

At Jak HQ, we have the social media expertise to make a simple and succinct tweet go a long way. We can further explain how we could help your company’s Twitter campaigns bear fruit – we just couldn’t resist another pun – when you phone us on 0191 3882 698 or fire off an email to hello@jakhq.com. We can make a small tweet a big treat – and provide these other services, too.

Journey driven design and why mobile-first isn’t always the best choice for your business

While mobile-first web design ensures the prioritisation of content and can provide a solution to tight budget and time constraints, it is still not accurate to believe that this should be the user’s primary experience. In the UK, at least 66% of people use their mobile phone to browse the internet, but this doesn’t mean that mobile-first will be specific enough to user needs. Design that is truly user-centered needs to follow their journey directly to identify how they complete their objectives. This is what we call journey driven design.

The flaw of mobile-first thinking

User experience products aren’t easy to design, launch and maintain because there are many things that need to be considered. Identifying and incorporating the user’s needs, expectations, goals and habits can all make for a challenging design process which is why it has become more important, to begin with, a well-researched user journey. Doing this will allow the designer to be one step ahead at all times and more accurately define the user’s needs, no matter how complex.

Initially, designers approached mobile web design as they would a desktop (except with a much smaller screen). The designer was used to considering how the user would approach a website and the visual, contextual and linguistic clues they’d need to achieve their goal but when the size of the screen changes, so does this way of thinking.

Then came Luke Wroblewski in 2009 who introduced mobile-first, and Karen McGrane in 2012 with her book ‘Content Strategy for Mobile’. To them, mobile-first is great because the constraints of a small screen allow designers to prioritise content, achieving a better overall experience for the user.

Graceful degradation vs. Progressive enhancement

What neither Wroblewski nor McGrane considered was that this process only focused on one experience. Graceful degradation refers to a desktop-first approach, starting with a wide viewport and degrading as the screen gets smaller. Progressive enhancement is the inverse, beginning with a smaller screen and progressing as it gets larger. In honesty, neither of these processes truly achieves a great design, but when you believe that mobile-first doesn’t necessarily mean mobile only, this doesn’t really matter.

Of course in this day and age, everything needs to be mobile-friendly, and as of 2015, Google even began penalising websites that weren’t. The choice isn’t as simple as mobile or desktop, though, as many users tend to switch mid-task, so it’s important that both of these experiences are kept in mind throughout the design process. Founder of Smart Insights, Dave Chafey analysed a recent report on mobile marketing statistics and concluded “The reality is that while smartphone use is overwhelmingly popular for some activities such as social media, messaging and catching up with news and gossip, the majority of consumers in western markets also have desktop (and tablet) devices which they tend to use for more detailed review and purchasing.”

What’s more, if not properly thought out, mobile-first may yield some unintended consequences. That’s not to say that desktop-first doesn’t have consequences too but things such as data-intense applications and data writing can often be a struggle for users on mobile devices.

Be user-first, not mobile-first

We don’t need to tell you that responsive website design and development is a given but user experience also has a huge role to play. Unless the audience that you’re working with is specifically mobile heavy, an approach that suits all devices is always the best way to go.