Wednesday 08/05/2013 17:58
Category: Science & Engineering

4 Replies


QR codes are obsolete.

Editor Rant image

You’ve probably seen at least one QR code (2D barcode) today whether it was on a bus shelter, a, magazine or bottle of cola. They’re easy to spot; they have to be so our blurry phone cameras can read them. As a fan of good design nothing makes me die inside like a poster featuring minimalistic design, subtle gradients and the perfectly kerned Helvetica font competing for space with a distracting, ugly QR code.

They are also totally pointless.

Imagine a scenario where a QR code might be useful. Maybe you could link to interactive web content on a poster? Maybe it’s useful to point customers to a download for your phone app? Maybe you could put it on your business card to link to your work? NO! These are all horrible ideas. QR codes became obsolete the moment URL shortening services were invented.

Almost all QR codes link you to websites. Presumably QR codes are used due to the misconception that it’s quicker to “scan” a QR code than type in a URL. This is just not true. I challenge anyone to a race, a race that begins with a locked phone. I launch my phone’s browser and visit tiny.cc/agoodrant, the challenger will scan this QR code http://tiny.cc/aGoodRant/qr/print/L in an app of their choice. It takes me 12 seconds after pressing the power button on my phone to pressing “go” in the browser. Post your best times in the comments and whether you scanned the QR code or did it the old fashioned way.

Waitrose even had a QR code in their christmas adverts! It was visible for 2 seconds. Even the most alert phone-ninja would struggle to take out their phone, input the unlock code, find and launch their favourite pointless barcode scanning app and crouch infront of the TV while their phone struggles to focus on a flickering screen, all within 2 seconds. Imagine instead waitrose had put “bit.ly/waitros-christmas” in the corner of the screen. The advert would have vanished in 2 seconds and you would remember the address and be able to visit it on any phone, tablet, computer and even probably remember it the next day to tell your friend. Shortened URLs are always more effective, especially in advertising where the objective is to be remembered.

I also don’t think we should be encouraging everyone to input arbitrary code that is not human-readable into their mobile devices. I’m somewhat surprised QR codes haven’t already been used maliciously since they can contain up to 3KB of code which is much larger than many catastrophic computer viruses! I'm not alone in this concern.

Even the longest URLs occupy less space than a QR code so saving space can’t be the reason for their inexplicable success. Unfortunately I think I know why our checkerboard invaders are having such success... simply because they’re trendy. People believe if you put a QR code on your work it shows awareness of the latest technological trends. It fools people who don’t know that anyone can generate a QR code into thinking that you must possess some technological clout to be able to get a QR code from Microsoft or whichever official body hands them out. However they have the exact opposite effect. If I see one on your work I presume you haven’t thought the options through and that you are shallow enough to follow trends without questioning their benefit.

(Flowchart from http://alexcarantza.tumblr.com/)

Conversation View

For 3  

So, it took me 15 seconds without using the QR code (it's an age thing) and over 30 seconds using the QR code (and I got adverts in the process). You are right!

 1 Against

5-6 seconds using the QR code. From phone on table (screen off) to website. Physical camera button :) WP8 FTW!!!