You see that giant funny looking square thing to the right? Yeah that. It is called a QR code and some think using them in marketing material is a good idea. I think they are wrong, and here is why.
First off lets dive into what is a QR Code? A QR Code, or Quick Response Code, is a two-dimensional barcode. They were originally developed by Toyota in 1994 for use in vehicle manufacturing. Specifically to track parts during the production process. Since then they have been used in many other facets including use in advertising.
QR Codes are able to display text, contact info, URLs and much more. Sounds great, right? An easily scannable barcode that will allow people to access more information than what is presented. Creates a perfect action step.
So where is the problem?
QR Codes are machine readable codes, meaning to the human eye (unless you are a freak) cannot decipher the information within. The reading of the code requires the code to be scanned or a camera equipped device to take a photo and process the data from the photo taken. So the code without a device is useless. It is just a black and white blurry box.
Seems okay considering everyone seems to have a device capable of scanning these codes right? Wrong. I asked several people today if they knew what this code was and they replied, no. Then I asked the same people if that had a smartphone. The response? An astounding, yes.
Here is where it breaks down. To scan this code you first have to know what it is and trust me many people have no idea what it is. In some cases it will say scan me with your phone below the code. Why not just print the URL or info?
The issue is NOT the learning curve. The issue is technology should not hinder us but provide us with assistance. At the point when you have to decipher a machine code using a machine that dream is shot. Without a device to read the code it is useless information and it breaks the very intended purpose of the code – to provide extra information.
So you may argue that we have UPC barcodes on all products. True, we do, but those exist for an entirely different reason. Products have UPC barcodes so we can easily scan and relate a product in a POS system or inventory system. Special equipment is used to scan and process these codes – not a consumer phone. Now we have recently created apps, like RedLaser, to scan these codes and get information. Notice the difference… UPC’s exists for an entirely different function. We have created software to read and use this info to our advantage – not the other way around. Using QR codes is backwards. QR codes are being used to present textual data in a code form that is not needed.
So what do I propose as a solution? It may shock you… When trying to find a way to connect a person from printed material to a digital location printing a code is not the way. Print the information (URL etc.) and let the hardware/software decipher what it is. What I am proposing is the use of more advanced OCR. OCR is the process of taking an image and converting it to text. Once the text is gathered then an action can be performed. So you may be thinking what is the difference? The difference is you can actually read the data in my scenario and copy it down… you know writing? It also gets the technology out of the way. The data is there and the user can use it how they wish but if preferred they can use an OCR app to collect and act upon the data.
In both scenarios you need an app to process the data. Although with my solution it is more about the action of the data than the data itself because it is already there in a human readable form. With a QR code the data is hidden and completely unusable until acted upon with a device.
The method I am proposing is very similar to the way apps that hear and determine what song is playing work. You are not scanning anything. You open the app, let the app hear the song and it figures it out. Why not do the same with text? Why use a code?
We need to let technology work for us not against us. QR codes are created by a machine to be read by a machine.
If this QR code craze takes off the world around us will begin to look like a manufacturing plant with machine readable codes all around. I find it kind of ironic that the phone OS with major support for QR codes is Android. If this continues we will all look and behave like Droids – scanning codes to decipher information.