QR Codes seem to be all the talk these days, picking up a tremendous amount of steam in the last year especially.
The companies that sell this free technology are making claims about how “QR Codes are the future”, “QR Codes are a ‘must-have'”, “QR Codes Saved my Life,” etc.
If QR Codes are truly the future of the connection of the physical-to-virtual worlds, I’ll be surprised. I expect that they’re a short-lived transitional tool. As an aside, QR Codes were actually invented in 1994.
Technology is most beautiful, and most useful when its invisible. The process of needing to open an app on my phone, wait for my camera to focus, take a picture of a funky looking image, and then wait while having no idea what’s going to happen next is anything but invisible, beautiful, or natural.
So what are the alternatives?
My phone is smart. My Google Goggles app has the ability to take a picture of a painting and then tell me who paitned it and when. It doesn’t need me to speak “machine” to it with a QR Code. If my phone is smart enough to recognize that, and, even simpler, an phone number in an email, why can’t I just point my phone’s camera at text on a surface and have it recognize that?
NFC – Near Field Communications (NFC) is a technology that will be appearing in more phones later this year. NFC is a short distance wireless communication technology that will allow a user to “wave” their phone in front of an NFC enabled object to receive data, a link, download an app, etc. Its already part of Google’s Nexus S and it is rumored that it may be included on the iPhone 5. This type of activity will prove to be a lot more natural to most people.
If you are using QR codes, just a couple tips:
- Its free to generate a QR code. You can do it in places like this or this.
- Be sure to add tracking, like Google Analytics tags, to the URL you’re embedding in the QR Code. That will let you know how many people are actually using it.
- Send people to a mobile website. If someone’s using a QR Code, they’re doing it from a mobile device. Send them to a mobile website, or at least a mobile friendly page on your full website (no flash, etc).
- Tell me something new. If I go through the process of following the QR Code, the website should do more than tell me the same thing I just saw on your ad, business card, or whatever else you printed the QR Code on. Give me more details, information, etc. Make it worth my time.
While QR Codes may have their place for a little while, I don’t think they’ll have a long life in the mainstream. They’re still too clunky for the average user, and technology will quickly pass over their limitations with something a lot better. Something natural and invisible.