If you’re like the majority of people, you’ve probably never clicked one. And that my friends, is the problem with QR codes. They’re an incredibly useful invention, but they aren’t user friendly and the public at large, doesn’t know what to do with it when they run across one.

They’ve sort of gone main stream, but more so by marketers than the intended users. A huge problem is that there hasn’t been a native app that scans QR codes. Iphone kind of has one that they included in IOS 7, but you can only scan QR codes that are created for their PassBook App, (which 99% aren’t)

Let me take you through the steps of reading a QR code.

  • Find QR code. Oh hey there it is on a poster for a concert I want to go to.
  • Understand that in order to scan that code you need to use a special app on your phone.
  • Take out your phone
  • Find the app
  • Get in close and take a picture of the QR code.
  • Browse the link, collect the contact info, or download the product.

We’ve never been taught what a QR code is and how we can use it. Also there have been some really dumb uses of QR codes. My favourite is putting it on a billboard…. Think about that. You’re driving by at 100km/hr and someone thinks you’re going to have time to whip out your phone and take a picture of the billboard well enough so you can get a good pic of the black and white postage stamp in the bottom corner… All while not getting in an accident and potentially killing your entire family. Poof there goes the Think Big Team, all because of a QR code.

There are however great uses for a QR code that don’t suck. Here are a list of 5 QR code hacks that may just make those little buggers stand out and actually benefit mankind.

Keep in mind that even though they’ve been around for a decade QR codes are still directed at early adopters.

  • You can link to a direct download for an app. I like this idea, because you’re already dealing with semi techy folk who probably know what a qr code is and won’t have to go to the app store, download and install an app then use it to take a picture of the qr code so they can download another app.Another cool download idea is to use QR codes for music downloads instead of handing out CDs or Thumb drives. Use a QR code on the back of a business card and direct people to a digital download of mp3s.
  • I like that you can really stylize your qr code. If you’re a bit of a graphics person at heart you can do funky things to your qr codes to make them stand out. You can bring them more into you brand rather than leave them as checkerboardy as they are.
  • I’ve seen services use them for alerting a system when a piece of equipment goes down. For example at a gym. If a piece of workout equipment is broken, and you had a qr code linked to an online notification program, someone could take a picture of the qr code, type in the number of the machine that’s down and that would alert the main desk who could send out the service technicians.
  • You can link it to a database app or system run by a databse. Actually this was a question I was recently asked. If you think of QR codes as a link that triggers a task, you can do a lot with QR codes, they’re essentially like bar codes, only they hold more information. You can set up QR code so that when someone follows the link, they’re taken to a system which accesses a database to bring up information on the product, service or history of the product being used.Let’s say for example you had a piece of machinery that crunches metal. Yes the All Mighty Metal Crunching Machine. If you had a system set up, you could use your phone to scan the QR code and bring up a history of service calls, upgrades and any other information you can imagine linked to that machines unique id. You could then add more information and save it to the systems database ready for it to be retrieved later from another scan of the QR code.
  • Another great use of QR codes is to use them on your business card as a Vcard. What this will do is when someone get’s your business card, they can use a QR code reader and by scanning it, they will upload your contact information into their phone. That’s cool. And usually when you’re handing out a business card, someone isn’t driving by you at 100km/hr, or walking past your poster on their way to a lunch meeting.

As you can see QR codes have potential to be useful and they can provide valuable access to information, databases, websites, contact information, and downloads. You can get creative with QR codes, just know your demographic and realize that you may have trouble adopting the 50+ crowd, and anyone who isn’t an early adopter.