Have you seen these wacky looking black and white squares on signs, stickers, billboards or magazine ads? They’re called QR codes  (Quick Response), and they are a great way to link humans in the real world to your information online.

What is a QR code?

A QR Code is basically a fancy barcode, which has encoded in it a URL (web address), text, or other information. It can be read by a QR code scanner, on smartphones, ipads etc.

What’s the point?

QR codes link the real world to online information, or make it quick and easy for people to access information without typing in a URL, phone number etc. its “Quick”!  QR codes are already being used on product packaging, magazine articles and ads, ads on buses, museum exhibits, and business cards.

How can I read a QR code?

If you have a smart phone, you can download a QR code reader. Newer smartphones are starting to come with a code reader already on board. But if yours doesnt, you can go to the app store and search for a QR code reader.  There are several free apps. These apps use the built-in camera to capture the image for decoding. Most QR codes you’ll come across have a URL encoded, so chances are when you read the QR code it will take you to a web page.

How do I create a QR code?

The Google URL Shortener will create a QR code file from a shortened link, but my favorite one is the ZXing QR code generator, because it gives you some size options as well as many different information encoding options.

Does it have to be so ugly?

No! QR codes can also be made pretty. By taking advantage of a 30% margin of error and other techniques, some interesting things can be done.

This mashable article has some great tips on designing prettier QR codes.

Where are some interesting places you have you seen QR codes?
Have you scanned QR codes with your phone? If so, have you found them useful?

About Joe Schwab

Joe’s early passion for art and music led him to study fine art at the Laguna College of Art & Design. With this background in art and design, he pursued work as a graphic designer. While working with website hosting companies and marketing firms in southern california, he gained invaluable technical knowledge and experience that would shape his career. Working within the challenging limitations of the early days of the web, Joe leveraged his problem solving skills to become the rare web developer who could bridge the gap between the disciplines of design and programming.