Why I’m bored with QR codes already

by Carl Natale on March 9, 2011

QR Code for smart ass

This QR code says I'm a smart ass.

QR codes are stupid. And lazy. You can’t expect them to do much. After you scan the code on your smart phone, you get a web page with information. Basically they have the intelligence of a hyperlink in a web browser.

Click on that link (or scan the QR code) you will be taken to a Web page. Hopefully that’s where the intelligence is shown. But otherwise you can’t expect the actually QR code to do anything.

The best idea I have heard recently is a QR code that takes the scanner to an e-mail newsletter signup page.  It gets the scanner to just about doing something. All they need to do is enter an e-mail address and hit submit. Wish it did more though. Like actually submit the e-mail address to the newsletter so the scanner doesn’t have to do anything.

Of course that would lead to misunderstandings and abuse. Like scanners saying, “I thought I would get an expanded menu not signed up for another e-mail I don’t want.” Or spammers would sneak e-mail and phone number harvesting scripts into QR codes.

What can QR codes do for me?

I don’t care. I still want QR codes to do more than link me to a page. I’m want a QR code to:

  • Enter your contact information directly into my address book.
  • Request to be your friend, fan, connection or follower.
  • Put products into a virtual shopping cart. Then I can pay for them with my phone and wheel the real shopping cart past the checkout lines.
  • Vote.
  • Show me where I parked my car. (I know, there’s an app for that)
  • Replace parking meters.
  • Pay my bills.

I know, that’s a lot. It probably will require apps to scan the codes. But the key here is that scanning the QR codes saves time and effort.

And that’s what’s going to doom most of QR codes. They really don’t do much for the scanner.

Maybe the problem is that it’s mobile

Think of it this way. Most QR codes allow scanners to get more information on their mobile devices. That assumes the scanner is holding a phone or tablet somewhere away from a computer – like in a museum, at a restaurant table or on the street. Those aren’t exactly situations that allow people to consume a lot of content.

When you go to a museum or gallery, do you really want to spend the time there to read an artist’s bio or the history of the impressionist movement?

What if I’m wrong

If I’m in the minority here and people are desperate for more content while on the go, then there is going to be an art and craft to creating mobile content that people can consume quickly. You need to respect their time and attention spans. That means less text.

So I’m thinking you want a QR code to connect a page that has about the same amount of text that can fit on a postcard or in the space needed to put a QR code.

OK, I could be out of line with that last comment. Just how big does a QR code need to be? I know they can be small enough to fit on a business card. But you wouldn’t want the same size in your store window or next to a piece of art. Don’t you need to make it big enough to be noticed and scanned from a bit of distance?

But I’m guessing it will serve everyone better to put the information in the physical space. Unless you are doing something like giving the location of the next train or bus.

What needs to happen

First, we need to make good decisions about what kind of content we really want to consume while standing in the middle of your business.

Second, consumers are going to want their phones to do something. Think of the difference between getting more information on a product and comparing the price to what another store is charging.

What is happening now isn’t going to do much for consumers or merchants. We need to push for a new version.

Wake me when we get QR Codes 2.0.

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