Quick response codes, or QR codes for short, have been used for a few years now to provide rapid access to URLs, messages or contact information. Marketing and advertising departments love QR codes, as with a simple scan, even more advertising related to their product can be delivered straight to your thumbs.
But why let the big multinationals have all the fun? It’s easy and completely free to generate your very own codes, and these can be used in a myriad of useful or entertaining ways. Of course you’ll need a smartphone with a QR reader to enjoy your own creations.
Creating & Reading Your Own
There are plenty of good, free QR generators out there with some offering more advanced options than others. Between them, the following four manage to cover most bases, including contact cards, URLs, text messages and even access to wireless networks (including security codes):
In order to read them back you’ll need an app for your chosen device. There’s plenty out there, but at the moment I’m using RedLaser for my iPhone which works a treat (and is fully Android compatible too).
- Download Red Laser for iOS (4.0 required, iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad 2)
- Download Red Laser for Android (1.6 + required) [No longer available]
Not exactly original, but important nonetheless. Whilst you should always provide adequate contact information on your business card (email address, website, phone number and so on) a QR code might also be a good idea.
Your QR code could be used to store all of your contact information in vCard format, so that when it is scanned on a compatible device the option to add a new contact appears. With a scan all of the information stored on your paper business card is transferred to a digital device – effortlessly.
This could also work for posters, and is certainly not limited to just vCard uses.
Classified Ads (Offline)
Selling something locally? Too big for snail mail? For weighty electrical items, cars, hardware and so on QR codes could be used to help sell your item. If you are using an online merchant for the sale (such as eBay or AutoTrader) the QR code could be used to link directly to the item’s point of sale.
If you’re simply selling offline and advertising locally a QR code can be used to provide a web link to the manufacturer’s description, which will provide a lot more information than you can fit on a classified advertising card. Simply print out your code and glue it on!
Clothing & Jewellery
QR codes are on everything from rings to scarves to t-shirts these days, and getting your own t-shirt from somewhere like Cafe Press or Spreadshirt is easy. Why not advertise your brand on your back? If you’re a photographer, events organiser or musician (to name but a few) who doesn’t mind being scanned regularly then QR might be an effective tool.
You don’t actually need a valid use for QR codes in order to get some clothing or alternative jewellery made up though, and a t-shirt or bracelet that scans might make the perfect gift for the geeky girl or guy in your life.
Depending on the forum, a QR code as your avatar can act as a quick way of identifying you. Of course you won’t necessary want this for all forums, but it might help drive traffic to your site or increase your social media outreach with a simple scan.
Award yourself additional points if you can actually get it to look like something.
Starting A Revolution
Okay, so starting a revolution might require more than a scan of your mobile phone, but the ability to embed text, email addresses, URLs and so on within a code mustn’t be overlooked. If you’ve got something to say why not place codes around town and get your message out there? Many who know what QR codes are for will probably scan them out of pure curiosity (I know I would).
Bus stops, the subway, lamp-posts and even urinals (sorry, but it’s true) are all opportunities for this.
Will adding a QR code to your next job application land you that dream position? Possibly not, but it might set you apart from the rest of the crowd who simply didn’t think that far ahead. Employers love initiative and the ability to demonstrate understanding, so why not show off your forethought and get a cheeky link to your website in the process?
A must for social media types, programmers and techies alike.
This could work pretty well on the street, especially if you’re an artist, street performer or (dare I say it) a graffiti writer. Simply stick a QR code next to your artwork/pitch/throw-up and link to a URL that tweets the scene. For example: “I’m currently in St. James Park, London watching The MakeUseOf Jazz Quartet” with a Google Maps link.
Add your own hashtag to monitor the success of your QR bombing. We could call it QRaffiti!
Remember there’s an endless number of applications for QR codes, especially considering it’s so quick and easy to generate your own! As more people switch on to the smartphone revolution, more people have access to these innovations. If you come up with any great unique uses then be sure to let us know!
Have you tried any of these? Do you scan QR codes on your phone? Any favourite scanners or generators? Add your thoughts below.