I am sure you have seen them, popping up in magazines, posters, newspapers. I have seen them on billboards, on road side signs (on the driver side…that is really safe). But what are they?
When I first encountered QR Codes (and their various cousins) I was impressed and I figured it was a cool, new, exciting way to interact with people in the physical world and move them into the online world without having to relate/retype a long URL.
From a mobile, instantaneous, location-aware, always on perspective it seemed perfect.
Issues, always issues
But it also brought up an instant issue. QR Code reader apps for phones are not ubiquitous and the early adopters of QR codes (and we are still in the early adopter stage, even after a couple years) have the problem of explaining (or trying to explain) to people what the code is and how to access it. Instead of providing a URL to the location you want them to code, you have end up having to provide a URL to download the reader (like this one from TapMedia), and install it and use it, all the while trying to retain their interest.
And…as anyone in marketing knows, the more steps it takes for a potential customer to get somewhere the higher the drop off rate.
OK, wait, I know what I will do…can I provide a QR code that links to the QR code reader? Of course…here it is at left.
Wait can you say recursion? How do I take a picture of the QR code to get the reader if I don’t have the reader in the first place (as an aside…how long before Apple builds this into the camera app by default?).
Types of quick response codes
Ok, lets assume people have readers on their phones and they know how to use them. Which type of quick response code will you use? The code shown above is a QR code but there are at least three other types that I have seen appearing in magazines, newspapers, on fliers and posters, in some cases without any explanation as to the type of code or the reader needed to access the code. I had a frustrating encounter with MIT HIgh Technology magazine, which seems to be using Datamatrix codes, but without any explanation or pointer to a reader.
And as far as I can tell, most reader aps can only read one type of code.
From left to right – Datamatrix Code, Microsoft Tag Code and Scanlife Code.
Using QR Codes in Web Sites
So, using QR codes is cool, if people can extract the information from them. What threw me for a real loop was the appearance of these codes on web sites. Which I immediately dismissed. I mean if you are already in a browser, mobile or otherwise, why would I stop and take a picture of a QR Code to then access a web page on my phone? If I am on my phone browser, how do I take a picture of the code anyway? Why not just provide a link?
The more I thought about it the more I scoffed and then I thought some more and then I called my girlfriend to apologize for smirking so loudly when she suggested it in the first place.
There are a few good, very good reasons to use QR codes on web sites:
1. Contact Info, I can provide a complete set of contact information in a QR code in v-card format, which when captured goes directly into my phone contact page. Cool. This one below is my contact info.
2. Location, I can provide a direct link to a Google maps view of any location. This lets me allow my web site visitors to grab the location of my office or a conference location into their phone automatically. The one below is the Skyreader Media offices.
And last but not least, the reason that caused me to re-think the entire use of QR codes in the first place…a link to the App Store where you can buy the app that you are talking about on the web site. Sure you can have a link, but if your customer is browsing the web site on their laptop, tablet (iPad) or desktop you want to provide a path of least resistance to get them hooked into the app store to download that app the QR Code is perfect. This is especially important when you are selling phone apps in a web environment. Sure they can email the app name, or type in into the app store search, but why not just send them their directly (remember steps are the enemy of sales).
3. App Store Links, the code below links directly to the app store for the children’s interactive book, Move Over, by Skyreader Media. It is an instant link to the location where your app is for sale, with the least number of steps and the least opportunity for your prospective customers losing interest.
I guess I need to suck it up and build an app that reads them all…stay tuned.
(all QR Codes for this article were generated using this site (ZXing QR Generator)