So there’s a huge QR code on the roof of Facebook HQ in an apparent attempt to rickroll online maps to draw attention to their QR code page. In the same moment that many members of the Headstream team groaned at the mere mention of QR codes, I was thinking about what a bad rap these curious beasts have gotten (QR codes that is, not my team) I still think that they’re yet to have their day.
But first, why is QR so derided and misunderstood? Well, like any idea, if it’s been executed badly it instantly becomes a bad idea. Here are a few QR don’ts:
- Don’t put your code on an ad that is going to be UNDER THE EARTH where my phone won’t work.
- Don’t put a QR code on a bus or a moving object. I’m not allowed to use my phone when I’m driving and when I’m on foot, the vehicle is generally moving too quickly for me to get to my phone/unlock my phone/trawl my apps/open the … oh you’ve gone and I’m here all tooled up with nothing to scan stood on the pavement like a muppet.
- Try and let me know what I’m letting myself in for. I’ve got no idea what you are. You could be anything. Why should I trust you?
- Don’t be rubbish. Whatever is at the other end, it had better not be rubbish. For what I’ve just done for you this had better be pretty special. Oh. It’s a website. Awesome. I should have guessed.
Even though they’re used in some pretty terrible marketing campaigns in some pretty awful ways, QR codes are being used in pretty cool ways too. Google experimented with them earlier in the year as a way for users to securely log into their Google accounts on public machines and developer Clik are using QR codes as a way of enabling your mobile device to take control of…well, pretty much any “complex device” according to Fred Wilson, one of Clik’s investors.
The ability to use QR codes to create a unique session between your device and anything, causes the flood gates of my mind to open to the possibilities of everythingness; from kids controlling giant mechanical dinosaurs, to a crowd of people operating the individual jets of water at the Bellagio, to interactive window displays, gaming tournaments on digital billboards in Trafalgar Square…all using phones and…well, to be honest it could literally be anything couldn’t it?
Using mobile devices to control hardware is nothing new (Apple and Sonos are doing some really cool stuff), and with ‘second-screen’ TV viewing so de rigueur (and slightly more antisocial than TV itself) right now, we’re seeing consumers using their devices to engage, interact and connect in many different ways, but importantly, in ways that are meaningful to the user. QR codes needn’t be any different, they have the potential to be exciting and meaningful; they just need good execution to stop being a gimmick and become a good idea.
Here’s a pretty (funny) comprehensive ongoing list of QR code fails:
Photo credit: Facebook’s Justin Schaeffer