If you’re not yet familiar with QR Codes, or Quick Response Codes, they are the little white square filled with small black blocks hanging out in the corner of posters, magazines, or directly on product packaging. Companies are using these QR Codes to bridge the gap between print media and the World Wide Web.
QR Codes are like the traditional barcodes used by retailers to track inventory, but QR Codes are able to store a lot more information. Where the linear, one-dimensional bar code can hold up to 20 digits, the two-dimensional QR codes can hold thousands of alphanumeric characters.
All you need is a camera enabled smart phone or device to scan the QR code which will decode the information. Usually this will be a web link that will automatically open your browser and provide additional information about what the QR Code was attached to.
But that’s not all they can do. The QR Code can contain just about anything that will fit within the character length limitations. That means the QR Code could be an email address, a phone number, create a text message, contain a calendar import file, or the contents of a business card.
Free QR Code reader apps are available for all brands of smart phones, and you can find some links below to some of the more popular ones.
QR Code Origins
QR Codes were first created for use in the automotive industry. They were created by Toyota subsidiary Denso Wave in 1994 to track vehicles during the manufacturing process. Since then, QR Codes have traveled from Japan and South Korea to the United Kingdom and the rest of the world.
Denso Wave designed the QR Code to be decoded at high speed. For this reason (and the fact that Denso Wave has chosen not to exercise the patent rights), QR Codes have become one of the most popular two-dimensional codes in use today.
There are other companies that have created two-dimensional codes that work much like QR codes, with Microsoft being the most notable. MS Tags can only be created using Microsoft’s proprietary software. And MS Tags can only be read by the Microsoft Tag Reader, unlike QR codes. One benefit the MS Tags have is their flexibility. MS Tags can more easily incorporate images and logos in the tag.
How You Can Use QR Codes – Generators and Readers
The ability to link an advertisement in a newspaper, magazine, or the side of a bus to a website sounds great, but did you know that you can easily create your own QR code?
There are a number of sites for generating QR codes, and they’re all free.
I like Kaywa by Datamatrix (qrcode.kaywa.com). It has all the most popular uses for QR codes: linking the QR Code image to a web page, plain text, phone number, or SMS text message.
Though if you want more options, check out Kareem Erkan (www.keremerkan.net/qr-code-and-2d-code-generator). You will get options like: bookmark site; link to Google or Bing maps; Tweet on Twitter; or link to a Foursquare. The site will also let you customize the color and format of your code.
Here are links to a few of the more popular reader apps. Depending on the type of smart phone you have, you can find these and more for free from your usual source for apps.
QR Code Tips
The shorter the info being encoded in a QR Code, the less complex the code will be. To shorten a long web link, you can use services like bit.ly, goo.gl and tinyurl.com. Many of these types of services will also generate a QR Code for you.
You will also want to test your code before you publish it. If your QR Code is going to be printed in a newspaper, be aware that your QR Code image may need to be larger to compensate for blurring caused by the type of paper it is printed on.
Make sure the page you are linking to is mobile phone-friendly. This is where 99 percent of your traffic will be coming from.
Also, consider using your QR Code to offer exclusive information or discounts.
QR Codes Uses
There are a huge number of things you can do with QR Codes. You can link your business card to a YouTube video, connect your brochure to your website, send people from your event flyer to a registration page, or provide a calendar reminder for your fundraising event.
- Through your own QR Codes, you can link readers to:
- Your office directions
- Details on your professional services
- Special offers
- Free content (audio, video, images, etc.)
- Customer feedback forms
QR Codes can also further your practice by promoting your services, attracting new clients, and improving repeat business. Consider including these free codes on your business card, brochures, and other marketing materials, or in magazine and newspaper ads.
There are even places that will put your QR code on t-shirts, coffee mugs, chocolate, or even temporary tattoos. Check out QRstuff.com for more ideas.
The Future of QR Codes
QR Codes are perceived to be cutting edge, even though they have been around since 1994. They are easy to use, versatile and provide instant access to information. If you do any type of marketing this technology should have a well-established place in your plan.
Being able to connect people from your paper-based content to the Internet is a powerful tool that should not be overlooked.