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Everyone Loves and Hates QR Codes

QR codes are everywhere today, however not that many people use them. The advertising world seems to have accepted QR codes with open arms and are putting them everywhere; where as users are not so sure. Even some usability experts are saying no to QR codes.

Do you know what a QR code is? I’m willing to bet the major of people don’t. Those that do are probably more tech savvy or know someone who is. And that’s the first problem, knowledge.


QR CodeA QR code is a new kind of bar code. Instead of being a set of vertical lines used mainly by stores to track products and prices, QR codes are little squares and are supposed to be used by everyone as a quick and easy way of consuming all kinds of information.

All you have to do is scan a QR code and your phone will do the rest. You do have an app for that right? Probably not. That brings us to the next issue, technology.


Do you have a smartphone? Reach says that about half the US population has a smartphone. So half of the US can’t even decode a QR code if they wanted to.

What bar code reader app do you use? Android, iOS and Windows Phone do not come with a default bar code reader app. Some manufactures may add one, but it’s not standard. So if you do have a smartphone, you probably don’t have an app to read QR codes. There are lots of free ones, but that’s yet another hurdle for the user.


The other big issue is implementation. Marketing departments are putting QR codes everywhere. Food labels, magazine articles, and even buildings have QR codes on them. But why?

Some QR codes have a bit of detail saying “scan this to get more info on our contest” where as others don’t have any explanation as to why they have QR code or why I should scan it.

Unsafe QR Code

And what about his QR code? Is a person really supposed to cross the tracks to scan it? I’m betting that’s not a safe idea.

QR Codes Done Right

QR Code to Save Lives

If done right, QR codes can be great. Mercedes-Benz plans on adding QR codes to cars so that rescue crews can use their smartphones to instantly retrieve information on how to make a speedy and safe rescue.

Another thing that companies could do is put QR codes on electronics or appliances that link to the manual online. Finding a manual when you need one is hard and looking them up online isn’t always as easy as it should be. QR codes here could be very handy.

Finding great examples of QR code use is difficult. The market has been flooded with QR codes on all sorts of products; sadly and most are used for all the wrong reasons.

I don’t think QR codes are going anywhere, but, before they can be really useful, we have to solve the technology disconnect, educate the public, and start using QR codes for the right reasons.

What do you think? Are QR codes useful or annoying? Or don’t you even know what they are?

1 Response

  1. Bryan Logan says:

    I’ve seen QR codes on lawnmowers, for when you need to order replacement parts.

    I think people give them a bad rap because it’s trendy to bash them, just like trendy to bash Nickelback. But if I was ever giving a presentation, my final slide would have a URL and then a QR code with it. For those who do understand how to use a QR code, this would give them a quick way to accurately capture the information and automatically store it.

    But if you ever make a mobile site that has just a QR code and isn’t a hyperlink, that makes for an extremely mobile unfriend site.

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