QR codes – great idea but watch for traps in implementation

System Administrator Appreciation Day Fancy Ca...

System Administrator Appreciation Day Fancy Cake with two QR-Codes. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We are seeing a lot of QR codesemerging lately. Although they have been around for quite some time QR codes have recently reached the radar of mainstream marketers. We are seeing them pop up on business cards, email signatures, advertisements and in many different and innovative ways.

They are a great idea, and a great way to pack a lot of information into one small package. But before you go ahead and go crazy with QR codes it is useful to learn from the mistakes others have made. The following are some recent QR code ‘fails’ that I have seen and I welcome anyone to add to this list over time:

1. Dangerous positioning. I’ve seen a billboard on a North Shore train station that invites readers to scan the QR code to find out more about the service being offered. The only problem is that the QR code is just too small to  scan from a smartphone while standing on the platform. To scan it properly you would have to climb onto the tracks and risk being run over by a train.

2. Too much information. There is a great temptation to pack as much information as possible into a QR code. If you look at the way a QR code is constructed you will see that it is a pattern of dots arranged in a square. The more information stored the smaller the dots become and the more complex the code looks. The more complex the code the more difficult it is to read, so although you might embed more information you risk the chance of someone giving up scanning it because their reader is having trouble. Remember as a QR code creator you cannot guarantee that the recipient of the code will have the latest and greatest reading software. Better to aim for the middle of the range and assure that your code will be read.

3. Not thinking of the user experience. I’ve scanned may QR codes and found that the website that I have been directed to is not optimised to be read on a smartphone. Lets think about it – you use your smartphone to scan the code, the code directs you to a website. If the website you have been sent to cannot be read on a phone the campaign has not really been thought through. It is highly unlikely that someone will scan a QR code and then send it to their PC for future browsing.  Not optimising the website you direct your QR code to is one thing, but another unforgivable offence is to direct the code to a website that is flash enabled. Many a QR code reader will be underwhelmed when they use their iPhone to visit a site that is optimised for Flash.

Used wisely, QR codes can potentially enhance and improve the results of your campaign. Used poorly, they can make you look silly and potentially scare off good customers. As with most things, think of the business problem you want to solve first rather than finding a solution and then trying to find a problem to solve with it.

I would love to hear your stories on how QR codes have made a difference to you – in either a positive or negative way.

This entry was posted in Common sense prevails, Innovation, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

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