QR Code Do’s and Don’ts

The Cats Pajama, a vintage clothing and accessories company, placed a quarter-page advertisement in this week’s New York magazine, and featured in the ad is a QR Code. This ad is a perfect example of what to do and what not to do with a QR Code, as it relates to best practices.

Best Practice #1: The QR Code used in the ad measures less than 0.75″ x 0.75″, which makes it too small to ensure successful scanning. I tried to scan the code using a number of code reader apps (BeeTag, i-nigma, Lynkee, MobileTag, NeoReader, ScanLife, MobileTag and QuickMark), but was unsuccessful altogether. Best practice would size the code at a minimum of 1.0″ x 1.0″.

Best Practice #2: The QR Code used in the ad is too dense. This means that there are too many modules (i.e., the black and white pixel shapes) in the code that make it too complex for scanning. Without being able to scan the code it’s hard to know exactly what was encoded into the QR Code and why it is so dense, but if the company wanted to link readers to the company’s mobile website all they had to do was make use of the QR Code below (second image below).

It’s fairly easy to see how the code directly above is less dense than the code in the ad. Scanning of the more simplified code with all of the same code reader apps listed above resolves correctly each and every time.

Best Practice #3: The QR Code in the ad was probably not tested, either fully or in part. To try eight code reader apps and not have one succeed points to something wrong with the code, which testing would have brought out. Best practice says to test the code on a variety of mobile devices, as well as a variety of code reader apps (free and paid).

Beyond the three best practices mentioned above, there are several others that the company could have incorporated into the ad to make it truly worth scanning and experiencing. I can just hear the marketing/creative team now saying, “Hey, we’re running an ad next week, let’s place one of those newfangled barcode things in the ad and see what happens.”

Sorry, too little, too late.

 2D Barcode Litmus Test: FAIL

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4 thoughts on “QR Code Do’s and Don’ts

  1. Testing is probably the most important part. I placed a QR code on a poster that linked to an mp3 file. Although it worked fine on my iPhone, other operating systems would not open the file because Apple does some sort of weird encryption with mp3 files to make them hard to open if you aren't using QuickTime. I've learned to always link to an HTML file.

  2. Eric and Dan: Thank you for the comments. To Dan's point, I'm not so sure it matters if the code is free or not, as opposed to people simply understanding that there are best practices, technology wise and marketing wise, when it comes to using 2D codes.

  3. You are wrong about size of the 2D barcode. A QR code 0.75″ x 0.75″ reads just find with the BeeTag reader app. I have tested many a 2D 0.75″ x 0.75″ barcode in B/W, color and with a pastel lazy space/background and they all work just find.

    The key is in the density as you illustrated in Best Practice #2

    Carl D. Fredsti

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