What are QR codes and how can they help your business?
Quick Response codes (QR codes) and other two-dimensional codes are expected to achieve widespread use this year – and for good reason. Consumers want immediate access to what’s relevant and QR codes are being used to make that possible.
QR Codes 101
If you’re not yet familiar with QR codes, they’re similar to the barcodes used by retailers to track inventory and price products at the point of sale. The key difference between the two is the amount of data they can hold or share.
Bar codes are linear one-dimensional codes and can only hold up to 20 numerical digits, whereas QR codes are two-dimensional (2D) matrix barcodes that can hold thousands of alphanumeric characters of information. Their ability to hold more information and their ease of use makes them practical for small businesses.
When you scan or read a QR code with your iPhone, Android or other camera-enabled Smartphone, you can link to digital content on the web; activate a number of phone functions including email, IM and SMS; and connect the mobile device to a web browser.
Any of these desired functions are easily achieved by properly creating your QR code. It’s a simple process of entering the appropriate data into the QR code generator, described below, and it all takes just a few minutes.
The ability of QR codes to connect people with each other and to multimedia digital content is very useful for businesses and consumers alike.
The Origins of QR Codes
While QR codes are still considered a novelty here in the United States, they’ve been actively used for over a decade in Japan where they were invented. QR is a registered trademark of Denso Wave, a subsidiary of Toyota. Denso Wave has elected not to exercise their patent rights of QR codes and that has encouraged their widespread use.
There are other software companies that have created 2D codes that work much like QR codes, with Microsoft being the most notable. Microsoft developed their own proprietary software to create codes known as MS tags. Unlike QR codes, which can be read by a number of different readers, MS tags can only be read by the Microsoft Tag Reader.
Choosing to use QR codes or MS tags is a personal choice. It seems that MS tags presently allow for more possibilities for creative graphic designs, such as incorporating images and logos into the tag. Nevertheless, those capabilities have to be weighed against the reach and ease of use of open-source QR codes.
How QR Codes Work
QR code Generators – There are a number of sites for generating QR codes and they’re all free. An Internet search for QR code generator will offer many choices. One that has worked well for me is Kaywa. You can use it to create QR codes that link to a web page, text, phone numbers, or SMS. Another with even greater capabilities, including customizing the color and format of your codes, and creating a Twitter code like mine above is Kerem Erkan.
A few pointers for creating QR codes is to use a link shortener to shorten the url before generating the code. This gives a cleaner code with a lower error rate. Also, be sure your code is at least 1″ x 1″ and that is has a generous white border when the code is placed on a dark or colored background.
QR code Readers – The QR code reader app that works well on my iPhone is i-nigma, which claims to be the most widely used reader in the world. It accommodates virtually any type of camera phone. For the android, you can also try Barcode Scanner. If you already own the popular price-checking app Red Laser, they’ve recently adapted their technology to accommodate QR code reading.
More recently, Kerem Erkan has introduced Qrafter – a free scanner with a robust set of features that makes it ideal both for beginners and more advanced users. It provides scanning tips and examples of the most common 2D codes, which are helpful for those getting started.
Applications for QR Codes
Sharing – There’s no limit to how, or even how much, you can share with QR codes. While a video or landing page is easily shared, you could go further and share an entire eBook and even multiple pieces of content that share a common link.