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Design

Enough with the QR Codes!

18 Mar, 2012   By Rami Sayar

Update: So apparently in cooler places in the world like San Fran, NYC and Tokyo, people and companies actually use QR codes for good! Some interesting use cases in the comments. Check them out!

QR codes have exploded in usage ever since smartphones took off. Presumably, companies wanted to add these ugly white and black boxes to their advertisements to give the impression of being cutting edge and in-tune with technology. However, this “novelty”, if it ever was one (QR codes look too much like barcodes to me and barcodes are oldschool… don’t even try to deny that), is now wearing off but STILL we see marketing agencies relentlessly sticking these things everywhere. What is even worse is now I keep seeing advertisements with JUST the QR code and no URL to tell me what I am scanning.

Firstly, that’s a huge security risk in my mind, it’s like I am trying to open an email attachment from an unknown sender because nobody knows who put up these ads.

Secondly, these QR codes also completely wreck whatever design this ad had; worse, I have started seeing ads where the whole thing is just a QR code… Do the people behind these ads have any creativity?

Thirdly, I can type in your URL faster than I can scan it, this is especially true with my iPhone as typing on it is a breeze and having me aiming my phone at your silly ad for it to scan properly is a total pain.

Fourthly, there are people who still do not own smartphones, like say 60% of the population, but if you included a URL on there it would at least be easy to note down or remember.

Let’s see how far this QR code business has gone… Enjoy the following picture.

That is quite simply the stupidest thing I have ever seen… I do not even think that this is scannable with any consumer device. It is a complete waste of money, yet for some reason, the company behind this thought it would be a good idea. Even better, I will never find out which company thought it was a good idea because I cannot even scan the thing! EPIC FAIL!

What’s even better is that I recently received an MMS (multimedia text message) with a picture to a QR code. First, it’s bad enough advertising agencies still randomly text people ads. Second, what am I supposed to scan that with? My eyes?

Enough with the QR codes, it’s ridiculously overused and inefficient. Marketing agencies, you must stop this madness now! /Rant Over.

P.S. Help me out here, can anyone actually give me a use case for QR codes.


33 Responses

  1. Finally a good use case: being the top google image for “QR code” and having people mistakenly use your QR code in their digital advertising

    http://justinsomnia.org/2011/03/why-does-that-qr-code-take-me-to-justinsomnia-org/

  2. sparticvs says:

    Complex, long, encrypted text or hashes which are generally hard to read.. :-)

  3. Jeff Blake says:

    I think if QR codes are used for a specific purpose; an intent – and that intent is reinforced by a recognizable brand… then they can work. Especially if there is tight integration inside an app. That’s what we are trying to do with event tickets.

  4. Chris says:

    I filled out a passport application PDF and it generated a QR code, and when I brought it to the passport office the guy just had to scan it instead of typing it all in. You can fit a lot more than a URL in that space.

  5. Ben says:

    QR Codes do have uses, but everyone uses them wrong. The first and most obvious use is as a replacement barcode. Add to physical products to expand scanning usecases.

    The next, which I quite like is for device -> device communication. For example displaying a QR code on your phone and having it automatically scanned at a (for example) ticket collection point for Airplanes/Trains/Events.

  6. Lord Maxwell says:

    You scan that QR MMS with another smartphone, duh !

    And there are plenty of good uses for QR codes. I’ve got a Stanford MBA friend developing QR toilet paper, with ridges and valleys that actually improve wipe efficacy.

  7. We’re actually running a startup that does electronic documents archiving and versioning, and we think QR Codes could play a good role in linking physical document copies with the cloud clones.

  8. Matt Grommes says:

    I agree completely that you should always include a URL with the QR code, I do think they’re still useful. If I’m in line somewhere it’s a lot easier to just scan the QR code to go to the site on the poster than it is to type it in and possibly fight with autocorrect in addition. Yeah, I could take a picture of the URL but then it’s ‘look at the image, switch to the browser, try to remember URL while kids are talking to me, repeat’. Marketing/advertising people have gone overboard on the cool new ‘techno’ thing but they are useful.

  9. Mark says:

    I’ve seen a printed magazine that uses a variation of QR codes (something by Microsoft, I think). They fit the QR-ish codes at the bottom, out of the way, and they provide a really nice way to comment on the article. Like, continuing the discussion online. Unobtrusive, not-even-remotely-the-focus of the page… and a clever idea.

  10. Peter Hoeg says:

    Sure, you can embed a vCard inside a QR code so use it for a machine readable version of your business card (printed on said card).

  11. I agree- to parts. I believe it comes in handy though when using with really long URL’s. For instance Phonegap Build gives you the location of the compiled files using QR’codes as well, so you can scan them with your phone on which the builds then will install.

    But for marketing or promotion- it really just sucks. No name thus brand recognition whatsoever.

  12. Archit says:

    totally concur to this

  13. Agent C says:

    I after with you, ad companies are running crazy with this, especially b/c the qr code doesn’t even link to a special landing page!
    But I have see a few useful qr code ads: one linked to a video trailer for a tv series – some URL you don’t want to type..

    Especially useful they are for foursquare checking’s and transmitting information between devices (think: pairing your phone with a computer)

  14. simon_w says:

    Since they are basically barcodes that can just store more information, a use case could be to store some metadata with the barcode of some item (say a book) along with the identifying number.

  15. George Dina says:

    If your URL needs a QR code to be accessed fast means that the domain name is badly chosen.
    It’s that simple.

    • David says:

      QR codes have their uses. Replacing short URLs that people would remmeber or type is not one. Tracking documents is a good use. I want a china mug that has a QR code readable by my coffee machine so I can just put the mug in and get my black coffee no sugar without having to press the buttons :)

  16. Brady Kelly says:

    It’s more a fault of marketing than technology though. QE codes can be useful.

  17. Dave D says:

    Best use I’ve seen so far is a coffee company in Vancouver (http://ethicalbean.com) that’s using them on their bags… you scan it and it shows you all this detail about that specific bag of coffee. Roast date, who roasted it, where it was grown, etc. etc. You could go to the website and type in the lot code, but scanning a QR code is easier when it’s something complex like that.

  18. Patrick says:

    We use the qr code on estate agents boards outside houses so that anybody wlking on the street caan get the info on the house in a flash.

  19. Manuel Ebert says:

    Thanks for the post. Remember QR codes can encode more than just URLs – such as a complete vCard or a calendar event. I’ve seen a conference poster recently where the QR-Code doesn’t take you to some website, but creates an event in your calender instead. Clever. On the back side of my business card I’ve got a QR code as well so people can digitize it quickly. I agree QR codes are over used and often enough abused, but they do have plenty of legitimate use cases!

  20. bertheymans says:

    some of the most practical uses of QR Codes are links to mobile apps or WiFi authentication QR Codes (using if just for advertising is donwright useless)

  21. kthxbye! says:

    I totally agree! They’re like short links before ppl started getting duped with them. I, personally, don’t see the hype. It’s “cool” that you can scan it with a phone, but totally, pointless imo.

  22. mikko says:

    Best of all: Most idiotic companies put their ad qr code to point to their flash site.
    that’s an epic fail

  23. ^Brady I completely agree with your comment. Marketers are notoriously great at giving technology a bad name because they jump on the band wagon without really knowing how to use it. Jerrid Grimm from Newad posted a great article to that regards: http://blog.scanvee.com/post/19584436719/whose-fault-is-it-that-qr-codes-suck. And ironically used the same image you did :)

    Oh and for interesting use case: QR Code scavenger hunt.

    PS I’ll challenge anyone to type in a URL (long or short) faster than i can scan a code

  24. Steve says:

    Someone MMS you a QR code? What a moron. You should go public with it.

  25. Gauge Mobile says:

    The issue isn’t with QR codes, it’s with the content behind them. The issue is that QR codes are just too easy to create, so anyone can (and everyone does). You never see that issue with AR or NFC (yet), simply because the barrier to create them is higher so the content is well thought out.

    Gauge Mobile
    http://blog.scanvee.com

  26. Andre says:

    As others have indicated QR codes have their uses. The issue of not knowing what the URL resolves to is an issue of the software not giving you a chance to check it first, though this is an issue I have with short URLs too.

    One other place I saw a QR codes being used in a useful way was on tickets. When you got to the gate the inspectors were using iPod Touches to read the tickets using the QR code. I don’t know whether they were validating the data over the network though.

    Like everything technology can abused in horrible ways, but it can also be used in great ways too b

  27. Obbie King says:

    I see them on highway billboards. Just what we need, drivers distracted by trying to scan a QR code on a billboard as they’re driving past it.

    RE: “long and complex URLs”… As the amount of text gets longer, the QR code grid gets more dense and difficult to scan. That’s why most QR codes actually point to “short URLs”.

    I think there are many ways to use QR codes that are Really Cool (many have already been mentioned), but too often they’re used to appear cool and hip while failing miserably, such as by putting a QR code on a highway billboard. That’s not only stupid, it’s dangerous.

  28. open2go says:

    typing url is not easy.
    Check http://shortenuf.com
    It say “ ShortEnuf is *shortcode platform for mobile device.* It offers temporary domains which are only 4 or 5 letters long (e.g. cj.ee, lhy.in). Those URLs expire in 3 minutes”

  29. Ha ha.

    This is even worse than butting qr codes on billboards at the highway.

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