Wednesday, July 11, 2012

WotW: The Internet, Simplified

The Internet used to be simple. Web pages would load quickly (well, as quickly as 56.6K modems would let them) and websites were short and simple to remember. Then Google became the behemoth it is and those days were gone. Today, web addresses, also known as URLs (Uniform Resource Locator), can be long, like longer than soap opera plots long.

US Robotics 56K Modem Front

Ever tried to tell a friend about a cool site you found and then looked at the URL and just about passed out because it was so long? Yeah, been there too.

Fortunately, there are some great tools to make the Internet, well, easier.

Housewife Eclectic QR code

QR Codes
You may have seen these little square barcodes in magazines, on menus, businesses, billboards and more. They are extremely popular because of their universal capability for smart phones and other mobile devices to quickly scan the code and be directed to a specific website. What you may not know is you can make your own QR codes.

There are a number of great QR generator sites out there and they all work pretty much the same way.
  1. Copy and paste the URL you want to turn into a QR code into the field on the generator site.
  2. Press the Generate button or something similar (if they have one on the site)
  3. Download the QR image.
Here are a few QR generator sites that work well, in order of preference:

For pure ease, Kaywa is great. See the screenshot below and you'll get what you need to do.

Now, a couple tips about QR codes. First, QR codes are not just for websites. You can also make QR codes for phone numbers, text messages, regular text and address cards. However, there is a word of caution when it comes to generating QR codes. The longer the URL you are trying to convert, the more complex the QR code will be and potentially the longer it will take for a mobile device to read that code and take you to the site.

So what do you do then? That's where my other Internet simplification tool comes in handy.

URL Shorteners
If the whole problem is long URLs (and it is), then we should be able to shorten it. There are a plethora of URL shortener sites and they all do the same thing. You give them a long URL, they generate a shortened URL. You can then use this URL on your blog, Facebook, Twitter, etc., and when people go to that shortened URL, the site that created it will reroute them to the full, original URL.

URL shorteners pretty much work the same way:
  1. Copy and paste the URL you want to shorten into the field on the generator site.
  2. Press whatever generate button is next to the field.
  3. Copy and paste the new shortened URL to wherever you want it
Here are a few URL shorteners that may serve you well, again, listed in order of preference:

The first on that list is by far my favorite because, well, it's Google and they already own my online world. 

In the example below, I pasted a URL to an image from my blog (and yes, these URLs are LOOOONG).
After I press the Shorten URL button, the shortened link and a small sample of the shortened URL will appear to the right.

Notice how compact the shortened URL is. That's so short people can even remember it if they needed to. You also see the original URL in green.

One other neat (and kind of scary) feature of is that every time you shorten a URL, it keeps track of it for you so you can use it again if you need to. It will even track how many times people have clicked on that link, so it's a type of built-in analytics. However, once you shorten a URL, it is now public. So don't shorten private URLs, like an online journal or that embarrassing picture of you in college. Of course, the web is open and pretty much anything can be accessed given enough time, so maybe this isn't a big deal to you. The moral of the story is think before you shorten.

You can also paste your shortened URL into a QR code generator to get a simplified QR code. Now, if you're just trying to convert your blog URL into a QR code, don't waste the time going through the simplified process. But, if you're trying to convert a specific post or image, then it may be worth the time.

Hopefully you'll find yourself using these tools. QR codes are great for business cards or if you own a business yourself. You can throw them on your blog or anything for that matter. URL shorteners are also great, especially for social media sites like Twitter, where space is a premium.


becca said...


Walking on Sunshine... said...

You are full of information! Enjoy your day!