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Role of QR Codes in the fight against Covid

April 3, 2023
4 min read
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A redirect is a tool used by websites for “rerouting” or sending a visitor to an alternative webpage. An example of a redirect would be when you type “example.com” in your web-browser, but are taken to a different website, like “new-example.com.”

URL redirects are an extremely common practice employed by webmasters and content managers to ensure visitors to their website are reaching their desired content.

When would I use a redirect?

  1. A page has been relocated within your site
    Let’s say your website has a page by the path “/t-shirts” – The “t-shirts” page has been a part of your website sitemap for years, and is one of your most frequently visited pages. Suddenly, you need to build out a more general page on your site that has t-shirts, and dress shirts. Your goal is to have the new page be accessible by a shorter, more general path, like “/shirts”. In this situation, you would want to use a URL redirect to ensure that traffic for the page “/t-shirts” is successfully rerouted to the new “/shirts” page of your website. Without a redirect in place, you could run the risk of visitors still accessing the old /t-shirts page, even though you want to drive all traffic to the new /shirts page. Due to the nature of SEO, it’s possible that there are many links throughout the Internet that still point visitors to the old URL, and it is the job of the URL redirect to ensure visitors still make it to the appropriate page.
  2. Your domain name is changing!
    Changing a website’s domain name is a drastic decision which must be handled with the utmost care. Let’s say your website has always been www.abc-brand.com. Due to a rebranding effort, you are changing your brand from “ABC” to “XYZ”, and thus your website’s URL will need to be adjusted to reflect the change. In this scenario, it would be critical that you 301 redirect all traffic requesting “abc-brand.com” to the new and improved “xyz-brand.com”. Furthermore, you would want to ensure that all pages within the abc-brand website are also redirected, like abc-brand.com/my-page being redirected to xyx-brand.com/my-page
  3. You have alternative domains that you wish to serve as “shortcuts” into your website
    It is a common practice for businesses to buy dozens of domain names that:
  • Are spelled similarly to their business name – consider “gogle.com” that redirects to google.com
  • Are variations of their name that visitors may otherwise know them as – consider “joes-tees.com” that redirects to the main business website, “joes-shirts.com”
  • Are shortened, easily typed versions of the primary domain name – consider “shirtsale2019.com” redirecting to “joes-shirts.com”. It is common to find this shorter, more memorable URL variation on physical advertisements because people are more likely to remember them. As such, a URL redirect would be used to reroute the alternative domain name to your primary domain name of your website.

How does a redirect actually work?

When you request a web-page from your browser, there is a server somewhere on the Internet that is receiving your request and responding with the appropriate content. Fundamentally, a redirect occurs when a web-server's response contains a special piece of data (an HTTP response header) instructing the browser to reroute the visitor to an alternative location.

The technical details aside, a browser works by requesting a URL and rendering the page that is returned by the website. If the website wishes the user to be redirected, the server will respond differently than if it was serving a page; it will send an extra piece of data indicating that the visitor should be redirected to a specified location.

Without going into too much of the technical details – a redirect is a behavior performed by a web-browser whenever it receives a response containing a flag (an HTTP header) to do so.

What are the types of redirects available?

301 Redirect

Commonly referred to as a “permanent” redirect.

Indicates to search-engines and web-browsers that the requested page has permanently relocated to a new location.

Note: permanent redirects are often cached by web-browsers like Chrome and Firefox. Therefore, it may be tricky to retroactively update a 301 redirects target location once it has been established. Any visitors who have already received the 301 redirect response for a URL will likely be served a cached response from their web-browser when visiting the same URL again.

Suggestion Only use a 301 redirect when you know that the target location will not change.

Common Uses

  • A 301 redirect is appropriate when a website is changing it’s domain name. In this scenario, the site should be 301 redirecting all traffic for it’s old domain name to the new website URL.
  • Another common use-case for a 301 redirect is for pages within your website that have been permanently moved to a new URL

302 Redirect

Commonly referred to as a “temporary” redirect.

Useful for general-purpose redirects within your website, where you do not want visitor’s to cache the redirect response permanently.

Suggestion Use 302 redirects for pages that have changed URL, but are subject to be updated in the future

Common Uses

  • A page is temporarily being moved to a new URL
  • Conditions where the destination location of the redirect is subject to change
  • Navigating the user away from a page during an error

307 Redirect

Uncommon due to legacy browser support

Used for technical scenarios when a visitor’s HTTP request method should be persisted when they are redirected. For example, if a user submits a form, the browser normally issues a POST request to the form’s action URL. If the server responds with a 302 redirect response, the client’s web-browser would typically issue a GET request when handling the redirect. However, if the server responds with a 307 redirect response, the client’s web-browser will POST request to the redirect destination. Please note, form-data is typically lost when redirecting via POST request.

When do I need a redirect?

The most common use-cases that would require a redirect are:

  1. Changing your domain name
  2. Restructuring website pathing, resulting in URL changes for content within your website
  3. URL shortening – having a shorter, more memorable alternative to your primary domain name.
  4. Sending traffic from additional/alternative domain names (Example: gogle.com redirects to google.com)
  5. Sending traffic from your DNS zone apex / naked domain name to your “www” sub-domain (Example: domain.com 301 redirects to www.domain.com)

Important considerations when redirecting a URL

  1. Ensure your URL supports HTTPS connections! Otherwise you may have visitors who are receiving broken links.
  2. When redirecting a specific path within your website, you may want to match paths based on a pattern or Regular Expression, as opposed to a single path.
  3. Seriously consider whether you should use a 301 or a 302, based on the information above.

During the challenging times of the Covid-19 pandemic, one technological tool rose to prominence – the QR Code. These black and white pixelated squares have quietly revolutionized our world, offering innovative solutions to unprecedented problems. As a familiar sight across countless public places and digital platforms, the usage of QR codes during the pandemic is indeed a fascinating tale to explore. We'll try to explore their transformative journey, from mere marketing tools to vital public health strategies.

Tracing Contacts: Building a Defensive Wall

One of the most significant breakthroughs in the fight against Covid-19 came with the implementation of QR codes in contact tracing. Their usage was instrumental in tracking and managing potential exposure to the virus, constructing a defensive wall against further transmission.

The principle behind it was highly simple:

  • Customers of an establishment scan a designated QR code upon entry, leading them to a digital form to fill in their contact details.
  • Should a visitor later test positive for Covid-19, the establishment could trace back and notify others who were present around the same time.

Such prompt notifications meant potential carriers could take swift action, isolating themselves or getting tested, thereby significantly reducing the virus's spread. It was a simple, yet a very efficient system that became instrumental in public health efforts worldwide.

Harnessing Contactless Transactions: The Touch-Free Revolution

Another transformative application of QR codes during the Covid-19 crisis was facilitating contactless transactions and providing data. This touch-free revolution dramatically reduced potential virus transmission points, especially in sectors like hospitality and retail.

By simply scanning a QR code, customers could:

  • Access digital menus at restaurants, cafes, and bars, eliminating the need for shared physical menus.
  • Make secure, contactless payments without exchanging cash or cards.

This shift had an immense impact on creating safer environments during the pandemic and seems set to stay in the post-pandemic world.

Vaccine Management: Simplifying Global Immunization Logistics

When vaccines started rolling out worldwide, QR codes once again played a critical role. They helped streamline the massive logistical challenge of scheduling and tracking vaccinations on a global scale.

With a simple QR code scan, individuals could:

  • Locate nearby vaccination centers and book appointments.
  • Receive a digital confirmation post-vaccination that served as a "vaccine passport."

This QR code-based system not only accelerated the immunization process but also ensured a secure, easily accessible record of one's vaccination status.

Verifying Health Status: Ensuring Safety in a Resuming World

Navigating the complexities of safely resuming societal operations amidst the pandemic presented us with a unique challenge. QR codes became a crucial ally in this task by enabling effective health status verification. A distinct, personalized QR code was generated for individuals, mirroring their latest health status - a snapshot that included their vaccination record and recent Covid-19 test results.

The ingenuity of this application was observed in its diverse benefits. It played a critical role in facilitating the safe resumption of activities at public venues, events, and workplaces. In addition, it helped streamline international travel procedures. Many airlines now mandate a digital health certificate, often in the form of a QR code, ensuring passengers' health status is readily available and verifiable.

The QR Code Legacy: Beyond the Pandemic and Into the Future

The QR code, once just a tech novelty, has demonstrated its incredible versatility and adaptability during the Covid-19 pandemic. It has woven itself into the fabric of our daily lives and will likely continue to do so. These QR codes have stood the test of time, supporting public health strategies and contributing to a safer environment, even as we navigate through the uncertainty of the "new normal."

As we look towards the future, the legacy of QR codes is undeniable. They will undoubtedly continue to serve as essential tools, adapting to new challenges and innovations. They are no longer just a symbol of the pandemic response; QR codes have become a symbol of resilience, innovation, and the power of technology in addressing global crises.

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