I recently bought a book that held the title, “The Greatest Book Ever Written…” on a particular topic. Although I admire the author and philosophies in general, this particular book turned into the worst book I ever tried to read. I couldn’t get past the third chapter. The reason was because he tried to make use of QR codes to enhance and complete the copy of his book. Each chapter had a QR code leading to enhanced information. My QR reader (for Blackberry) kept acting up and misreading the codes. I downloaded another reader app which worked worse and decided that the whole idea was a bad one.
Before you think, “Joe, you should be owning an iPhone or Droid”, please stop. I’m no technophobe, I love my Blackberry, and I’ve read hundreds of QR codes over the years successfully with it. This article is about using domain names and URLs/URIs in place of QR codes. It’s my contention that in most cases, Quick Response (QR) Codes are neither quicker or more responsive than URLs.
Why Using a URL Beats a QR Code Every Time
Most often, QR codes are being used to lead to simple web pages, adding unnecessary and inefficient layers of complication to a very simple process, getting to a URL with further information (or something more). They are being misused. Think of the example above, what I had to do, and the problems I encountered:
1.) Download one (or more) applications to my cell phone.
2.) Install the app on my phone.
3.) Learn how to use the app.
4.) Scan the QR Codes.
5.) Troubleshoot the application.
6.) Try another QR code reader.
7.) When successful, I had to read on a very small cell phone screen.
8.) If I was near a desktop, I couldn’t use it, because the QR code encrypts the URL.
Wouldn’t it have been much better if the author used a short domain name and simple sub-domains or sub-directories for the enhanced data?
Simple URLs are much more efficient than QR codes. If you must use QR codes, at least list the URLs being pointed to underneath each code in the same way that vanity phone number users often list actual phone numbers to dial next to their vanity number.
Call 1 (800) NEW-LOAN, Numerically, That’s 1 (800) 639-5626.
Many users aren’t really good at translating vanity numbers to the actual numbers so this is a helpful practice (and for Blackberry users alpha-coded phone numbers are difficult altogether).
I’ve seen arguments that the next generation of Internet and cell phone users will be better at using QR code readers. That’s true, but they are also very fast texters and typers and will appreciate the simplicity of a URL over a QR code in many cases.
What About Print Real Estate?
QR codes look cool and the squares don’t take up much space. But I would argue that a domain name or a short URL takes up less space than those squares do. And they get the point across much more efficiently and to a wider audience. The only difference is the shape. URLs can be a little longer but they certainly can be made to take up less square pixelage than a QR code typically does. With new gTLDs coming soon, the possibilities for short, readable URLs will be endless!
Where QR Codes May be Better…
QR Codes are artistic. They are fun for gamification or in cases where mystery, art, or encryption add to the user experience. Below are some examples that I’ve seen where QR codes can be cool.
QR Code Cookies Beer Glasses
Pizzas Art Galleries
Cobblestones Sand Sculptures
I’ve even seen one used as a Censor Bar on a Billboard which was interesting.
Where URLs Are Better (Almost Everywhere)
I’ve seen cornfields carved from a bird’s eye view and dairy cows marked to raise awareness of dairy farming. A URL would have been better in both these cases. Here possibly, a URL along with the QR Code might have been best. The QR code for the curious and the URL for most other viewers.
I just read an article titled, 18 Innovative Uses of QR Codes (In Education) at Teachthought.com. I honestly felt that only one or two of the cases made justified the use of a QR Code. The rest of them would have been better off using a clean URL.
Innovation in the Domain Name Space
The one thing that is baffling me is why no one has invented a mobile OCR app that scans and goes to URLs. I searched for one today and couldn’t find it; nothing. Maybe someone seeing this can create the app? That would make a great mobile application for domain names. With something like that, a URL could be automatically read from a mobile phone and take users to the web page, or for users that like to type real fast, the web page would be instantly recognizable.
26 Creative Ways to Use QR Codes
18 Innovative Uses of QR Codes
AppNewser.com gives five creative (artistic) uses of QR codes that I like.
Why QR Codes Aren’t Catching On