QR Codes and their effective use

downloadQR codes have been an active part of marketing for several years now.  The concept of the QR code is simple: mobile devices loaded with a QR code reading app can image the code and open a website on the user’s device.  That sounds fantastic!  So you go out and set up a QR code (there is plenty of software that can create QR codes from a URL), and import it as a graphic into your printed piece.  ANY URL can be used as a QR code.  However, there are two things that you MUST remember in setting up a QR code and make it effective.


The simpler a URL is, the simpler the generated QR code will be, and the quicker and easier it will be to read on a mobile device. Something like hampton.com is a quick and simple URL. But add to it additional characters such as hampton.com/customer/45iislt-quickset-fo4sisl-65.asp, and the code itself will become complex and more difficult for the mobile device to read.  Often, a complex code will require more time, and soon the user will shut down the application or stop the process, and you’ve lost them.  So, keep it simple.


The other thing that can impede the effective use of a QR code is the site that it links to.  For example, you might have it load to your generic website, which looks fine on today’s widescreen 1014×768 monitors.  But that same website when opened up the mobile device will be scaled down.  Fonts will drop below readable levels, and links will be difficult to select.  Some devices have the capability to create a magnifier effect, which allows the link to be enlarged when you first touch it, allowing you to then select it easily.  But not all mobile devices have this.  The best bet is to make sure that you create a mobile-optimized website that will recognize the operating system of your device and reconfigure itself to fit the viewable image area of that device.  It will need to retain the functionality of the generic website, and it may be necessary to reduce the content so that it appears clean and makes it easier for the user to access and select the functions.  This will mean more time spent in developing your site for both non-mobile and mobile access, but the effort will be worth it.

QR codes have many uses.  In direct mail they can be used for personal URLs (PURLS) that take the recipient direct to a personalized URL (preferably mobile-optimized).  They can be used to give the consumer more information on a product, service, or even on the sender of the piece.  They can be used to view and upload documents (most mobile devices have Acrobat Reader loaded on them, so viewing a PDF from a QR code is quite commonplace.)  They can be used as a link to YouTube videos highlighting your product or service.  Anything that has a URL can be created as a QR code.  But overuse or improper use can be your worst enemy.  If every mailed piece you print has the same QR code for your mobile-optimized website, you might find that the recipients stop scanning it, thinking that it is the same as the last time.  If your call to action is tied into the QR code, but ONLY to the QR code, and your recipient does not have a smartphone or the application for reading the code, then you’ve lost their potential business.  Always make sure your QR code is backed up by the actual URL.

For more great reading and tips, here is an excellent blog by Xerox on QR Codes.


Connect with John on Google+Twitter and LinkedIn.


About John Prothero

John Prothero is a print professional with over 30 years experience in the print industry. Starting out as a driver delivering jobs, he worked in bindery, proofing, plating, traditional prepress (camera and stripping), scheduling, job planning, job management, account management and digital job production. His skills also run in the area of blog authorship, social media management, and lead generation and qualification of prospective clients. John is also a contributor to Rhode Island Creative Magazine, a digital publication that highlights the creative spirit of the state of Rhode Island. You can read their online issues at www.ricreativemag.com
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