Especially at the beginning, a few mistakes with QR codes creep in again and again. However, they can be corrected quickly and easily be avoided in the future.

1 Do not forget on QR codes

Every campaign, every product packaging, and every location should offer a connection to the smartphone so that anyone interested can easily get additional information (storytelling, navigation link, telephone number for reservation, shop link, etc.). Any opportunity where this is not offered is a missed opportunity to communicate with (potential) customers, guests, or visitors.

Today, every iPhone and almost every Android phone can read QR codes via the built-in camera and no longer needs a special app. More and more users know this and accordingly, we see clearly increasing numbers of QR usage across all of our customers.

A QR code belongs to every campaign, but it should not lead to any page but should have a clear target: a page that fits the topic, product, or location, written in the language of the user, and that is easily consumable on a mobile phone. A QR code should never ever lead to the homepage of the company's website or target a page that is not optimized for mobile use. Both annoy users and guarantee that other mobile offerings of the company will not be consumed.

2 Have a good call to action

Simply printing a QR code guarantees that it will not be used. The user must be taught what's in it for him. Further information, insider tips, a sweepstake, and vouchers or discounts are incentives that should be communicated.

A QR code with and without a call to action

If the value is clearly visible to the user, a QR code is used much more frequently than if users remain unclear about what to expect.

3 Avoid difficult to read codes

The most common mistakes are about the choice of colors, sizes, and many possible configurations. Most of these errors cause the QR code to be almost unusable. You shouldn't make it unnecessarily difficult for the user and his phone.

The most obvious mistake happens with the size. A QR code should be as large as necessary and as small as possible. On the one hand, the code should not distract from the actual message of the campaign (poster, advertisement, etc.), on the other hand, it should be large enough – according to the format (poster, advertisement, small folder, car, etc.). A rule of thumb: The code on print media should be at least 20 x 20 millimeters in size, outdoors the code should have a minimum size of 50 x 50 millimeters.

Even if a QR code can contain a maximum of 4296 alphanumeric characters, you should pack in as little information as possible. If the URL is very long (as in this example with several UTM parameters), URL shorteners such as shall be used. Fewer characters mean a coarser QR, which can be recognized more quickly by the mobile phone even in less than optimal light. This means that the QR code can also become smaller and take up less space in the advertisement or on the packaging.

Two QR codes - one easy and one hard to read

Color can also make it harder for the user's smartphone. Basically, the higher the contrast (the maximum contrast is black on white), the faster the phone will read the code. Pale colors such as light yellow, light blue, or light pink are a no-go. In this context, glossy packaging can also be problematic, making it difficult for the camera to read the code fast and clearly.

Two QR codes - one with good, one with poor contrast

The next mistake comes in the same notch: even if a QR code consists only of squared blocks, you should always choose a vector format (.ai, .eps, .svg) and never pixel QRs (formats like .jpg, .png, etc.). So it can never be the case that artifacts form between the blocks that make the QR code unnecessarily difficult to read.

Two QR codes - one as a vector, one in a poor pixel resolution

The QR standard allows a few pixels in the middle to be deleted to make space for a logo. Under no circumstances should you use this, as some cameras or QR apps have problems with it and you can make mistakes very quickly. If you absolutely want to have your logo printed with the QR code, you should position it to the right or left of it but never on it.

Two QR codes - one with the branding in the QR, the other one with the logo next to it

If you have a lot to communicate, you want to use several QR codes. But be careful! If the mobile phone runs over a printed page, the first recognized URL is opened and it does not have to be the one the user would like. It is better to print only one QR code and create it on a landing page with several topics (including links to specialized pages).

4 Invert the code right

The number one mistake with difficult or illegible codes is inverting. For design reasons, it is sometimes desirable to print a QR code in white.

But be careful! If the QR code is lighter than its surroundings, many scanners on Android (all those based on the widely used Zxing library) have problems reading it.

Two QR codes - one with correct inversion, the other one with the wrong one

But this can be easily corrected: you leave the code in the dark color and just insert a white square below it. The result looks almost the same but is identified by all scanners.

This margin is also necessary for another reason: QR codes always need a zone all around ("quiet zone"). In this way, it should not be completely adjacent to a picture, but a distance should be planned. The ideal distance to the next object is four times the size of a QR pixel.

5 Measure your success

At xamoom, all URLs are unique – also for the respective access technology (QR, NFC, Geo, Beacon, etc.). This helps to identify the techniques used. Alternatively, the selected technology of all visitors can be identified via URL shorteners or UTM parameters.

However, if you don't measure anything at all, you have a much bigger problem: You don't know whether it is worth sacrificing space on the packaging or the advertisement.

There are great tools like Google Analytics that don't cost anything extra. So these tools should also be used.

Bonus tip: Test, test, test!

What you shouldn't forget? Check the QR code and answer the following questions:

  • Does the code work (with multiple devices)?
  • Does a page relevant to the location open and is it also displayed well on the smartphone?
  • Is the content available in the correct language?
  • Does the packaging appeal to me or is the wording good for call-to-action?
  • Does the content meet your strict criteria on quality? Are your questions answered or are you offered enough good tips or exciting stories?

Only when all these questions have been answered satisfactorily, success is in sight. Under no circumstances should a QR code go to print beforehand.

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