Visualead and QRStuff have joined forces to make QR codes more attractive for users and more valueable for businesses seeking to engage mobile users.
QR codes are all around us, and people are used to seeing and scanning them, yet they aren’t considered attractive. Visualead’s patent-pending technology changes how people engage with QR codes and enables users to easily embed them into any image or advertisement using a simple, user-friendly process that doesn’t require any graphic design skills.
Visual QR Codes are taking the humble QR code to the next level by keeping the tried-and-tested technology of the QR code and adding the elements of aesthetics and design to it. Visualead, the creators of the Visual QR Code, has teamed up with QRStuff, one of the the world’s most popular QR code generators, to allow the capabilities of a standard QR code to be added into any design or image.
Now anyone can integrate a QR code into any image, blending the familiar QR codes that people recognize with the visual design that people prefer, and in so doing creating a communicative, creative and effective visual call-to-action.
To get your Visual QR Code just vist www.qrstuff.com, create your QR code as usual, and then click on the Visualead banner in the bottom corner of the screen. The QRStuff and Visualead websites are directly integrated so you (and the actual QR code you just created) will be transferred seamlessly to the Visualead website where you can complete the process of making your QR code visual.
Who You Calling Ugly?
While there are other emerging technologies, QR codes are currently the most popular tool for businesses to connect their offline content to online interactive experiences, a bridge that instantly connects the physical world to the digital world.
Unfortunately the bland physical appearance of QR codes is often cited as one of its negatives. Customers are keen to engage and interact with companies and brands via their mobile devices but apparently they seem to find these blocky geometric computer-generated symbols a bit of turn-off.
Keep The Technology, Improve The Aesthetics
Incorporating a Visual QR Code into an ad layout or image combines the incentive to interact and engage with the technical means to do so, making Visual QR Codes more engaging, more communicative and significantly more effective with scans rates shown to be up to 25% higher when compared to a traditional QR code.
There’s also no more guessing where a QR code will lead to with a design-based approach making more opportunities available to communicate to users exactly what to expect when they scan the QR code.
Because of their look and feel, and also to save space in the layout, standard QR codes are usually reduced in size and tucked away in a lower corner of an ad. This reduces their impact and compromises their effectiveness – they can often go un-noticed or ignored, and scan rates suffer accordingly.
Visual QR Codes, on the other hand, allow the QR code to be placed front and center making it part of the ad rather than just a footnote to it. It ties in visually and aesthetically and becomes an integrated part of the message and an obvious extension of the principal call to action.
This video from Visualead explains more:
Any Image Can Become A Visual QR Code
Whether its your logo, your favorite social network icon or your app icon, you can now use any image to empower your brand awareness, be more attractive, be more intuitive, and get you more scans!
Founded in early 2012, Visualead’s mission is to make QR codes more appealing for customers and more valuable for brands by instantly and seamlessly blending them with any design, attracting users and increasing engagement.
The technology behind the Visualead’s Visual QR Codes is a unique, patent-pending image processing system developed by Visualead’s image processing and algorithms experts that enables users to merge a QR code with an image while preserving it as a fully operational QR code.
For more information about Visualead, contact Uriel Peled, co-founder & CMO of Visualead.
So, your’re a developer or publisher with an app in play across the various major phone platforms and think that a QR code would be a great way for your prospective users to download it? The only problem is that several platforms means several QR codes – one for the iTunes App Store, one for Google Play, etc – which makes things a bit messy. And what do you do about people that scan the QR code with a smartphone type that you don’t offer a version for?
With our “App Store Download” QR code data type we’ve solved this problem for you with one QR code that covers all smartphone types. At the heart of this QR code is an automatic device-type detection script at our end (that is completely transparent to the person scanning the QR code) that identifies what sort of phone they have and makes sure that the user is seamlessly sent to the app store that matches their smartphone type.
Simply enter URL’s of the pages on the various app stores that you do have versions for and this QR code looks after the rest.
For smartphone types that you don’t have an app version for (say, Blackberry) you can also specify a “Fallback URL” that the users of those non-supported devices will be automatically redirected to. This can be the website for the app itself, a greeting page for users of non-supported phones inviting expressions of interest for the release of that particular platform version, an announcement that that version will be available soon, or any other URL you think is appropriate.
Since we released it in May 2012, the “App Store Download” data type has been the single most commented-on data type by our users, with many taking the time to email us about how useful it is, particularly considering the cumbersome length and complexity of most app store URL’s.
Enter the link to the page for your app on the iTunes App Store.
If you have an Android version too then tick the box next to “Google Play App Link” and enter the link to the page for your app on the Google Play store. If you only have an Android version then untick the iTunes one and go straight to Step 5.
Repeat if you have a Windows and/or Blackberry version.
Enter your Fallback URL.
Download your finished QR code.
To maximise the flexibility of this type of QR code we’re also testing built-in implicit support for app store custom URI’s when used in place of standard http:// style page links. The custom URI’s currently supported are:
itms:// and itms-services:// for iTunes links
market:// for Google Play links
appworld:// for Blackberry App World
As an extra bonus this data type is fully dynamic so if you’re a paid subscriber you will be able to update the app store links whenever you need to.
Try It Out
Since our favourite QR code scanning app, Scan, is available on iPhone, Android and Windows Phone we’ve used that as our example above. We’ve added the links to the app store pages for their iPhone, Android and Windows Phone versions and made their own website the Fallback URL.
The finished QR code, and how it works, is shown below – try it out for yourself.
If you come across any smartphone types that don’t give the correct result just email us with the details – we’re constantly updating our device-detection database as new phone models are released.
We’ve just released a new data type that allows you to make a QR code that links to a Dropbox file or folder.
With the new “Share Link” feature on Dropbox you no longer need to create a Public Folder to share files. Just create the link, add it to a QR code, and you can instantly share Dropbox files with anyone, even non-Dropbox users, simply by them scanning the QR code.
Here’s how to use it.
Create A Dropbox Shared Link
Sign in to your Dropbox account.
Click on the file you want to share.
Select “Share Link” from the action bar across the top
A pop-up appears – click on “Get Link”
You will then be shown a preview of your file. Copy the link from your browser’s address bar to use when you create your QR code (below).
A basic fundamental of QR codes is that the pattern of modules in the QR code image is a direct graphical representation of the data it contains. That’s just the way QR codes work and is the essence of the algorithm that creates the QR code image.
This has one big downside – changing the data encoded into the QR code has the consequential result of also changing the QR code image which, at first glance, presents a significant problem if the website URL that the QR code links to needs to be changed. How to update the information in a QR code that’s already been published?
We grappled with this dilemma in mid-2008 and figured out that the simplest way to address this problem was to have a short URL actually in the QR code and then provide our users with the ability to change where the short URL then redirected to. In this way, the content of the QR code (and the QR code image itself) didn’t change (since it always contained that short URL), but where the user was sent to after the QR code was scanned could be changed at will behind-the-scenes.
This approach doesn’t actually make the QR code itself “dynamic” because its contents stays the same, but by putting a user-editable short URL into the QR code it gives the impression that the QR code can be changed and acheived the outcome we were after – this is still how all dynamic QR codes work to this day.
At the time we just thought this was a good way to pre-emptively make the creation of QR codes a bit more user-friendly, so we simply introduced it as a feature of the QRStuff.com website in October 2008 without any fuss or fanfare as a standard part of the way we did things.
Dynamic QR Codes
In the past 18 months or so the term “Dynamic QR Code” has been retrospectively applied to what we’ve been doing as a matter of course for nearly 4 years. Even though dynamic QR codes have been heralded of late as some new breakthrough in the underlying technology, they’re not. The only “new” thing about them is now they have a new name, which is probably a good thing because we originally called them “Re-Writeable QR Codes” which was pretty lame – we like the term “Dynamic QR Codes” much better.
So there you have it:
Static QR Code: The actual destination website URL is placed directly into the QR code and can’t be modified.
Dynamic QR Code: A short URL is placed into the QR code which then transparently re-directs the user to the intended destination website URL, with the short URL redirection destination URL able to be changed after the QR code has been created.
Dynamic QR codes greatly extend the useful life of a single QR code since, once published, where it sends the user to can be changed at will without it having to be replaced with a new QR code image every time the destination changes. A single QR code image can be deployed permanently in-the-wild and then simply re-tasked as and when required – link it to your own website this week, a YouTube video next week, your Facebook page the week after that, etc, etc. Or to different offer or coupon pages on your own website as each new promotional program is released over time.
They’re also handy when you have a temporary “placeholder” URL that will be changed once the final content or URL location is ready to go but the QR code needs to be created ahead of time, if the actual URL of your content changes unexpectedly (say, after a website rebuild), if you have a client who always changes their mind about what links where ( ), or simply to protect the on-going operation of the QR code from unexpected future circumstances.
QRStuff And Dynamic QR Codes
While many QR code generators make using their URL shortener mandatory, so every QR code is potentially dynamic by default, QRStuff.com users have the added flexibility of being able to choose whether they wish to make their QR code dynamic or static when they initially create their QR code.
Why, you ask, would anyone not want to create a dynamic QR code? Static QR codes have a few significant, but often overlooked, benefits that are outlined in an earlier blog post and regular user feedback over the years has confirmed that our original decision not to force everybody down the dynamic QR code path was an appropriate one to make, and has given us a strong point-of-difference in the broader market of QR code generation.
Anyway, the ability to edit the destination URL of a dynamic QR code is a standard part of our paid subscriber feature set.
When you log into your subscriber account history, any dynamic QR codes you’ve created will have an “Edit URL” option in the extended information about that QR code (click the “Manage” tab to the right of the history listing).
Using that subscriber feature, the destination URL that the short URL in the dynamic QR code redirects to can be modified at will without altering the QR code image. There are no limits on the number of times you can update the short URL destination.
About Our Short URL’s
As with all the mission-critical core service infrastructure of the QRStuff.com website, we have our own custom-built URL shortening service hosted on our own servers, and based on the qrs.ly domain that we own and host ourselves.
We don’t rely on any third-party services for the generation, management or security of the 2.5 million short URL’s that we’ve issued to date, ensuring that they work in a manner that is optimized for use with QR codes, fully protects the privacy of our users, and guarantees the confidentiality of the analytics data associated with the short URL’s themselves.
For added security, each short URL is generated randomly, rather than sequentially, so that consecutive short URL’s can’t be guessed or anticipated. We also don’t “recycle” short URL’s – every QR code created is given its own unique short URL regardless of whether other QR codes created by others users link to that same destination URL.
The following data is based on the QR codes created by our website users during January, February and March 2012.
Overall global QR Code activity is up 381% on Q1 2011 and up 16% on Q4 2011.
The Top 5 countries (Untied States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and Germany) have remained the same however their collective share of global QR code activitiy has decreased marginally since Q4 2011.
While the relative proportion of global QR code activitiy for the USA decreased from 49.0% in Q4 2011 to 48.1% in Q1 2012, QR code activity in absolute terms increased by 14% in the USA over the same period.
Email and SMS QR codes have increased in popularity at the expense of QR codes containing a website URL. Google Maps QR codes also showed a strong increase in popularity.
The disparity in device type used for scanning appears to have stabilised at approximately 60% iOS and approximately 30% Android.
QR Code Activity
While the stratospheric year-on-year growth rates seen through 2011 (albeit off a low 2010 base) have begun to tail off somewhat, significant increases between Q4 2011 and Q1 2012 were recorded for all countries in the top 20 with the exception of the Netherlands, that showed a reduction of 6%.
Overall the yearly growth rates reflect the adoption cycle of QR codes with earlier adopters like USA and Canada now stabilising in growth rates, while Europe exhibited in the last 2 quarters the sort of growth rates that North Amercia saw in Q3 and Q4 last year.
As the major markets that are using QR codes each move past the stage of over-heated and frenzied hype and opportunistic “snake oil” marketing, a much more solid and structured phase of adaption and deployment will follow characterised by marketers becoming more experienced and mature in their use, advertisers having a more realistic expectation of the role QR codes can play in their promotional mix, and the general consumer becoming more familiar with seeing them around.
Country Of Origin
% Of Global Total
Q4 11 to Q1 12
Q1 11 to Q1 12
“QR Code Activity” is a weighted index that we have created that seeks to quantify the relative changes in the overall number of people engaging with QR codes over time, as both QR code users and QR code publishers. The underlying data is taken from four sources – QR codes created on the QRStuff.com website, scan event data that we record on behalf of our users, our own website visitation analytics, and Google Insights For SearchTM data for key industry search terms. The latter data source is included to normalise any bias resulting from the growth in our user base having consistently out-stripped the growth in the market by 20% to 35% during any given quarter.
One interesting take-out when looking at the underlying data is that while the number of QR codes created at QRStuff.com increased by 16% between Q4 2011 and Q1 2012, the number of scan events recorded increased by 156% over the same period indicating a strong growth in the ongoing level of user engagement with those QR codes created and published in previous months.
QR Codes Created
Since 2011 QR codes containing email messages and SMS messages have increased significantly in popularity, as have QR codes containing Google Maps locations, with that increase being at the expense of QR codes containing a website URL.
Content Of QR Codes
Percentage Of Total
Q4 to Q1
vCard Contact Details
Social Media Links
Google Maps Location
Youtube Video Link
Scanning Device Used
iPhones are still the most popular devices used for scanning QR codes. While Android devices showed some sign of narrowing the gap in Q3 and Q4 2011, the disparity is now pretty much 2:1. Blackberry’s continue to rapidly slide in popularity, however Windows Mobile devices have gained some of the ground they lost earlier in the year.
We still hold to the point of view that the scanning apps available for iPhone users are of a significantly higher quality and sophistication leading to higher useage rates, higher user satisfaction and higher user retention for iPhones compared to other devices.
The continuing publication of QR codes that are too dense to be read by a smartphone that doesn’t have a high resolution camera and/or optical image stabilisation will also continue to bias useage rates in favour of iPhones and away from older or less sophisticated devices on other platforms that give the user a less satisfactory scan result.
If you’re planning on using QR codes in the tourism or travel industry the opportunities go way beyond simply adding a QR code to the back page of your brochure that links to your website.
As the articles shown below point out, QR codes in tourism, travel and hospitality can be used for product and destination marketing, in-house guest engagement, interpretive signage, adding multimedia dimensions to self-guided tours, and linking online content to traditional print media.
Increasing Print Catalog Engagement With QR Codes: Luxury villa rental company Wimco recently released its annual Vendôme Guide to St. Barts with a multitude of QR codes that lead consumers directly to mobile-optimized real estate listings for the first time.
4 Ideal Tourism Uses for QR Codes: An increasingly popular marketing tactic for the tourism industry, QR codes provide a unique link between the physical world and a limitless supply of digital content.
12 Ways Your Travel Brand Could Use QR Codes: QR codes are a great way to connect prospective guests who are offline to information about your brand that is online. Just make sure your site is mobile-friendly and you offer some kind of value-add.
The Rise and Success of QR Codes in London: Innovative adaptations of QR codes in London have made visiting this popular tourist destination easier, with London attractions available at the touch of your smart phone.
North Wales Tourism QR Code Revolution: QR codes have been used on a quarter of a million Great Days Out leaflets to be distributed across North Wales, the North West and the Midlands. The QR codes direct smartphone users to a website that is constantly updated with the latest information so that the leaflet doesn’t become outdated, effectively extending the useful life of the printed product.
Carol Roth is a business strategist, deal maker and author of the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling book, The Entrepreneur Equation. Carol is a frequent radio, television and print media contributor on the topics of business and entrepreneurship, having appeared on Fox News, MSNBC, Fox Business, WGN TV Chicago and more. Additionally, Carol’s Unsolicited Business Advice blog at CarolRoth.com was recently named as one of the Top 10 small business blogs online.
If you are here, you obviously have an interest in QR codes. However, as is the case with any new tool, there are effective and ineffective ways to use QR codes in your business. You can use them to provide information, discounts or special offers. Or you can use it as a tool to help your customers.
For example, for the Philadelphia Phillies, using QR codes was a way to solve two problems with one small square. The team wanted to move away from its traditional “schedule cups” – on which the season’s schedule accounted for more than half of the cup’s available space – and wanted to provide more memorable cups that showcased the team’s formidable stable of talent.
The Phillies saved valuable space by making their schedule reachable through scanning the QR code; Acme Paper & Supply Company used this solution for other products they have produced for customers as well, such as coffee cups. More information is at www.acmepaper.com
The cup proved a tremendous success, selling more than 155,000 units. Acme Paper & Supply says that they expect that the use of QR codes will be expanded, such as through adding highlight videos and promotional items.
Maryland-based Acme Paper & Supply Company provided the Philadelphia Phillies with a QR code on its 32-ounce souvenir cups that sent users to the team’s schedule on its website. From the Phillies’ perspective, the code solved two problems with one small square. By driving traffic to the team’s website, the QR code eliminated the need for a schedule cup and allowed the team to instead display action photos of Cole Hamels, Ryan Howard, Roy Halladay and other Philadelphia players.
So, you can see that Acme Paper & Supply Company integrated the QR code in a Business-to-Business endeavor, while the Phillies baseball team used the code to engage its fans (a Business-to-Consumer model). Moreover, regardless of who your customer is, remember to have a strong benefit tied to your efforts.
Finally, remember that while there are almost no limits to how you can use QR codes, it’s the results that count. Like in other areas of technology, many businesses are better at creating them than monitoring them. If you are going to take the time to create them and use them creatively, make sure to monitor their efficacy as well.
Part of the robustness of QR codes in the physical environment is their ability to sustain “damage” and continue to function even when a part of the QR code image is obscured, defaced or removed.
This is acheived by using the Reed-Solomon Error Correction algorithm – some serious algebra that happens in background when the QR code is created. The original data in the QR code is converted into a polynomial, the number of unique points required to uniquely define that polynomial is determined, and this point set is added back into the QR code so that it then also contains the original data expressed as a polynomial.
If that description threatened to make your head explode, just call it “mathematically adding backup data to the QR code”.
There are 4 error correction levels used for QR codes, with each one adding different amounts of “backup” data depending on how much damage the QR code is expected to suffer in its intended environment, and hence how much error correction may be required:
Level L – up to 7% damage
Level M – up to 15% damage
Level Q – up to 25% damage
Level H – up to 30% damage
A fundamental part of the way QR codes work is that the more data you put into them, the more rows and columns of modules will be introduced into the QR code to compensate for the increased data load. As the error correction level increases, this means there will also be an increase in the number of rows and columns of modules required to store the original data plus the increasing amount of backup codewords. This is shown in the diagram below – the QR code becomes more dense as the error correction increases from Level L to Level H even though the QR codes contain exactly the same website URL.
Quite conveniently, there’s also 2 modules down in the bottom left-hand corner of every QR code that display what the error correction level used in that QR code is.
So here are the take-outs:
The lower the error correction level, the less dense the QR code image is, which improves minimum printing size.
The higher the error correction level, the more damage it can sustain before it becomes unreadabale.
Level L or Level M represent the best compromise between density and ruggedness for general marketing use.
Level Q and Level H are generally recommended for industrial environments where keeping the QR code clean or un-damaged will be a challenge.
As an aside, this is also one of the reasons why a QR code containing the same data will look different depending on which QR code generator you use – it depends on the error correction level being used by that particular website. Even though there is a single ISO standard for QR codes, there are variables within the ISO standard (error correction level being one of them) that will result in a different looking QR code image based on how that particular QR code creation website sets these variables.
This doesn’t mean that any particular QR code generator is any more or any less standards-compliant than any other, it just means that the people behind the different generators have made different choices when setting the underlying technical specifications and parameters for the QR codes that their website creates.
Posted: December 5th, 2011 | Author:admin | Filed under:General | Comments Off
One of these questions actually came in overnight which prompted me to think that I should probably share with you some of the more “interesting” customer tech support questions I’ve had over the past 3 and a bit years.
These are real questions from real people and indicate that the QR code learning curve is a bit steeper for some, but I endeavoured to answer all of them in a helpful and respectful manner.
In no particular order, here’s my 10 favourites:
My phone doesn’t have a camera. What scanning app should I use?
I made a QR code with my cell phone number in it but every time I scan it with my phone I get my voicemail. Can you help me to get it to work?
I put a QR code for my website in my email signature but when I click on it nothing happens. What am I doing wrong?
Can you make a QR code that links to another QR code?
If I change the color of my QR code will it still link to the same website?
I scanned a QR code in a magazine ad and it took me to their website but they didn’t have what I wanted. Can I make it go to another website?
The QR code works fine using the camera my iPhone, but why won’t it scan with my digital camera?
My QR code links to a Powerpoint that’s on my home computer. Why won’t it work at my office?
Can your analytics tell me how many people saw our QR code but didn’t scan it?
Why do my QR codes only scan properly when the internet on my phone is turned on?
I’ll also give an honorable mention to the enquiry about a QR code in braille that vision-impaired people could use.