On the King St Project we have been testing QR codes and their effectiveness out in the wild. This has been done by using the bit.ly service to shorten any URL’s and then generate the QR code. I will report back on their effectiveness and usability in another later post once we have the findings.
However to accurately measure how good they are as a call to action we need a control, or to provide an option to users to be able to choose to type a URL rather than scan the code. After all you need to go through some hoops in order to even scan a QR code. The best way we could come up with was to display a real URL with every QR code and see which people would rather use. So, now we create bit.ly QR code URL and then we brand that for ourselves.
It looks cool because we tweet http://upour.st/abcdefg/ – isn’t that awesome!
URL Shortener Custom Domain (Hosted)
There are a few services out there that allow you to pay a premium to put your domain on their service. Most notably bit.ly Enterprise, but at $995 / month thats a little out of reach of this lean startup!
ShortSwitch is another example that provides a hosted URL shortening service but they do not disclose pricing, so we are not even gonna go there, if there is no pricing on the page, then there are some surprises in store for you!
Running your own Custom Domain URL Shortener
This option is generally the easiest and cheapest. You can pick up a hosting account with hostgator for $66 / year, or VentraIP in Australia for $77/year. Thats step 1. Then you need to check out the premium short domains available. One of the extended country extensions like .st .me .li there are plenty available it’s just a question of finding one that suits you.
Next, you will need a server, probably one with PHP and MySQL so you can run Yourls.
YOURLS stands for Your Own URL Shortener. It is a small set of PHP scripts that will allow you to run your own URL shortening service (a la TinyURL or bitly).
Running your own URL shortener is fun, geeky and useful: you own your data and don’t depend on third party services. It’s also a great way to add branding to your short URLs, instead of using the same public URL shortener everyone uses.
A word of caution: The downside to a service like this is many of the tools or plugins you may use (like BufferApp or WordPress) won’t integrate to use your custom URL shortener service by default. So as geeky and fun as this is, you may decide your time is better spent elsewhere.
- Unzip the YOURLS archive, you downloaded from GitHub
user/config.phpwith a raw text editor (like Notepad) and fill in the required settings
- Upload the unzipped files to your domain
- Create a new database
- Point your browser to
Once there you enter the database address, username and password, and then you can start adding your URL’s into the system.
Take each URL you want to track and enter it in to Yourls, and then use that on the social media sites of your choice.
We found that it works great, is lightweight and easy to use. The downside as mentioned above is lack of ability to integrate many of the useful tools available for sending existing pages and links out to social media. We like not having to do things twice, or four times!
That said, the new bookmarklet’s would make this easier, and then you could paste that into Bufferapp instead of the generated one.
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