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Sometimes inspiration comes from unexpected sources, and this time that source was a taxi driver.

I'd been thinking about writing a blog post about QR Codes (those little black and white square barcodes that seem to be popping up everywhere recently) and after chatting for 10 minutes with a taxi driver last night on my way home I got an "outside view" of how QR codes are perceived.

As a designer I can see the benefits of QR codes, they take up very little space and can contain a lot of information (although the more you pack into them the more complicated the code and so the harder they can be to scan (or the bigger they need to be)!

Some places I've seen QR codes that I've actually scanned…

  • Subway – they have a QR code on POS materials to get their loyalty scheme app for mobile phones.
  • A 24/7 plumbing service who had the code on the back of their van
  • An event poster, I forget what the event was, that had a QR code that contained a calender event record that could be saved on the phone, although I scanned this one there was no explanation on the poster to say what the QR code contained (and I was expecting a web address!)

QR codes are great on business cards, that's pretty much a given in my opinion, as you can use the whole of the back of the card (or the front if you're adventurous) and use a "contact" QR code that contains your contact details ready to add to a mobile phone when scanned.

Sometimes (and this is something the taxi driver mentioned a friend had said to him the other day) QR codes can be a bit redundant, for example of leaflets where you're using them to give your customer a web address.  If you've already got the web address on the leaflet and you've not got a mobile optimised website then there's really no benefit to using a QR code, as your customer will just type the address on their computer and that's that.

On the other hand, if you've got a mobile optimised site – or a campaign page just for the QR code – then it's of great benefit, as you not only get invaluable reporting data on the number of scans your code has received, but you can also provide information specifically designed for people on the move – great for restaurants, cafes, and retailers.

One thing the taxi driver and I both agreed on (I think) is that there's a lot of potential for QR codes, if people use them correctly and if they're seen as being useful rather than just a marketing gimmick.

Let me know your thoughts on QR codes below in the comments section, I'd be very interested to know your experience when using QR codes on marketing materials!

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