The use of QR codes certainly seems to have increased lately. But does it means that Web designers should be using them? What will you say if clients ask you whether incorporating QR codes in their website is a good idea? The idea behind QR (Quick Response) code isn’t new, it is essentially a barcode. For many years, we have seen barcodes on many products on the shelves; they contain information that can be decoded using special reader.
However, if standard barcodes (those with lines of varying thickness) are read using a beam light, QR code is meant to be handled like an image. The reader scans the QR code and finds certain identifiable patterns. Dots in QR code may look random, but if you at them look closer, it is easy to notice that they are consisted of four different square types. The skew, rotation and alignment of these squares can help the reader to interpret the information accurately. The special reader can scan and decode the QR code at different angles and orientations quickly. In just a small area, a QR code can store quite a bit of important information. The real usefulness of QR code can quickly be realized when we consider than anyone with camera-equipped smartphone can easily utilize QR code using special apps.
The potentials of QR codes are often irresistible. Space in print material, such as leaflets and magazines is usually limited and QR code offers an alternative way for communicating your message. In general, information in QR code is 100 percent static and it communicates in one-way direction with your audience. Printed QR code is just a pile of ink and there’s nothing you can do to change the information directly. With the internet, everything changes immensely. The space in the World Wide Web is almost unlimited as you can always make a webpage longer or simply add new webpages. The interaction possibility of QR code in the Web is only limited by our own imagination.
QR code is easy to use and fun; it is simply another way of fully utilizing the magical and unlimited realm of the Internet. For example, you can put a QR code on stickers and add them on places where people sit or stand for more than a few minutes, such as the bus stop or inside a bus. Some bored smartphone users may point their handsets at it and they are taken immediately to your website. QR code has become so popular that it attract a strange sort of cult following. Web designers and online marketers everywhere have jumped onboard and they bring in a lot of creativity. Today, we often see QR codes in the unlikeliest places and they are a perfect tool for any guerrilla marketing campaign. QR codes have been spotted on baked goods, produce, belt buckles, shirts and even tombstones.
Although some skeptics see QR code as a hopeless gimmick, others see it as an innovative and modern advertising marvel. Web designers should have proper stance on this subject; an intelligent and educated stance, not something based on off-the-cuff judgment. So when clients ask you about the possibility of QR code implementation on the website, you won’t come off as derogatory or act like an uninformed expert.
For inventory staff in large retail stores, handling barcode is often sort of a pain. They have to use an expensive and specialized software and type in sequences of numbers. It is not that difficult, but working with barcode isn’t exactly the highlight of their day. With QR code, things are completely different, as there is far less amount of work on their part. There are many free online and offline tools for generating QR code. You can choose different sizes and since QR codes are squares you can easily integrate them into your design.
From the perspective of people creating them, QR code is easy to use. But what users think about it? This matter is still something that is highly up for the debate. For fans of QR code, the process sounds really simple; pull out a smartphone and point the camera. But for others, we might hear something different.
• Pull out the smartphone
• Unlock it
• Swipes the display a few times to locate the QR code reader app
• Tap the icon to launch the app
• Point the rear-facing camera to the QR code
• Wait for the browser load, which opens the site automatically
Some people would argue that it is faster to just launch the browser and type in the URL. If QR code is only intended to take us to a homepage with short URL, it seems like an unnecessary hassle. In addition, new technologies like NFC are threatening to deliver something more practical. A large proportion of QR code users are simply first-timer, who are curious about what the technology would do. It may mean that once almost everyone had tried to use QR code, fewer people will use the technology. The mobile and internet technologies are advancing at breakneck speeds and it’s hard to say whether QR code will become an inseparable part of our digital lifestyle. If you are an overzealous adopter, you should be prepared to a possibility that eventually QR code will just become a fuzzy memory.
With all these facts in mind, we may easily see that at it worst, QR code is simply a fad and it will eventually fade away. So, to grab the interest of a sizable chunk of smartphone users, you should follow common sense:
Use an alternative
Unless you want to trap people without smartphone in a perpetual cycle inside your site, you should have an alternative to QR code in your website, such as a simple URL next to the code.
Use mobile-friendly content
Always consider that people visiting your website through QR code will be using smartphone and tablet. If your website isn’t mobile-optimized, you are doomed from the start. Your website should be perfectly usable on a small display and don’t use desktop-specific technology such as Adobe Flash.
Leverage the curiosity factor
Curiosity is an effective hook for early users of QR code. Sidebar ads are now become almost invisible to many users, likewise, QR code will also be much easier to ignore as it become more ubiquitous. It is important to put some serious effort into the presentation of QR code. Your creativity should be able to leverage users’ curiosity and catch their attention.
Set clear goals
Getting smartphone users to scan your QR code is already an impressive feat and it is a big fat waste of time if you fail to use the opportunity properly. Getting a million of scan is worthless if you can’t encourage or educate people toward further actions. An obvious goal should be to encourage people to bookmark your website and this would pay off significantly in the long term.