QR code-making tips to keep in mind

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail:

qr codeNot all QR codes are created equal

Even though QR codes all look the same at a glance, they actually come in distinct varieties, each of which encapsulates a different amount of data. The more data a QR code contains, the more little squares it needs to encode it, and the result is a finer-grained, higher-resolution image.

These range from a “Version 1” QR code, which contains a 21 x 21 array of squares and encodes just 25 characters, to a “Version 40,” which is 177 x 177 squares, and stores as many as 4,296 characters.

However, just because a standard exists in the lab doesn’t mean it’s ready for the real world. The more tiny little blocks there are, the harder it gets for smart phone cameras to read them.

That’s why, as a rule of thumb, it’s best to use as low-resolution a QR code as is practical.

QRStuff.com recommends going no higher than a “Version 4,” with 33 blocks to a side, storing 114 characters for use with smart phones.

Not all QR scanners are created equal, either

As rapidly as they’re improving, smart phone cameras have not been known for their optical excellence. Smart phones purchased as recently as a couple of years ago routinely deliver fuzzy, smudgy dark images. This affects their ability to see and scan QR codes.

Toronto realtor George O’Neill puts QR codes on his lawn signs, using them to link interested viewers to detailed property information and even video tours. His experience has taught him to make sure that the codes he uses are visible to the broadest swath of viewers, with smart phones old and new.

“If you don’t make your QR code big enough, the camera can’t scan it,” he says.

Testing is another important pre-launch check for a QR code marketing campaign. Make sure that the label can be read by a variety of phone platforms, using a variety of scanning apps (they’re not all of the same quality), under a variety of lighting conditions, and in the real-world conditions that the code will be scanned with different QR Code readers. (A QR code on a bottle, for instance, will distort the code somewhat.)

Don’t be afraid to play with colour and design

All that said, QR codes’ robustness leave a surprising amount of room to play.

“They’re incredibly tolerant things, in terms of how well they work,” says Nigel Brachi, who handles marketing and communication at theUniversity of Alberta’s Students Union, which uses QR codes on posters and flyers to pique students’ interest in events.

One QR code property that Mr. Brachi has harnessed is the ability to free them from their garish black-and-white confines.

A conference he was working to promote had a bright visual identity that consisted of overlapping red, orange and blue circles. His team was able to use that same palette for the QR code with no ill effects.

You can even work in images and symbols: The black-and-white QR code for the university’s “Week of Welcome” event had a pixilated “WOW” in the centre. (Generators like QRStuff.com can assist in the production of custom designs.)

Try using different iPhone Apps and Android Apps to make sure your code works fine in all of them.

One Response to “QR code-making tips to keep in mind”

  1. I think the US business world is going to go QR code crazy when they start to realize the power of putting information or a web link in a mobile device. The early adopters will have the advantage for a while.

Leave a Reply