Send me the weekly


Blog / 2011 / June / 8 Tips for Using QR Codes

8 Tips for Using QR Codes

June 23, 2011 by Brian Pennington

2011 might just be the year of the QR code—and for good reason. Those small squares have been popping up everywhere from magazines to flower pots.

QR codes (short for quick response) act as “jump points” to the Internet because they connect the physical world with the Web. When you scan a QR code with your phone, it connects you to additional mobile content.

Companies use them to connect with customers, capture data, and share exclusive content. However, when the how and why of QR codes isn’t considered, they become nothing more than the next marketing gimmick.

Here are a few pointers to effectively use QR codes:

Size matters: In general, QR codes shouldn’t be smaller than ¾ of an inch. For most smartphones, the relationship between scan distance and minimum QR code size is approximately 10:1. So, a 1-inch QR code will have an effective scan distance of about 10 inches.

Less is more: Although a QR code can hold nearly 4,300 alphanumeric characters, most mobile phone cameras are incapable of recognizing QR codes with more than 60. For simpler codes, use a link shortening service like or A code that contains less data will be easier to read by a larger number of devices.

Mobile in mind: You’ll get much better response if you design the content a code links to specifically for mobile. Although iPhone and Android phones accurately display websites, mobile sites go one step further with a pared down experience, which allows a user to quickly access information without having to zoom or search extensively.

Limited design: I’ll admit, QR codes are fairly ugly. But, before you try and change the color to that perfect shade of lemongrass or incorporate your company’s logo, be warned. It’s best to keep the code high-contrast and straightforward for the highest number of people to scan it. If you alter the code in any way, be sure to test it before you use it.

Pixel Puzzle: While QR codes are gaining popularity, many people do not understand what they are—much less have the software to read them. Consider placing a quick description of what the code is, how to scan it and where to download the scanning software.

Gone in a flash: Recently, I noticed a QR code at the end of a television commercial. Now, while I often have my phone nearby while watching TV, I don’t have it in-hand, pointed at the screen, ready to scan a code appearing for mere seconds. If you’re going to use a QR code on TV, please leave it up long enough for someone to scan it.

Consider your content: Linking a QR code to a website full of copy is as exciting as watching grass grow. Where is the engagement? Instead, link to a game/survey with prizes like a coupon, or direct them to a video on the topic. At minimum, include images! If someone has gone to the trouble of scanning your QR code the last thing they want to see is bland content. Give then something valuable.

Test, test and test again: Before you print a QR code on your next marketing piece, test it with a few different phones and scanners. Each device and reader will perform differently, so while your phone and scanner may be able to read the code without a hitch, your customers’ may not.

While these guidelines aren’t rocket science, ignoring them can result in a poorly performing campaign.

What’s your experience with QR codes? Have you seen any shining examples or terrible flops?

Image credit: LaunchSquad


2 Responses to "8 Tips for Using QR Codes"

Hank says:
I agree with Leigh. There is the degree with what we can do, and what is approproate. I would hate to readabout the a major vehicle accident because a kid was trying to scan a QR code off of a billboard sign whilst driving.
DEC 15, 2011
leigh marino says:
Great tips... both timely and relevant. Thanks Brian! might I suggest a 9th tip?

Think about appropriate places to use QR codes. By that I mean: appropriate and relevant for the user. Example: I recently saw one on a "bassist wanted" flyer pinned to a bulletin board in a local music store. PERFECT use of the technology, as it enabled me to capture all of the information I needed without having to hunt for a pen/paper -- or worse-- tear off and save (not to mention, later on, FIND) a tiny scrap of paper. On the flip side, I saw one recently on a Facebook post. Why? If I am already online viewing Facebook, then a simple link would suffice. Why put the user through MORE work to get to what you want them to see? So, before hopping on the "new cool tool" bandwagon, it's worth taking a moment to assess whether its the best, most user-friendly option for your audience.

JUN 24, 2011

Leave a Reply