Have you ever noticed a square barcode on an advertisement or product? That’s not actually a barcode – it’s a QR code that you can scan using your smartphone to reach a certain website, add a new contact or download an application.
Originally designed as a sorting mechanism for the automotive industry in Japan, QR codes are now used by tens of thousands of companies worldwide. Read on to learn how to use QR codes with your phone and how to use them to promote a business.
Do you want to learn more about QR codes and other matrix barcodes? Enroll in our QR Codes course to learn about how QR codes work, how they’re used by marketers and businesses and the way QR codes were originally developed.
What are QR codes?
QR codes are square two-dimensional barcodes that can be scanned using a special scanner or – in the last few years – a smartphone. Invented in 1994, QR codes were originally used to track vehicle parts for the Japanese manufacturing industry.
Although QR codes are still heavily used in manufacturing, they become popular in the advertising industry due to their small size and huge amount of storage space, particularly in comparison to a standard barcode.
Over the last 20 years, QR codes have become one of the most popular variants of the standard barcode. They’re now used in everything from product packaging to promotional vouchers, newspapers and more.
How to scan a QR code
In the 1990s, only specialized equipment could scan and process QR codes. Over the last decade, however, almost all camera-equipped smartphones have gained built-in compatibility with QR codes, either as a standard feature or via downloadable apps.
A wide variety of QR readers are available for iOS and Android, almost all of which use the front-facing camera to scan codes. The latest version of iOS includes its own QR code reader – the Scan Code feature in the Passbook app.
If you use an Android phone, scanning QR codes is even easier. Launch the Google Search widget and select “Search with Camera.” From here, just point your camera towards your target code and your Android smartphone will automatically scan it.
Do you need help configuring your iPhone to scan QR codes? Check out our Mastering Your iPhone course to learn how to efficiently operate your iPhone and read QR and other special codes with ease.
How to create a QR code
Do you want to create your own QR code? QR codes can be used for a wide variety of different tasks, from memorizing a URL or email address to advertising your newest product on posters, brochures and leaflets.
Creating custom QR codes is simple. Just enter the information you want to encode into an online QR code generator and click “download” to store your code on your computer, or “embed” to place it on an advertisement or other visual design.
QR codes can store 4,296 alphanumerical characters and over 8,000 numerals. It’s generally best to limit your QR code to 300 characters of less, as many code reader apps struggle to process codes with more than 300 characters of text.
Do you want to make a more interesting QR code? With the right technology, you’ll be able to create QR codes in a wide variety of colors and styles. Learn How to Make Custom QR Codes to make your own stylish custom codes.
What can QR codes be used for?
From advertising to education, QR codes can be used for almost anything. Invented to improve efficiency in the Japanese automotive industry, QR codes are frequently used by marketers, teachers, manufacturers, executives and many more people.
Think you can’t use QR codes in your profession? Think again. From classrooms to data centers, read on to discover four ways that you can use QR codes to make your business more efficient, more profitable or more customer-friendly.
Using QR codes in the classroom
Do you have homework to assign? Instead of typing out a list of resources for your students to type into their web browser, create QR codes that link students to the perfect informational resource in seconds.
QR codes are incredibly useful in a classroom setting. From finding resources in a breeze to making classroom presentations more interesting, discover fun ways to add QR codes to your lesson plan in our Using QR Codes in the Classroom course.
Using QR codes in advertising
Want to increase your advertising response rate? Place a QR code on your posters and brochures to make it as easy as possible for prospects to visit your website and learn more about your latest product or service.
Adding QR codes to your advertisement lets you monitor the results of your offline advertising campaigns using digital analytics software. Learn how to monitor traffic from your ad campaigns using digital apps in our Google Analytics Mastery course.
Using QR codes for networking
Make your business card stand out from the pack with a QR code. Instead of getting people to copy your email or phone number from your business card, let them scan it and call or email you without having to push a button.
While a QR code on your business card might seem like a gimmick, it’s a great way to get people talking about you. This innovative use of QR codes is especially useful in high-tech industries where familiarity with QR codes is very high.
Using QR codes to promote your app
Do you have a mobile app that you’d love to promote? Instead of advertising online, create an offline ad that anyone can scan. Game developers like Rovio use QR codes to promote their apps, such as in their famous Angry Birds QR code poster.
QR codes are particularly effective for promoting mobile apps, since users need to own a smartphone in order to scan them. From games to price comparison apps, a custom QR code could be just what you need to help your app’s userbase grow.
Learn more about QR codes
Do you want to learn more about how to use QR codes? Discover great new ways to put QR codes to use in the classroom and at home with our blog post on creating QR codes for education and sharing information.