Do you read QR Codes?

They’re everywhere these days. Those funny looking squares on ads in magazines with strange black shapes and squiggles in them. You download a free phone app, point your camera at the square and it takes you to the company’s website.

I create promotional materials for film festivals and nobody has ever asked me to add a QR code to their poster. We often market to people age 20-35, so not just old fogies like me. Am I living in the dark ages?

Do people find QR codes useful, or just ignore them?

I ignore them. If I want to go to the company’s website, it’s usually not hard to do with a simple google search. The codes seem to be a solution looking for a problem.

QR codes can embed any kind of data, not just website URLs. They went through something of a fad stage and have now settled down to useful corners like enabling a quick snap to look up product data or store a show vendor’s information.

A lot of machine-readable schemes that could be easily reproduced in print or other graphic forms have come and gone in the last 30 years (remember Cauzin SoftStrips?) but I predict that the compact, flexible and scalable form of the QR code means it will stick around a while.

Not really. They were invented in the automotive industry to track parts in a factory and between suppliers and customers. Their foray into the hip worlds of smartphones is just a sideline, not their real purpose in life.

I have used them to look up product information when I’m out shopping. And since they’re super easy to set up I’d offer to set one up as part of your standard package.

I put them on every business card for about two years, encoding the contract info. It looked good even for low-tech businesses. Stopped a few years ago. Still use them where they’re useful and appreciated.

I’m starting to develop mobile GIS apps. It’s very nice to have a QR code to just scan instead of typing in a new url.

Very good for meetings while in development so anyone can just do a quick scan to see it on their own device. That’s REALLY helpful. Other people in the meeting can see it as users would. Can’t stress that enough.

Other than that, I don’t use them.

No, but I thought they were popular a couple of years ago and dead now. Do people still look at them?

No; and I don’t know anyone who does. Our HR at work tried to make us use them for some various things and the effort died badly; even the younger techy 20somethings won’t be bothered with them.

Did nobody learn the lesson of the CueCat? There’s no effort involved in typing a simple URL, with barely any inconvenience saved there really isn’t any point to QR codes.

There is on mobile devices.

In any case, that’s not why QR codes were invented, as mentioned above, and they can encode any data you want (not just URLs), and they don’t require proprietary hardware, and unlike the CueCat, at least some people are actually using the things and have been for years.

A while back I started using them for my store. People call in all the time to see what soups we have on that day. When they stop in, we’ll mention that we have them listed on our website as well, but I’ve found that many people can’t see them. IME, the people that can’t see them are working in an office that blocks twitter. Since we tweet the soups and our website pulls in the twitter feed, that was the problem.
That was a while ago, around 2010. To those people I would suggest they just use their smart phone to check them and I was always surprised by how many people said they didn’t want to type out our website or said ‘but I don’t have twitter’ (FYI, you don’t need twitter to see a twitter page). A few times, they’d hand me their phone, I’d pull up our website and save it for them so they could get it it easily.

Anyways, that was back in 2010, smart phones were still newish, people were still learning how to type on them, so I figured I’d set up a QR code and put it on our private label water bottles. We go through a good number of them for our small store. Since then, I figure we’ve gone through about 40,000 water bottles, with our QR code printed on it. I just checked our page, it shows 30 people have scanned the code and I’m sure 10 of them are probably me.

So, yeah, people don’t use them. At least the people looking at my water bottles don’t use them.
While they do still have their place, as mentioned above, when you’re in a store and want to find specs on a specific computer or refrigerator, that’s helpful, I’m sure. But at this point, you really don’t need it to get to a website or facebook page for a business. Most people can type as fast as they can pull up the app and scan the code.

I’ve used QR Codes that helped with assembly/use of a few new purchases. Instead of reading the f’ing manual, I’ve watched the f’ing video.

Is there an app (I’m betting there is!) that reads them, but does not execute them?

You could scan the code, and your screen would display the url, but not actually try to go there via a browser.

(Okay, I just did some searching, and it seems some apps ask if you want to follow the link – there’s a button you press – but others follow the link automatically.)

Another dumb question: is there a way to print them yourself, on a home inkjet with a typical Windows PC?

(I searched and found LOTS of web-sites where you can do this interactively, but I didn’t find any downloadable app that lets me do it myself.)

I was also astonished to see how much data a QR image can store! More than 7,000 numerals, or more than 4,000 alpha-numeric characters! That’s a GOB of data in a square inch!

QR Droid does whatever you want it to. I think it has an option to automatically open the link, or just display it for tap-to-follow.

I think a lot of apps are designed by the marketing department and of course don’t want to give you that moment of alternate decision. :slight_smile: But there are full-power, user-controllable ones like QR Droid out there.

One of the things that makes QR codes so useful is that they are easy to create and print and scale and even recolor - they are far less fussy than most predecessors.

I use the online creators myself when I just need a quick code graphic; the only tool I have that creates them (and then can read and edit them on the fly) is InDesign, which has a very nice implementation of the feature. That’s a bit titanic for everday users, though.

Bar codes in general are one of those subfields where you can pay way too much for a tool, even these days, or just use free online services. Even with the graphics and publication power of a small city here, I just used a service to create an ISBN bar code, because my tools for doing so were aged out and it wasn’t worth buying new ones. Barcodes are one of those fields where purveyors who will charge a big fee for doing a 10-second job still thrive.

Yes-But. The more data, the finer the pixelation, and the more sensitive the code is to print clarity and readability. It’s best to limit the data to essentials unless it will be printed at maximum resolution (e.g. offset) and can be read under ideal conditions. The faster someone has to grab it under bad lighting and angle and so forth, the more simple pixelation will help in a quick read.

OTOH, it’s not uncommon to run into them in newer video games, where you can snap information from a wall poster or crate or the like (usually some kind of easter egg) using your phone, even though they’re quite grainy in most cases.

URLs aren’t always simple.

That’s not always the case, though. The way my old site was setup all pages other than the home page were www.mywebsite . com/t-[page].aspx where [page] was the name of the page I wanted them to go to. So if I wanted to direct some right to my catering menu, instead of saying it’s at mywebsite . com/catering, I had to tell them it was at mywebsite . com/t-catering.aspx.
That wasn’t even worth telling people. I would just send them to the main page and tell them to click on a link or email them a link to it. But when I wanted to send out promo material, I paid a bunch of money for my hosting company to do some coding to fix that. Now it’s just mywebsite . com/catering. And that’s just a simple one, there’s plenty of longer URLs that are plain text and even more URLs that are essentially random characters, just look at virtually any item listing on Amazon.

The max is ~ 2000 characters, so yes, not so simple. I’ve hit that limit in things I’ve developed and have to use a proxy to digest and send it. It’s not that uncommon. Of course I don’t expect a person to enter that url, the server does it.

The url for this response is 71 characters.

I always found out ridiculous to see a code in a 30-second commercial. By the time you see the code, activate the app on your phone, and try to scan the code on the TV screen, the ad is already over. The same goes for ads that you are supposed to Shazam.

That’s an assumption that ignores people with low digital literacy and who are not familiar with the Roman alphabet and keyboard. I’ve worked with refugees from places like Burma and Somalia who benefit from using QR codes.

Imagine if you had to enter URLs using the Burmese or Arabic alphabet.