QR tags have gained recognition recently as mobile usage has exploded over the past 5 years, in the near future QR code will be widely used to bring traditional marketing and internet marketing together.
In the UK it is still in its early adoption phase and you might occasionally spot one on a business card or on the back of a shampoo bottle, for example.
So what is a QR code?
A QR code is a matrix barcode (See picture, right). A two dimensional (2D) graphic with a pattern consisting of alternating square blocks; used for representing data and works in a similar fashion to a typical barcode you find on most packaging, where the graphic is interpreted into a human readable format via a dedicated reader or software (in most cases a mobile device).
It was released in 1994 by Japanese creators, Denso Wave. Their main goal was to produce a barcode with a good data capacity and returns results fast; QR standing for Quick Response.
A QR code can also display Kanji (Japanese characters) and its one of the main reasons for the QR’s success, especially in Japan, where users have adopted the format. Japan, synonymous for being well established in mobile usage and having a massive user base.
Capacity for holding data is good-to-high with it being able to hold 4,296 alphanumeric characters.
So why use QR tags?
QR tags has gained recognition for its ease of use, support, accessibility and portability for mobile phone users.
It is great for marketing/advertising as it invokes interest from the user and a great, compact way of providing quick access for more information.
A tag can contain simple text, URLs (web addresses), telephone numbers and SMS (text messages).
You can create it so that it points the user for more information containing text along with a link to your website, or a link to a vcard for adding as a contact, for example. You can also use it for direct dialling a company or person and prepare it for an SMS containing a telephone number along with message, ready for sending.
Most mobile devices usually come pre-installed with the reader/scanner software or it is freely available as a download from the Web.
So how do I create one?
To create a tag there are many resources available. Typing in ‘QR tag generator’ will yield a lot of good results. A popular generator and an easy one to use is from Kaywa (http://qrcode.kaywa.com/) and Google offers a free to use API which you can use to generate images on the fly.
QR codes – the Pros and Cons
- Quick and easy to use/setup (dependent on user experience)
- Portable – can be read from most modern mobile devices
- Interactive – can engage users and promote interest to find out more
- Can be processed at all angels – 360 degrees, upside down, it is all the same (unlike a barcode which in most cases is read horizontally)
- Durable – when scanned from a surface/material there’s a good chance of retrieving data even when damaged or smudged/soiled
- Still in the early adoption phase, particularly for users in experiencing the format
- Not human readable and end users might get confused or the graphic going unnoticed
- Need device and/or QR reader software for interpreting
- Distortion – when concerning print for the physical world. The material it is printed on, light-sources/reflections on the graphic can affect the scanning device/camera
- Display consistency – there are 40 versions of display/scaling for holding data. The QR code’s square boxes change in scale dependent on the amount of information that is contained
Mainly there are no real cons asides the usual constraints of end user experience, data capacity and the material it is displayed on. All competitors in the market mostly deal with the same constraints.
Using QR codes for your business is definitely a step in the right direction especially if your customers are mobile orientated.