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More and more business people are looking to import business card information into their databases. So until bar-coding like QR Codes and Microsoft Tags become a standard feature on business cards, people are using some form of business card scanner with OCR technology.

Whether with an OCR mobile app (see below) or a flatbed scanner, OCR can drastically simplify the process of transferring contacts from paper to your contact management database.

iPhone-BusinessCardReader

But even the best OCR business card reader technology has limitations.

Cards with certain design features simply don’t scan well. And as scanning becomes more common, this is something that business card designers should keep in mind if they don’t want to use bar-coding. That contact was important enough for you to give your business card to; you need to make sure you make it easy for them to accurately add you to their contacts list.

So here are some helpful hints for creating a scannable business card.

Don’t:

  • Use fancy fonts. These easily confuse OCR software, especially on letters like “c” and “e”. A clean font like Helvetica may seem boring, but it is easy for OCR to translate.
  • Combine your name and title. Names and titles separated by a comma on a single line (such as “Nancy Nally, Editor”) don’t translate correctly in OCR.
  • Overlay text on a pattern. This is too confusing for OCR.
  • Angle text. Currently OCR scanning doesn’t translate text that isn’t parallel to the edges of the card.
  • Mix orientations. Keep all the text oriented in the same direction.

Do:

  • Keep it big. If you get squinty looking at your card, so will OCR software.
  • Give text breathing room. Keep letters nicely spaced so that the OCR can distinguish them easily from each other.
  • Keep it light. Cards with dark backgrounds seem impossible to scan (even those with high-contrast white text).
  • Put your company name somewhere in text. OCR can’t translate stylised logos, so make sure the company’s name is in text somewhere too.
  • Keep it on one side. Scanners only read one side of a card, so keep all the critical contact information on one side.

This last issue is a very common problem with many cards. Double-sided printing is becoming very “trendy” which creates the temptation to spread the critical contact information on both sides of the card, making it inaccessible to card reading technology.

Ideally, you should have contact information on only one side of the card, and then use the other side for a logo or mini sales brochure. Here at CQ we have the ability to print a different back on each card in a set, offering the ability to get very creative with a card back’s promotional uses. Meanwhile, the front of the card can hold all of the traditional contact information in a clean and simple (scannable) format.

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