If your business uses any kind of print media, you should be using QR codes.

So let me guess why you’re not…

1. You fall somewhere on the spectrum of not being sure how they’re used, to having no idea what they are. Either one is OK. We’ll help you figure it out.

2. You don’t want to upset the appearance of your printed material with something that looks like this:

 Isn't it cute!

 Isn't it cute!

3. You don’t know where to get started with creating QR codes, and you’re not sure your customers use QR code reader apps. Basically, the technology seems like more trouble than it’s worth for you and your business.

I want to address each of these potential roadblocks to QR code happiness so you can start designing captivating codes, and your customers can start accessing your valuable content immediately:

1. QR codes, or quick response codes, are 2-dimensional barcodes that can store a variety of information. The information in the code will be displayed immediately after it is read. For example, a QR code containing a web address will pull up that webpage when scanned. If you scan a QR code on a business card, the contact information will automatically be entered in your contacts so you don’t have to type it all in. QR codes can be used for PDF documents that will immediately open in your document reader.

Have you figured out the key to the examples just mentioned? It’s the all-important mobile device, equipped with a QR code reader app. So whether it’s a cell phone or a tablet, QR codes should be set up to provide information that is formatted for mobile viewing. That shouldn’t be too tough, considering your website already uses a responsive design that adapts to mobile devices… right?

2. As for the appearance of QR codes, please allow me to blow your mind:

The standard, black and white, all squares code can be used in ways that are pretty attractive and don’t detract from your promotional material. Here is one side of an informative handout we created for a meeting at the NKY Chamber of Commerce. 

The QR code at the bottom leads to an event page on the NKY Chamber website for a seminar we will be holding in October. Because attendees would need to register for the event on that page, providing them a direct line is much more effective than suggesting they go to the Chamber website, click on the Events page, choose the date of the event on the calendar, and then finally click on the link to our event.

But here’s the mind-blowing part…

QR codes can be edited to include a variety of colors and images, particularly logos. Here are some examples:

These two stick with the basic square design, but the colors, logos, and corner shapes (positional markings) make them more eye-catching. 

Leave it to brainy.com.au to draw their QR codes outside the lines. You can’t deny how perfectly it flows with their logo.

You can add images around and behind the code, or you can incorporate the code into a shape.

QR codes are only as boring as you make them.

3. And now we've come to the making and using QR codes portion of the show. The simple truth is that QR code generators and readers are not hard to come by.

There are plenty of QR code generators that allow you to create simple codes for free, but those will be the basic black and white codes. If you want to have more freedom with your designs, you’ll have to pay for those features. We’ll explore all of the options and provide you details in a follow-up blog, but I’m currently in love with http://www.qr-code-generator.com. After I have a chance to explore all the features, I’ll let you know if this love is fleeting or built to last.

As for readers, every mobile device has access to free reader apps, and some don’t even need one, as their cameras are programmed to recognize and read QR codes automatically. My phone’s camera doesn’t do that, so I downloaded the first free reader I came across in the app store. It is very simply named QR Reader, so there’s no confusion about what it does, and it seems to do it well.

Now you know that QR codes are editable, brand-matching barcodes which can contain a variety of easily accessible information for customers who use mobile devices (which is just about everyone).

Why wouldn’t you want to help your customers out by limiting their need to click, navigate, type, and download in order to get the information they need?