Remember QR codes? That two-dimensional square image you took a picture of with your smartphone camera? They were popular as a marketing tool for a short period a few years ago.
QR codes are convenient. The problem? People had to know what QR codes would do for them and download an app to their smartphone that could read and interpret the codes contained within the image. That was the problem, too many steps to make it useful.
That may have changed with the iOS 11 update Apple released a few weeks ago. One of the enhancements in that software update was including native support for reading and interpreting QR codes in the Camera app. Point your iPhone camera at a QR code, and a box will pop up automatically allowing you to take the action the QR code has embedded.
What is a QR Code?
At its most basic, a QR Code is a barcode on steroids. QR is the acronym for Quick Response. Created by Toyota in Japan in 1994 to track parts in vehicle manufacturing, they are used for encoding information in a two-dimensional space — like in the pages of magazines, in advertisements, on business cards, and even on TV and websites.
A standard U.S. barcode encodes data in only the horizontal plane (as scanners read the width and distance between the vertical lines) whereas QR codes encode data in 2D (both horizontally and vertically) in a grid of tiny squares. This allows for much more data to be encoded in a smaller space. QR codes can embed information in the code itself, and, when scanned with your smartphone camera, can trigger actions like launching a website or downloading a file. Additionally, QR codes can be read from any angle, while barcodes must be appropriately aligned.
Types of QR Codes
QR codes are tailor-made for quickly and easily linking to content on smartphones. Here are some ideas for types of QR codes you can create:
- A website URL: Touch and you will navigate directly to your website in the default browser.
- Prefilling a text message: Allow the person to send a text message with the phone number and message prefilled.
- Prefilling an email: Same as text but for email, the prefilled information can include the subject line and body content.
- VCard: The individual can download your contact information to be added directly to their phone contact list.
- Links to social platforms: This could include Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or any other platform.
- Event: Prefill a calendar item with event information including location, start time, and end time.
If you have an iPhone and have upgraded to iOS 11 you can experience this for yourself by point your camera at this QR code:
Many online services allow you to create QR codes for free. One I have experimented with briefly that has much functionality — including adding logos to the QR code — is QRCode Monkey.
Will QR codes make a comeback? I am not sure, but I certainly am going to be experimenting with using them in more places. It just makes sense to make it as easy as possible for people to get to your website, or request more information from you about a product and service.
We are increasingly reliant on our mobile devices, and typing out URLs or other data on tiny keyboards is still not very efficient. These squares of elaborately arranged boxes are a shortcut around that problem.
What do you think? What QR codes should make a comeback? Brainstorm and let me know how you might use them in your organization. Leave a comment below.