What is a QR code? It’s a two-dimensional datamatrix designed to be decoded at high speed, hence the term Quick Response (QR). Caught by a smart phone app via the camera, these codes perform an action. Most times it connects to a webpage, but apparently can also be used to download an MP3, dial a phone number, or prompt an email.
Where will you find QR codes? Lots of places, and more every day. You may have seen them on transit ad overheads, realtors’ signage, billboards, magazines, pamphlets, and many other places.
When was it invented? A technology created in tech-hungry Japan in 1999, QR codes have been showing up in North America for a number of years. Now that the majority of people carry a smart phone, ‘everyone’ has a portable bar code reader in their pocket at all times. This is causing an explosion in usage as advertisers catch on!
Who uses it and how? That’s in two parts: the end-user or as the advertiser.
As a user, we download an app (many are free) for our smart phone. I have I-nigma on my iPhone. When I see a QR code, I open I-nigma and angle my phone at the code. As soon as the code is within the finder, the camera snaps and the action shows on the screen. In the case of the QR code in this article, you’ll see the URL to the mobile version of the page on my website where you can find information about Rainbow’s End, the collection my novella is in. You can accept the action or back out of it at this point.
That brings me to the other end of ‘how,’ the one in which you can create QR codes of your own. Google QR creator and you’ll get a zillion choices. I used QR Stuff. You just plug in the URL you want coded and tell them how you want the code, a .png file, delivered to you. I chose download.
One little tip for the URL you use: the longer and more complex the URL, the more complex the QR code, which means the greater the margin for error in reading the code, especially if you need to display it in a tight space like a bookmark. However, if you use an ow.ly URL, for example, the scanner can’t see where they’re headed and might be reluctant to click through.
Why? There are no end of possibilities, frankly. I’m sure you can think of a bunch of uses yourself. I created the QR code here to put on Rainbow’s End bookmarks that the marketing department of my publisher, Barbour, created for me. This way someone who picks up the bookmark and wants more information about it can scan the code and find it. With the addition of a variety of buy-links on the page, ready to take them to their favorite online retailer, they can place an order then and there.
TIP: Be sure the page you’re sending the QR code to loads well on a mobile device! I use WordPress Mobile Pack. Check what’s recommended for your platform.