Printed business cards have been a necessity for most of my professional life. I’ve always needed to have a few of them at hand, to provide my contact details to other people during project meetings, vendor/contractor discussions, conferences, and even impromptu hallway conversations. They are annoying to carry around, are easily damaged, and are often out-of-date to some extent (my office seems to magically move rooms within a year of getting new cards printed). Furthermore, most people I’ve met in the past 5+ years keep their contact list (address book) on either their mobile phone, their computer, or both. So why give them my contact details on a piece of paper, that they then have to manually enter into their phone or computer? Why not import my contact details directly into their address book, and avoid all of the problems associated with lost or damaged paper cards and typos from manual entry?
A couple of weeks ago, I found an answer to this problem when my friend Andy Leonard showed me how to replace my out-of-date printed cards with a digital solution that is easy to keep updated. At a basic level, the solution consists of 3 components:
- A website/landing page containing contact info, links to social media profiles, websites, and a downloadable contact card (vCard).
- An NFC card/tag that contains most or all of the same contact info and links as the website (above).
- A QR Code (with my logo) that is programmed for the website’s URL, and has been printed onto an NFC card.
‘Giving’ my contact details to a new person can be easily accomplished by:
- Tapping the NFC card to their NFC-enabled smartphone.
- Scanning the QR code using the camera app on their smartphone.
- Including the website URL in an email signature block or SMS text message.
Using my own domain name and website, I was able to implement the landing page and QR code at no cost, and only had to purchase the NFC card (more on that below). For people that don’t have existing domains/websites, there are several highly-rated online services that offer packages for a monthly subscription fee: Blinq and HiHello are two of them.
Landing Page (website)
My landing page URL is static, but the contact info and links on the site can be updated at any time. Some of the online services I found offered free static landing pages and dynamic/updatable pages for a subscription fee. For my landing page, I chose to use the URL https://contact.jamiewick.com and designed the page using Google Sites. The site is intentionally minimalist so that it will load quickly on devices of all sizes (phone, tablet, computer) and is easily navigable. If you don’t have an existing domain/URL for your landing page, there are online services like LinkTree that can create and host a basic landing page for free.
The NFC card is credit-card sized to fit in my wallet (there are NFC tags available in many different sizes/shapes from places like Popl, Dot, and TapTag), and has my contact and website info encoded onto it. With the rise in popularity of NFC phone charging, and mobile payment services (Apple & Google Pay), most phones manufactured after 2018 are NFC-enabled. Holding the NFC card near the phone will download the information to their Contacts list (no internet connection required). When the card info needs to be updated, I can reprogram it using an app on my smartphone.
To create the QR code, I used the free QR generator at https://www.qr-code-generator.com. The site is very easy to use, allowed me to embed my logo in the QR code (some places charge a fee for that), and has several options for customizing the look of the QR code. The 2 important considerations when creating a QR code for a landing page are:
- Link it to a website URL that isn’t going to change. The QR code can’t be reprogrammed. So if the URL changes, a new QR code must be created. Some of the subscription services offer dynamic/updatable QR codes. I suspect that these codes are still using static URLs, but the service providers are then redirecting them to user-specified locations.
- Get a high-res copy of the QR code file and save it in a safe place. Then you can resize & reuse it anytime you need to (eg. NFC cards, marketing materials, presentation slides, etc).
Whether you choose a subscription service or “build it yourself”, using digital/electronic methods to share your contact details is much more efficient and sustainable than relying on printed business cards.