3 Reasons Your QR Codes Suck (And How to Fix Them)

QR Codes: We Aren’t Mad. We’re Just Disappointed.

How long has it been since you last saw or heard someone mention a QR code?  I’m guessing it hasn’t been long.

When you first encountered QR codes, were you intrigued by the seemingly futuristic technology?  Once it sunk in, did the ideas for how to use the codes begin to hit you in the face?  If so, you aren’t alone.

Now you see QR codes everywhere and more people are scanning them than ever before.  However, a lot of scanners are quickly left with a feeling of disappointment.  Why?  Because most QR codes suck.  It seems that a lot of businesses are using QR code technology for no other reason than to tout that they are up on the newest technology trends.  But they’re not putting much thought into what’s going to happen when the code is actually scanned or used by their customers.

3 Reasons Your QR Codes Suck (And How to Fix Them)

1. Too Much Data

Not all QR codes are created equally. Let’s look at two examples.

Example 1

Example 2

What immediate difference do you see? The first example looks a lot less cluttered and crammed, doesn’t it? That’s because it contains less information. Let’s say, for example, that the page you’re linking to has a really long web address:


There are a lot of letters, numbers and symbols in that web address that have to be translated into a QR code, making it look cluttered and very possibly unscannable by older phones with lower quality cameras. Using a URL Shortener, we can squeeze that whole web address into a much smaller form:


Using this technique forces less data into the QR code and makes it easier to scan, while still linking to the same content.

Bonus: Some URL shorteners even offer analytics, to let you see how many people have visited your URL and much more.

2. Crap-tacular Landing Page

I can not stress the following point enough: You should NEVER use your QR code to send someone to a web page that is not optimized for mobile devices. That was cool in 2007, before any of us knew better.  But times have changed, and users expect better experiences.  By sending someone to a non-mobile-optimized website, you basically flip them the bird and slap them in the face while making them tie your shoes and handing them a brochure with text that requires a magnifying glass to read. Yeah, it’s that bad, and you need to stop.

Sending someone to the full version of a website is bad, but I’ve seen people put QR codes on web pages that link to THAT SAME WEB PAGE!  When someone scans a QR code, they should be presented with an experience tailored to their device and appropriate for the context in which they scanned.  Providing scanners with a truly mobile-optimized experience builds credibility and will make them more likely to scan other codes you offer.

3. Poor Location

So you put a QR code up in your coffee shop and you’re just waiting for all the awesome feedback to roll in, right? Wrong. Your coffee shop has a metal roof that automatically kills 90% of cell service. Good luck sending people anywhere without letting them (and probably helping them) connect to some free Wifi. If you’re going to send someone to a web page full of pictures and animated laser-firing cat heads, then do it somewhere that they actually have adequate cell service to watch it.

Listen, it’s not your fault. Maybe you saw QR codes at a trade show once, and then just did your best. That’s OK. Your customers aren’t mad. They’re just disappointed.

So make sure those QR codes are working, and working well.

Have any QR code horror stories?  Other tips for using codes well?  Share them in the comments.