I saw Ray tweet today about a QR code and even though I’m no resident expert, I’ve dealt with them quite a bit lately in most of my print advertising and wanted to point out a few things.
What is a QR Code?
Simply, it’s a barcode (like barcodes on food at the grocery store or other stuff you buy) that YOU can customize. This code can then be scanned by smart phones and other devices to quickly translate that information without having to manually type it in. It’s my understanding QR codes are already being used everywhere outside of the States and the U.S. has been slow to adopt the technology. Regardless, QR codes have become quite popular over the past couple years and will continue to grow in use… if you aren’t seeing them everywhere now, you soon will.
*A more in depth definition from Wikipedia
What are QR Codes used for?
To put typical use into in perspective, I was at Taco Bell yesterday and there’s a poster on the wall with a QR code, which I scanned with my phone, that linked me directly to a survey on the restaurant on the web. I took the survey while I was standing and waiting for my delicious (and now VERY overpriced) chicken and nacho cheese chalupa meal with a soft taco.
Typically, you’ll see QR codes in print. I’ve been using QR Codes extensively on brochures, business cards, ads in program books and so on.
And typically within a QR code is a URL or link to a website. But a QR code is a multipurpose container that can hold a wealth of information including text, phone numbers and text messages (typically not a combination of information though).
So is a QR code practical on a website?
Well kinda… it all depends on what’s in the QR code. Yes, the codes will easily scan onto a phone from the screen, so that’s not a problem. But any sort of link inside the QR Code would probably be counter-productive.
Practical uses on a website might include contact information that can be easily stored in your phone so you don’t have to type it all in, although as a designer I would add the code to my website as a convenience to my users, not replace my contact information altogether.
How can I make my own QR code?
My favorite tool is here, although there are plenty others out there.
So how do I scan these codes?
Android has a free app in the market called QR Droid which I use frequently and it works great! I don’t know what’s out there for the iPhone, Blackberry and Windows phone users, but I’m quite confident there are QR code apps available for those smartphones as well.
Now if only I could get my fortunes to be a QR code on my napkin so I didn’t have to actually open and break the fortune cookie to get it….