What with Android making more headway in the world, I’ve been seeing more and more QR codes lately. If you don’t know what a QR code is, then here is an example:
Android phones have this sort of thing built in, as it’s used for their version of the “app store”. iPhones can download apps to read them and act on them (NeoReader is a free and easy one to use).
Basically, QR Codes are like visual links. You take a picture of them using the application in question, and it either gives you some text or sends you to a website.
Anyway, while reading Google Reader today, I saw somebody mentioning “Portapayments”. A quick search and test showed me how it worked, but I don’t really care for their implementation. I prefer to roll my own, sort of thing. So here’s how you do it.
Make the Donation Link
Let’s assume you’re using PayPal. It’s quite possible to do this with any payment service that can provide you with a payment link, but PayPal is relatively easy.
First, log into Paypal, and go to their “Merchant Center”. There, you’ll click on “Website Payments Standard”. Finally, you’ll make a “Donate button”.
Fill in the bits, and you can ignore most of them. In this case, we’re making a link, not a button, so we don’t care how it really looks. Put in the fixed amount you want the link to be for, then make the button.
On the final screen, there’s a tab that says “Email”. The purpose of this is to give you a link you can email to other people. When clicked, it goes to PayPal with the info already filled in. All the user has to do is confirm the donation. That’s the link we need. Copy it somewhere for now. You can test it out too, if you like, to make sure it works.
Now we’ll need to turn that into a shortlink. Why? Well, QR codes work better with shorter links. As the amount of information the code holds gets longer, it gets more pixels in it, and thus it gets harder for the readers to read. Thus we want to keep the amount of data in it as short as possible.
You can use any shortlink service you like for this purpose. bit.ly is the most common. I have my domain on Google Apps and I used their shortlink system to allow me to keep it under my own domain’s control that way. So my shortlink ended up being http://sl.ottodestruct.com/beer .
Note: There is an advantage to using a shortlink system you control entirely here. If you want to change the payment link, then you can do it without changing the shortlink. This is useful because changing the shortlink after you generate the QR code may not be an option. What if you make t-shirts with the QR code on it? That link that you put into the code needs to be pretty darned permanent and not subject to change. If you control where the link goes, then you can change the content at that link easily anytime.
Whatever you prefer, just make that shortlink.
Make the QR Code
Finally, the easy part. Take your final shortlink and put it at the end of this URL:
That’s using the Google Chart API to generate the QR code for you. The result is an image. You can put it on your pages however you like.
Example of my final image link:
So it’s pretty straightforward, really. When somebody scans that with any code reading app, then it’ll send them to Paypal to complete the donation for the amount you set in the first place.