Tuesday, December 20, 2011

QR Codes

The Basics:
A QR Code, or Quick Response Code, is a symbology that was developed in Japan by a Toyota subsidiary (Denso Wave) during the mid 1990s in order to efficiently track the various parts of automobiles during the manufacturing process.

A QR Code consists of a two dimensional arrangement of modules which forms a unique code. This code usually drives traffic to a website offering a product, service or other information. Actually, QR Codes can be used to transmit data for any number of purposes including, but not limited to:
  • Drive traffic to your website
  • Send an email, text message or tweet
  • Call a phone number
  • Download a calendar event
  • Download an App
QR Codes can also help track advanced metrics associated with the web traffic they help generate.

It is important to remember, however, that QR codes can be used for malicious purposes, such as:
  • Linking to a dangerous website with browser exploits
  • Exposing a user's sensitive data such as passwords, files, photos, transactions
  • Corrupting privacy settings
  • Stealing identities
  • Spreading viruses and spyware
Consequently, the same cautions employed when surfing the web should also be employed when scanning QR codes.

How To:
There are a number of free QR Code generators available either in the form of apps one can download or websites which will perform the task of generating the code for you. Other apps which offer more options can be purchased inexpensively.

Some code generators will allow you to track the metric data results of your code use. You can choose a code generator which enables you to track this information or you can use Google analytics on your website. The ability to track these metrics can make QR Codes an important part of your marketing strategy.

Should you decide to use a QR Code as part of your marketing strategy, it would be wise to decide up front exactly what you want the code to accomplish. Consider how you want to track the results of using the code, then put into place all the necessary means of doing so in order to evaluate how effectively your QR Code is serving your marketing strategy.

Ultimately, a QR Code must be scanned. That being so, the most efficient QR Codes have just enough information to accomplish the intended goal, making them easy to scan. Too much information and you risk having a failed experience with a code that does not scan efficiently.

Many code generators will give you the option to output your code in PNG, EPS or JPEG formats. I suggest using EPS as this format (unlike the other two) is a scalable vector graphic format that does not suffer loss when enlarged. Be careful to scale your code proportionally. Stretching or distorting it can lead to a failed scan.

Location, Location, Location:

Code placement is important. Here are some ideas:
  • Newspaper, online magazine and TV advertising, 
  • Posters, billboards and banners
  • Trade show displays 
  • Flyers
  • Storefronts
  • T-shirts and Uniforms
  • Labels
  • Business Cards
  • Bumper Stickers
  • Invoices
  • Trucks, Vans and Buildings
A QR code can be placed just about anywhere but you should consider placement carefully. You can put a QR Code on a billboard or on the side of a truck or bus, but are those the best places (or the safest places for that matter) to put your code if you want people to scan them? Wherever you place your QR Code, it should be positioned so that it is easy to scan.

Your code should be clearly distinct from its surroundings. If it blends in too much with its surroundings, it may not scan well. A clearly defined border around the code can help in that instance. A QR Code should be no smaller than about 1" square but can be made large enough to fit on a billboard. Keep in mind a 10:1 ratio when creating your code. If your code is 1" square, it can be easily scanned from a distance of 10".

Push the Envelope:
Most of us think of QR Codes as rather ugly, generic looking eyesores. But you don't have to settle for this. A QR Code output with a high correction level is flexible enough to handle some tweaks in appearance.

This QR Code, designed for Loui Vuitton 
by Takashi Murakami actually works on some devices.

You can change color, use blends, ad graphics, use rounded corners or even drop shadows. This may require you to bring your code into Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator (another reason to output the original code as an EPS file). It takes some experimentation and ultimately you need to test your code on several devices to be sure your client will not be disappointed in the end by a failed scan, but if handled carefully the result can be quite pleasing. Essentially, if you generate your code at a 30% correction level, you can safely obscure about 30% of the code with a logo or graphic. Adding a white outline around your graphic also seems to be helpful.

I didn't go quite as far as Murakami with my QR Code. 
I'm just not a flowery, panda bear type of guy.

More Tips to Remember:
Don't be redundant in your design. Design space is valuable real estate so why use your code to repeat information you have already communicated to the customer when you can use it to drive the customer to the next step of their experience with you, your product, information or service.

QR Codes are new enough that there are plenty of people who don't know what they are or how to use them. Give directions such as, “Scan this with your smart phone.”

Not everyone has the means of scanning a QR Code. For those who do not, it is wise to still provide a URL so they can still access your website.

Test your QR Code before you go live with it and if possible test it with multiple devices. A highly designed QR Code may not scan on every device. You must carefully consider the trade-off between appearance and usability.

A well made, well positioned QR Code can be an effective tool to help drive traffic to your website. What will the user experiences when they get to your site? Well, that is another subject all together.



Brenna Roth, 10 Best Practices for Emplying QR Codes. (https://www.x.com/devzone/articles/10-best-practices-employing-qr-codes)

Tara Hornor, Custom QR Code Best Practices, November 14, 2011. (http://marketingzeus.com/article/custom-qr-code-best-practices)

Anna Pfeiffer, 7 Best Practices for QR Code Success, November 23, 2011. (http://bronto.com/blog/mobile-marketing/7-best-practices-qr-code-success#.TtlaS5heH8s)

Judd Wheeler, QR Code Best Practices for PrintOctober 11, 2011. (http://www.themobilists.com/2011/10/11/qr-code-best-practices-in-print/)

Hamilton Chan, How to Make Your Code More Beautiful. (http://mashable.com/2011/04/18/qr-code-design-tips/)

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