Have Mercy On The QR Code: The 5 Sins Of QR Codes Use

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When I initially came across QR Codes (Quick Response Codes) I started seeing a lot of great possibilities for our parishes  (Click here to see my previous post explaining QR Codes and how you can use them in parishes today).  Lately there has been a slew of QR Code “bashing” and many saying they “won’t ever catch on”.  I disagree and mostly it’s because I don’t ever agree that any technology is worthless especially if the majority of uses I see are simply ineffective application.  Cars were originally a toy for the rich.  Many dismissed the fact that cars would ever be widely owned and used.  Thankfully Henry Ford or those road developers didn’t see things that way.  Just 5 years ago, no one thought smartphones would ever catch on outside the business world right or there really be be “an app for that” right?

But seriously what are the benefits of QR Codes anyway?  The way to see the real benefit in anytechnology is to look at the barriers we encounter right now.  In terms of QR Codes, if you look at at print then you can begin to see the benefits.  How many times do you put that announcement in the bulletin with the infamous “Call xxx-xxxx for more information”.  Why can’t you just put a QR Code in that announcement that pulls up the “More Information” (i.e. PDF Flyer, mobile web page, etc.)?  How about “Our event raised $X,XXX for the parish!”?  Well why not include a QR Code that brings up photos from the event or images of what the money will be used for.  You might actually get some more donations right?

So why aren’t QR Codes catching on?  There is the component that mobile tech is relatively new and working it’s way into mainstream more and more everyday.  People are only beginning to discover the things they can actually do with their mobile devices (i.e. phones, tablets, etc.) in everyday life.  But the other reason is that people putting them out there . . . are often doing it in not so effective ways.

Here’s the 5 Sins Of QR Codes for those putting them out there:

  1. The scan doesn’t go to a mobile display.  So I have a 3.5″ to 4.5″ display in my hand.  I took the time to go to open up my QR Code scanning app.  I lined up the camera and bam . . . I’m looking at content (i.e. web page, pdf, etc.) that is not mobile-friendly.  So now I have to pinch-and-zoom (our language is getting crazy isn’t it) and “swish” the content around on my phone.  It’s irritating and continuing to give QR Codes a bad rap.  Make sure the scan goes to something that is a mobile-friendly display.
  2. You never told me why I should scan.  I love two words in marketing I often see on print boxes or those little sticky booklets on products in the store . . . “Look inside” and then it has a little arrow showing where to open up the thing.  Can’t resist can you?  Now think about it.  If those two words weren’t there, would you “look inside”?  That example is obvious.  But when it comes to funny looking QR Codes, people simply plop them on things with no “Scan me to ‘look inside'”.  Tell people why to scan . . . “Scan me to see photos”, “Scan me to add this event to your calendar”, “Scan here to add me to your contacts”, “Scan me to like to Facebook page”, “Scan me to hear Father Greatest Priest Ever’s latest pod/video cast”, “Scan me to donate online right from your phone” (I almost donated this way the other week when the basket was going around and I got in trouble with my wife.  Someday it will be acceptable!), so forth and so on.  And have some fun with them.  They are simple image files so you can do a lot with them in image editors without obstructing the scan.
  3. No one shows anyone how to use their mobile device to scan.  I designed a sign-rider for real estate lawn signs for my wife that is intended to do just that.  I placed a picture of a hand holding a phone showing the scanning of a QR code which is situated right next to the “Scan me for more information and photos” and the QR Code itself.  So if you’re planning on using them in the bulletin, take a few weeks and explain what they are in the bulletin itself.  Or put a brief video up on the parish website explaining how to scan them and the benefits.
  4. You didn’t give me anything for my scan.   Sometimes I know I sound like I’m spoiled don’t I?  But, seriously, why urge me to scan something that simply takes me to the home page of your website.  It’s like opening up the inside flap of that cool-looking game that told me to “Look inside” and seeing the same picture that’s on the cover.  I feel duped.  It’s a let down, and more so . . . a huge missed opportunity for that company.  I’m not left wanting more.  So if you want me to see that great video that is linked to on the homepage of your website, then just link the QR code right to the video or other social media.
  5. It doesn’t work because you didn’t test it.   You created it easily enough.  You got your “reason to scan” message there.  Looks great.  It’s in print and . . . it doesn’t work.  What a let down right?  Always test scan the codes prior to putting them on anything that is going to print because unlike the web, you can’t change mass printing once it happened.
What has been your experience with QR Codes?  Have you tried them?


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Author:Brad West

I live in Palm Coast, FL with my family and have assisted my local parish with our website and communications. Our parishes today can benefit a great deal from technology. Whether it's improving communications, community building, evangelizing, business operations, and much more; we have the tools today. To help provide some direction and advice to parishes and parishioners, I wrote and published an eBook titled "The Connected Church" which is available through Barnes and Noble (Nooks and Nook apps) as well as Amazon (Kindle and Kindle apps).
  • http://twitter.com/Cade_One Joshua Cade

    I would add that you make it too large in your ad.  The QR Code generally should not be the main focal point.  Turn off.

  • Joe Luedtke

    Brad, you nailed it.  #4 is the biggest mistake I see churches make right now.  You get enamored with the idea of using mobile technology, but don’t understand its intent.  As you said, its needs to be additive.  Look inside, find more.  QR codes need to augment the printed content not just repeat it.