If you don’t give your customers a good user experience, especially with your advertising, you are wasting your time. If you are going to use QR Codes in your marketing/advertising, you really should learn the basics.

I ran across some QR Codes in downtown Salt Lake City this week. They were from the Utah Opera. I always get a bit excited when I see codes popping up. People are figuring out that these can really allow so much more to be done with printed advertising.

Unfortunately, as it the case with most new technologies, many just don’t know how to use it properly. In this case, there are four problems:

  1. The codes are WAY too dense. The more blocks or pixels there are in the code, the harder it is for the smartphone to scan it. They could have used a URL shortener to make the code easier for users to scan. The shorter the URL, the less dense the code needs to be. With my iPhone 4, I was unable to decode a few of them. This could have been due to the glare of the plexi cover. FIX: Use a shortener like snipurl.com. It gives short URLs and will even let you change the target URL as needed.
  2. Upon scanning one of the codes, I realized that it wasn’t encoded properly. My scanner thought it was text and didn’t take me to the intended web page. It did show me the link though, which I copied and pasted into the phone’s web browser. This is more effort than 99% of the users will do. FIX: use a good QR Code generator and use it properly. Make sure you select the correct data-type when you create the code. My current favorite is found at http://keremerkan.net/qr-code-and-2d-code-generator/. It has many useful options and is relatively easy to use.
  3. After pasting the URL into the phone’s browser I see the biggest point of failure. There is nothing worth looking at! The page loads and you are basically told to come back later. FIX: Be prepared. Have valuable content.
  4. Lastly, the web page wasn’t built for mobile. It didn’t break on the mobile device, but on many mobile devices the content would be hard to read and interact with. FIX: Most Content Management Systems have plugins that offer theme switching. This loads a different (mobile-ready) theme to mobile devices.

Needless to say, I was disappointed to see this campaign fail at every point where a QR Code campaign can fail. If you are going to do QR Codes, you have to test, test and test. Don’t assume that what you experience testing on your personal mobile device is going to be indicative of the experiences others have on their various devices. Grab a Droid, an iPhone and a Blackberry and test away.

I’ll keep looking and post others I find. Hopefully with better reviews.


I saw this today. The same campaign is making a nice effort in educating the passersby. That said, the code wouldn’t scan, but I only tried one app.