I have a love/hate relationship with QR Codes- If used properly? They are smart! Unfortunately, they are getting a bad rap because some people took the tactic and transformed it into an oversaturated and now unnoticed gimmick- popping up everywhere, on everything- just because they can. I believe QR codes have a chance to redeem themselves- people just need some direction.
First thing is first- people need to stop adding them to business cards. You don’t need to reiterate a website link on a card that states your URL AND even if it made sense to put a QR Code on a business card? They are usually too small to scan anyway. They shouldn’t be used on websites, they should ALWAYS work (check your links) and they should serve a purpose- outline a call to action or send you to a page that answers a question on a site that may take a while to navigate (i.e. government sites).
I had a twitter discussion last week about QR Codes and after a back and forth conversation on the topic, I reached out to London graphic designer, Andi Best (www.andib.co.uk) and asked him if he wouldn’t mind sharing his take on QR Codes as a guest blogger. Here is his reply;
“Entering a conventional web address into a mobile browser can be a fairly cumbersome process on the go, which is why most users tend not to bother, hoping instead to recall the URL (or at least some search criteria for it) when they are next at a desktop. QR codes offer a convenient solution to this problem. They circumvent the requirement of typing a flawless sequence of keys with a much simpler single scan of a device camera.
Sadly, convenience tends to be the extent of their implementation despite their great innovative potential. More often than not, when you see a QR code on a poster or billboard, it will be an afterthought ushered in by a half-hearted project manager, insisting it sits beside the full URL, the Facebook icon and URL, the Twitter icon and URL, the various app store badges and every other digital bumf they can think of that does not translate gracefully in print. Treating QR codes as merit badges rather than communication channels actually causes them to get ignored as audiences quickly grow blind to things they see too often in places they expect to see them. Marketers and designers are accountable here for paying little consideration towards the aesthetics of the QR code and simply dumping the awkward black and white mosaic anonymously on an otherwise well-thought-out layout.
From a design point of view, I’ve seen plenty of careless presentations of QR codes. I’ve seen codes printed far too small, or at too low a resolution on product packaging at the mercy of online code-generating apps, resulting in key data getting lost amongst the blurry output that inevitably causes the scan to fail.
I’ve seen ads bearing QR codes scaled proportionately to the rest of the content, but then positioned on billboards which are too high or far away for most device cameras to draw a decent focus on, again rendering them useless.
I’ve seen QR codes tainted by graphics embedded in their markings, tainted by graphics overlaid on the markings and tainted by a number of other visual gimmicks (as if scanning a poster with your phone wasn’t gimmick enough) which potentially skew their usability device-by-device.
From an implementation point of view, a number of ads largely overlook the basic logic of the QR code and its greatest available asset; its ability to offer real-time communication between user, content and location. Where the user is physically standing at the moment they encounter a QR code should be at the forefront of its inclusion in an ad and should also be championed by the supporting design. To give a user digital content that’s topical to the things and places he/she is currently interacting with in the real world breaks so many boundaries of communication that it’s staggering to see how infrequently this is properly utilised.
I’ve seen ads that have wasted valuable real-estate with a scan that simply links to a brand’s homepage, which a user could have easily Googled in the time it took to fire up the scanning app.
I’ve seen codes that scan through to web pages that aren’t optimised for mobile display.
I’ve seen QR codes on ads positioned in underground or enclosed locations where signal reception simply doesn’t exist.
Worst of all, I’ve even seen QR codes in the footers of the websites they point at…
So why isn’t serious use of this technology mainstream? A key argument is that not many handsets come armed with QR scanning technology out of the box, so their reliance on an app makes them feel superfluous. As the audience is pretty slim, investment in clever (and typically pricey) marketing just isn’t happening, allowing a glut of uninspired QR Frankenstein’s to rise up and take over instead.
Marketers and designers are the ones who need to address this, as until they begin presenting QR codes in more innovative ways and with more relevant, engaging user experiences that capitalise on the user’s environment, there is no incentive for the public to regard them as anything other than a fad, and there will be no high demand for handsets to come equipped to embrace them.
Here are a couple of examples of QR codes that have really been put to work:”
You can find Andi Best on facebook and twitter via the links below:
I personally love the tattoo shops help wanted ad!
How do you feel about QR Codes? What is the best/worst ways you’ve seen them implemented?