You guys remember pogs right? Even if you weren’t a kid or teen in the 90s, you probably accidentally stepped on them while trying to climb into bed or had your kids beg you for another Jurassic Park pog to complete their collection.
I had quite the pog collection, and was especially proud of my holographic ones. However, just like the ebb and flow of many creative ideas, the pogs trend came to an end.
Shortened URLs Still Work Fine
We never really needed an alternative to shortened URLs, much less the addition of an extra step, the downloading of a QR reader. If we had gotten used to QR codes from the beginning, they’d be as common to us as T9 was to the Motorola RAZR.
However, because QR code readers weren’t a native part of our phones, we’ve learned how to get along without them. Most companies and organizations still use good ol’ fashioned shortened URLs with services like Bit.ly or Goo.gl.
With a paid account, Bit.ly even lets you create your own shortened domain, like we have for social sharing here at SEJ: sejr.nl. Additionally, to make it even easier to read, some link shorteners allow you to create custom URL strings, such as sejr.nl/2016MediaKit
These options make QR codes obsolete, especially because it’s not something I can communicate verbally. No one is saying, “let me save this QR code image and figure out how to send it to you.” They are saying, “The URL is sejr.nl/2016MediaKit. Check it out!”
You Can’t Scan a QR Code on Your Computer
One thing that drove me nuts when QR codes were “trying to happen” was people would put QR codes on their websites.
How are you supposed to use that?
The only way it would work would be to get out a phone with a QR reader app on it, scan the QR code on the computer screen, and then get taken to that URL on your phone. Businesses did the same with mobile versions of websites as well. How can a user scan a QR code on a mobile site, when they are already on their phone?
Just link to the website or uploaded document you want them to go to!
When it comes down to it, QR codes go against all the basic principles of good user experience design. Content and websites need to be created with one thing in mind: to make the process of completing an action as easy as possible.
It’s Awkward to Scan Something
Not only is the actual implementation of QR codes awkward, the process of scanning a QR code on a piece of paper is awkward. Think about it: you have to get out your phone, find the QR code app (and many users have 100+ apps, making this time-consuming), then scan the paper.
At a huge event like SXSWi, where there are more than 32,000 people, no one is going to stand against the flow of the crowd in the hallways or expo hall to take the 1-5 minutes to scan a QR code on a flyer.
It just doesn’t happen, unless there’s a promise of winning a trip to Spain or at least a free t-shirt.
And if you the only way to get traffic is to bribe your target audience to connect with you, then something is very wrong with your strategy.
It’s Too Easy to Make a Mistake
With shortened URLs (or just URLs in general), it’s easy to double-check to make sure it’s correct. You can just click on the link if it’s on mobile or desktop, or type it manually into a browser if you are reviewing a printed proof of a document. However, with QR codes, it’s not always that easy.
- The QR code image could print blurry, causing it to be unreadable (or to go to a wrong link) when scanned by a QR code reader
- The wrong code could be assigned to the URL or vice versa
- The QR code is cut off or isn’t printed at all on the document, and if that’s your only call-to-action, the campaign could be marked as a failure
So if you’re thinking of slamming down money and time on QR codes instead of bidding on that Princess Diana beanie baby, you could be making a huge mistake.
Instead, consider other methods of marketing to make your dollars (and profit) go farther, like, higher-quality content marketing, PPC ads, or even paid social media campaigns. Your users will thank you.
QR code image: Shutterstock, used under license, by user rangizzz.
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