How QR codes work

QR codes have taken the world by storm in the past few years, it all started with a few popping up on high tech items like phone instructions and IT product packaging but these days they are everywhere from bus stops to the fruit and veg section at your local supermarket. With more and more people using smart phones the number of people capable of scanning the QR codes is increasing everyday and in turn the QR codes are becoming a more attractive method of connecting users with content.

With the increasing popularity of QR codes its useful to know how they work so you can look at ways of implementing QR codes in your business or for your website. QR codes in their simplest form are just a way of presenting information it is just in a format that smart phones can read using its camera, the system works in the same way barcodes do when you go shopping the barcode readers on the tills can read the bar code and get the information from it.  With barcodes the data held is a number which you can normally see underneath it, this number is then looked up in a database so the till can find the price for the item you are trying to buy.

Barcode example
Example of a barcode showing the item number

With QR codes the information held can vary from a simple number to more complex subjects like full contact details, the most popular type of data to store in a QR code is a website address. This type of QR code will let users scan it and be automatically taken to the specified website, this saves users from entering website addresses using the phone keypad a time consuming and mundane task that discourages users from visiting your website at all.

As the information held in the QR code becomes more complex the QR code itself becomes more complex as illustrated by the two examples bellow.

Complicated QR codes
Two QR code examples, both pointing to URL’s but one is more complicated then the other due to a longer URL

The two QR codes both point to website addresses however the one on the left is a longer URL and as a result the QR code needs to be more complex to display all of the information. The problem with the more complex QR codes is that they are not as easy for the smart phones to read – this can lead to users not being able to scan them or the QR code needing to be larger for it to work.

The solution for this issue is to use a URL shortening service so that the URL the QR code contains is short and when users scan it they will be redirected by the shortening service, this type of solution provides a useful side effect – the number of people scanning the QR code can be tracked. This will let you know how many people are scanning your QR codes and in turn let you adjust your marketing to maximise the benefits of this new technology.

1) A set of brochures are created to advertise a new property with a QR code that goes through to the development home page, when the development sells and the website is taken down the QR codes can be redirected to the agents website.

2) A company prints a large number of promotional leaflets informing customers of the offer with a QR code that goes through to the website, when the offer has finished the QR code can be set to go to the home page or even to a new offer page.

Simpsons Creative has integrated this service with a wide range of clients from property agents to clients wanting QR codes on their business cards, with many clients opting for this type of QR code just encase they want to redirect it in the future – why risk needing a reprint when a dynamic QR code can be created to prevent this?

Did you know there are some handy uses for QR codes on websites! click here for more


Blog post by Alex Wells

Blog post by: Alex Wells

Based in Saffron Walden, Essex, I have over 10 years experience in crafting bespoke websites for a wide range of clients, I love helping businesses and individuals achieve their digital goals through smart deployment of modern web technologies.

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