A QR code—Quick Response code—is a type of barcode that can store lots of text data in a small area. It was developed in Japan in 1994. That’s almost a decade ago! Recently, this technology has become more popular in the States, and I’ll try to cover the basics of using them.
How do I read them?
To read a QR code, you first need a QR code reader. You’re phone’s app store should carry one. Go download it, I’ll wait. Done? Okay, now all you need to do is find a QR code, open your phone’s app, take a picture, and you’ll have successfully used a QR code. Well, not quite. You might notice that the QR code opened up your phone’s browser and took you somewhere. That’s pretty much the extent of the QR code.
Yep, pretty much. There are a few other applications, but the “open a browser to a certain page” is the most commonly used by far. Now comes the fun/not-so-fun part, depending on how you think. A QR code is basically an easy way to send people to certain URLs (websites and pages). The tricky part is making it work for you.
How do I make them work for me?
Answer these questions: What do I want my users to do/know/access? How can I achieve that with a mobile device and a web page?
- A poster for a band could link to the band’s website, a place to download tickets for an upcoming concert, or to a free download of a song.
- A movie poster could link to the movie’s trailer.
- Promotional pieces could have a QR code to enter the person into a contest, or to download an image to use as a coupon.
- A business card could link to that person’s contact information, which could then be added to the phone.
- A printed catalogue could have QR codes for each product linking the user to the online store to make the purchase. You could go one farther on this to make the first link open a shopping session and then every QR code scanned after adds the product to the user’s shopping cart.
- Magazines or newspapers could use QR codes to link to more information on a continuing story or to videos related to them.
Okay, now how do I make one?
This is the easy part, just Google for QR code generators. You shouldn’t have to pay to make one. The generators will allow you to add specific types of text and will generally allow you to change the size.
What else should I know?
Not everyone is in on this technology, and I’m pretty much forced to be among this group. My phone doesn’t even have a camera, much less a QR code reader. Others don’t know what the “little square with all the black dots” is.
When deciding whether to use QR codes, you’ll have to tailor it to your audience. Younger demographics (myself excluded) will generally have smart phones and know how to use them. Older demographics may or may not be aware of the power their phones have. Also remember to make it useful. Sending a user to your website is fine, but you want to give targeted information.
Having a mobile website would be a good idea, too.