October 26, 2020

DIY Digital Business Card - No Need to Carry Stacks of Business Cards Anymore!

Go ahead and use the camera app on your smartphone
on the QR code above.

I have noticed over the past few years a plethora of companies offering a virtual "smart" business card such as Ovou and Blue Social that allow a person to carry only ONE business card and digitally share contact info with anybody with a smartphone either with a tap or QR code. Often costing upwards of $75, one can change the information contained within the business card with a profile saved in the cloud.

However, there is a way to create your very own custom smart business card without depending on a 3rd party company as long as you have a way to upload files onto a web server (for example, a web server hosting your business website).

The additional benefit of having your contact info stored on a web server is that from within your business website, you can create a clickable link that a user can select and download all contact info directly into a person's address book on their phone or home computer. No typing required!

So, how can you create your own digital business card?

Step 1:
Create your business card appearance. I created mine in Photoshop, but there are websites dedicated to designing your own custom business cards more easily like Moo, Vistaprint, Canva, etc.

Step 2:
Create a vCard containing all your contact info. Given I am a Mac user, the easiest way to do this is to go into your Contacts app on your computer and create a contact listing for yourself. Make sure to include not just your phone, address and business name, but also your photo, fax number, website address, social media links, etc. Once you save your contact, click and drag the contact to your desktop. You should see a new file called <your-name>.vcf on your desktop. I would rename this file to something easier like bcard.vcf.

Step 3:
Upload the vcf file to your web server. Make sure you know the link address to access the file! For example, if you upload the file at the root level, the link address would be www.<your-website-name>.com/bcard.vcf.

This same address can also be used to make a clickable link within your business website that users can select to automatically download contact info to their address book in their smartphone or desktop.

Step 4:
Create QR code for the link to your vcf file. There are many free QR code generating websites. I personally use QR Code Generator. When you enter the link to generate your QR code, make sure to include the http:// URL prefix. Download the QR code generated to your desktop. This QR file is actually an image. Save it with an easy to remember name like QRcode.jpeg. 

Step 5:
Insert the QR code image onto the business card you just created in step 1. You can also post this same QR code on a poster throughout an office. (I have it posted in my waiting room and exam rooms.) You can also save the QR image on your smartphone and create a quick shortcut to immediately display whenever you want to provide contact info to somebody else. (To learn how to create a shortcut on an iPhone, see "Shortcut Footnote" below.)

Step 6:
Order as many business cards as you want. BUT... you technically should need only one. Make it a super nice one made of plastic like a credit card.

Step 7:
NFC Sticker

Order a small sized NFC sticker from Amazon. They are surprisingly cheap, usually under 50 cents to buy just one. NFC allows for the business card to transmit information to smartphones with just a tap. Makes sure it is NTAG215 or higher to allow maximal compatibility with as many different smartphones as possible as well as plenty of memory.

Some ask why bother with a QR code if you are going to use a NFC sticker? It's because not ALL smartphones are NFC capable (see "NFC Footnote Disclaimer" below). In those situations, the QR code acts like a backup which essentially all smartphones are capable of interpreting.

Step 8:
Download a free NFC writer app to your smartphone (I use NFC Tools). This app will allow you to program the NFC sticker to transmit your business contact info to any other NFC capable smartphone. Make sure to write lock when programming the NFC sticker to prevent hacking.

Step 9:
Once you receive your business card and NFC sticker, slap the sticker on your card and program it with the NFC writer from step 8. You can do this to as many NFC stickers as you want and place them anywhere else you want. I have one on my phone because usually my phone is easier and faster to remove than my business card which typically is inside my wallet.

That's it! 

Seems like a lot of steps, but you really only need to do it once.

If your contact info changes, all you have to do is repeat steps 2 and 3. You do not have to repeat any other steps or get a new NFC sticker or QR code. The NFC and QR code pulls the info from the web server which is updated when you upload the new vcf file. Just make sure you name the vcf file exactly the same!

NFC Footnote Disclaimer:
Not all smartphones can read NFC.  Basically, only iPhones made after 2018 and Android phones made after 2016 can read NFC. For iPhones, that pretty much means iPhone X and higher. For NFC-capable iPhones, NFC will automatically work. However, for Android phones, the NFC must be manually turned on, otherwise it will not work (this can be done under Settings). 

The NFC sensor is typically located in the top half of the smartphone, often near the edge. In order for the NFC to work, it must be within 1 cm of the sensor and activation typically occurs in under 1 second.

Shortcut Footnote:
At least on an iPhone which I use, use the Shortcuts app. First save the QR code in your photo library and into a new album called "QR Code" or whatever name you want. Open the Shortcuts app and click the "+" sign at the top right hand corner. Click "Add Action" as follows:

• Find "All Photos" where
• Album is "QR Code" (or whatever you named your album)
• Documents "Show Photos" in "Quick Look"

Save the shortcut.

Make sure the Shortcuts widget is active and ensure the shortcut you just made is listed within the widget.
Fauquier blog
Fauquier ENT

Dr. Christopher Chang is a private practice otolaryngology, head & neck surgeon specializing in the treatment of problems related to the ear, nose, and throat. Located in Warrenton, VA about 45 minutes west of Washington DC, he also provides inhalant allergy testing/treatment, hearing tests, and dispenses hearing aids.

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