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Op Art, Circa 2012: Demystifying the Hidden Secrets of the QR Code

MONDAY, APRIL 2, 2012

By


D+D News published a story recently about a QR code painted on the roof of the new Facebook Headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif. Whether or not you’re familiar with QR codes and how they work, you’ve no doubt been seeing these black and white square graphics that look to be straight out of the pop art movement of the 1960s.

QR codes may project a complex appearance, but they work very simply and you can use them to enhance your marketing easily and totally for free.

QR, or “quick response,” codes work by encoding data visually. They’re similar to the bar codes we see on products, but they contain much more data.

The idea is simple. These codes are basically hyperlinks on paper or any other surface, and are currently the most direct way to connect print to electronic media.

So what does this mean to you? It means that in one very quick step, you can direct anyone viewing your ad, brochure, billboard, or your roof, for that matter, to a web page, to an email message back to you, or to an automatic phone call.

How are QR codes created?

The answer to this question is, easily. There are many QR code generator sites online. You can Google “QR code generator” and come up with a plethora. I use http://qrcode.kaywa.com.

Why? Because I’m always in a hurry and it’s the first one that comes up in my Google search.

There is no registering, logging in, or payment required. These sites first allow you to select what’s referred to as the content type. Do you want the reader to be directed to a web page? To send an email to you or someone else? To make a call, send a text message or just take a text note?

Most likely, you want to direct them to a web page, but these other options are available and just as easy to create.

QR code generator

Once you select your content type, the content input field will change accordingly. If you’re directing the reader to a web page, you’ll just paste the destination link into the box and click “generate.” You can choose the size of the finished code, as well, if you like.

QR code generator

Once your QR code is generated, you can copy it or save it. You should always scan the code yourself to make sure it’s working correctly before you publicize it.

How does one scan a QR code?

The answer is simple, yet again: with a smartphone and an app. Current statistics have smartphones accounting for almost one-third of all mobile devices shipped. Maybe I hang around with an evolved crowd, but I rarely see a not-so-smartphone these days.

A multitude of free QR code reader apps are available nowadays. I have an iPhone and I use an app called RedLaser which is also available in the Android Market. It’s simple and I chose this app because I read positive reviews about it online, it’s free, and I liked their logo. Here’s an article on the best QR code reader apps for the iPhone, Android and Blackberry platforms.

Installation of your code reader app will take a minute or so and when you open it, you will see a button or a menu item allowing you to “scan.” Point your phone at the code like you are taking a picture and push the button. It’s as easy as that.

QR code reader
 
When the code has been successfully scanned you may see a pop-up showing you the destination address and asking whether you’d like to go there, i.e. open that web page, dial that phone number or send an email depending on the content type associated with that particular code. Or, your code-reader app may take you directly to the destination without checking with you first.

QR code reader
 
A few things to keep in mind

I found this article to be helpful: 4 Tips to Get Your QR Codes Scanned. In a nutshell, it makes some basic, but often overlooked, points.

1. Provide instructions near the QR code. A line in small print that says something like, “Scan this code with your smartphone for more info” can go a long way.

2. Give people an incentive. As QR codes become more popular, marketers will have to work harder to convince audiences to take the time to scan. Therefore, you should include an incentive somewhere on your printed material, such as, “Scan this code for extra discounts.”

3. Educate your audience ahead of time. (Wow! Déjà vu!) Teach your audience to respond to your QR codes by explaining them in blog posts, on your website, at trade shows, etc.

4. Shorten the destination url. Since I’m covering basic info here, a url is a web address, for example, http://www.durabilityanddesign.com.  The less data a QR code holds, the more quickly it will scan. If your url is very long, you may want to use a link shortener, such as www.bit.ly—once again, free and easy. You simply paste your url into the box and a shorter url is created. You should always test the new link, but it will go to the same web page as your original url with fewer characters.

Any url I’ve ever associated with a QR code that I’ve created has loaded very quickly, so feel free to skip this step unless your url is very long or find that when you scan your QR code, you are having trouble loading the page yourself.

Technology is moving so fast these days that I’m sure QR codes will be replaced by something new and fabulous in no time. But for now, they’re pretty cool and I, for one, don’t think that anyone should produce a printed marketing piece without including one.

Incidentally, here’s where the Facebook Headquarters rooftop QR code goes at the moment:

Facebook rooftop QR code destination

Hmm. I wonder what they’re up to…

Painting a QR code on your roof might be an effective way to market to aliens, but right here on Earth, have you seen QR codes used in any creative ways?


   

Tagged categories: Information technology; Marketing; Online tools; Smartphones; Social Media; Website

Comment from Ken Forsberg, (4/3/2012, 9:10 AM)

Thanks for the great artical Pam. A lot of info + tips for easy use. D+D is lucky to have you.


Comment from Pamela Simmons, (4/3/2012, 2:29 PM)

Thanks - glad you enjoyed it!


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