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When QR Codes Go Wrong

Due to the enormous growth of mobile barcode technology, thousands of marketers are turning to QR codes to engage with their audience. While great news, we’ve found that many codes are providing a poor user experience simply because the codes were published incorrectly. Some codes are not scanning at all, making them useless and discouraging to potential customers.

As a perfect example of “when QR codes go wrong”, we were sent a recent issue of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Inside just one section alone, we spotted three different cases where each of the marketers published a QR code that didn’t even work!

To help you avoid this issue, let’s take a quick look at what these particular codes did wrong;

– Lack of Quiet Space: Every QR Code should be surrounded by at least 2 module sizes of “quiet” or “white” space (modules are the tiny black squares within the code).  The code below lacked this requirement, and was unable to scan as a result.

– Too Much Density: It’s critical to ensure that your code isn’t too dense. Density becomes a concern when your code includes lots of data and is shrunk down to a smaller size. The code gets too cluttered in a small amount of space, which makes it more difficult or in this case, impossible to read.   

– Poor Dimensions: A QR code has to be square. It cannot be circular, triangular, or anything in between. Square or bust, period.

All of these issues are common risks when using free generators because you lack consistency and quality control over your codes.

Just remember, whatever code generator you choose, please, please (please) test it first across several apps and devices. Merely one bad user experience can turn a customer off QR codes forever!

So consider these tips as step 1-A of “QR Codes 101”, as the single most important thing to remember is “does the code work?”

  • Filed under: Examples, Marketing, Trends

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    • 3 Responses for "When QR Codes Go Wrong"

      1. Carmine June 23rd, 2011 at 7:00 PM 1

        Thank you for posting this to facebook!!

        I saw a QR Code just this week that had a peace sign placed over the top of the code. It was for a music festival. Needless to say the code didn’t work.

        I am seeing more and more codes out there with no call to action. You need to educate the consumer on how to use it.

      2. Callum Winton June 24th, 2011 at 11:14 AM 2

        I have loads of problems trying to scan my QR code off my “contact” page on my site.

        Not because of the image itself, but the pixelisation/Hz of the screen as it displays the image on my desktop and laptop makes it hard for my phone to grab it.

        If I print it off it works every time 🙂


      3. S. Werner June 24th, 2011 at 11:46 AM 3

        In addition, to the above mentioned issues, smartphones which do not have an auto-focus camera will have a difficult reading codes.

        I have an iPhone 3 that cannot pick up scans as large as 1.” But when I tested the code on an iPhone 4 or Droid platform phone, with an auto-focus camera, there is no problem.

        In these cases it’s not the code, but the scanning device that’s the problem.

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