QR Codes: The Good, the Bad & the Ugly

by Cathy Miller on September 22, 2011

This is the last of a 3-part series on QR codes.

  • Part 1 covers What Are QR Codes and Why Should We Care?
  • Part 2 got into the fun part How Do QR Codes Work and What Do You Need?

This last part wraps it all up with the Good, the Bad & the Ugly about QR codes.

The Good

These little bite-size squares of information do have good features.

  • They can pack a lot of information in a small space
  • They are simple to use and create
  • They can be used in multiple ways

Shrink-wrapped Squares

I have a theory that the decline of my memory skills is not really a decline at all.

  • There’s just too darned much information
  • That’s my theory and I’m sticking to it

Based on that theory, anything that shrink-wraps a bunch of information for use later is a good thing.

  • There’s a potential of storing up to 7,089 characters
  • That’s over 50 fewer maxed-out Tweets

And you don’t need to rent storage space. Just tuck those squares into the corner of your smartphone’s QR code reader.

Keep it Simple

As described in Part 2 of the series, capturing a QR code or creating your own is simple – I am living, baby boomer proof.

  • If you can operate a point-and-shoot camera, you can retrieve QR codes
  • Creating your own QR code is as simple as filling out an online form

Let Me Count the Ways

Part 1 of the series offered some examples of how you can use the codes. You are only limited by your own  creativity.

Here are some quick ideas.

  1. Business cards – seems to be one of the most popular for storing your bajillion social media contact information, your bio/resume, portfolio or customized landing page
  2. Internal communication – agendas to meetings, meeting presentations
  3. Travel information– schedules, maps, boarding passes, guides to sightseeing attractions, put it on luggage tags or affix it to the inside in case the luggage is lost
  4. Coupons – discounts, free stuff for your services or products
  5. Product information – place it on a display with a link to a site with more detailed product information, review, price comparison
  6. Package labeling – want to know more about that fine wine or box of candy you received? Scan the code and be directed to the company’s site or use the code label for identifying prescription drug side effects or giving medication instructions
  7. Shopping cart – scan to add products from magazine (or wherever) to online shopping cart or PayPal
  8. Print communication – add codes in print ads, magazines, direct mailings that link to products and services, contact information, blog/webpages, YouTube videos
  9. Event activity – engage audiences at meetings by planting codes in material and rewarding those that find the hidden messages, screen them on t-shirts, name tags
  10. Campaign information – put QR codes on posters, flyers, direct mailings to link to website with campaign information, surveys
  11. Customer service – you can create a code that places a phone call to your business

You get the idea. If you can link to it, the possibilities are endless.

By the way, there are ways to track the use of QR codes, but we’ll leave that for a post for another day. No point in using marketing strategy you cannot monitor.

The Bad

Before you think I totally drank the Kool-Aid, here are a few bad features of QR codes.

Not Ready for a Kodak Moment

Not everyone in the world has a smartphone with a camera. Believe it or not, some people use mobile phones for – well, making phone calls.

And brace yourself – there are people who do not have webcams either.

I know, shocking.

Square Pegs

Besides those individuals with not so smart phones, there are plenty of people who are not what you call early adopters.

  • Some hate technology
  • Some hate being like everyone else (I see that person in the mirror every day)
  • Some don’t know the codes exist
  • Some know they exist, but don’t know what they are
  • Some just don’t care

They might be square in your eyes, but that doesn’t mean they will embrace the square technology.

Technology Trip

No matter how great the planning, technology fails.

  • A QR code reader doesn’t play nice with your smartphone
  • The quality of the code prevents scanning
  • The links do not work

Test everything and always have a Plan B.

Do you want to find out after you get to the airport that your QR coded boarding pass doesn’t work?

The Ugly

Most of the codes themselves aren’t terribly attractive.

We did find out in Part 2 that there are sites that offer options for color and format.

  • Use your creativity (or hire a creative sort) for your codes
  • Don’t slap the code just anywhere over a graphic in a print ad – like the middle of the model’s forehead
  • Consider the size of the code image – don’t make it so large that a person has to move to the next county to capture it


Consider if your website, landing pages or other information contained on QR codes are mobile-ready. Not many of us design our sites for viewing on the small screen of a smartphone.

There are various sites, like mobiReady, where you can test your site.

The Really Ugly

In a world of spammers and scammers, do you honestly believe someone hasn’t developed a really ugly side of QR codes?

  • Are you sure you know where that code is linking to?
  • How secure is that data?
  • Should we be concerned about privacy?

When it comes to privacy, I’m pretty much of the mindset that it’s like closing the barn door after the horse has escaped.

Our information is everywhere, but I hate making it simple for the bottom dwellers.

Jury Still Out?

Knowing me, I doubt I will go hog-wild on this not-so-new technology.

I like knowing about it and will probably give it limited use.

What about you?

Do you use QR codes or plan to in the near future?


This is the first topic of seven from my What I Want to Learn list. It’s another round of practice what you preach. I have to stop preaching! I hope you enjoy the series. I would love your feedback.

BigStock Photo credit


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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Jym | Blog Tools September 22, 2011 at 6:24 am

I have to confess Cathy, I’m one of the people with a ‘not so smart’ phone. In fact, mine could safely be termed a ‘daft phone’.

Thing is, so far no one’s sold me on the idea that I need my phone for anything other than calls and SMS.

So QR codes are a stretch. What I feel about them is that they hint at a technology yet to come. Something more subtle than these ‘ugly little boxes’ which takes the same principle and executes it with more grace and simplicity.

We’ll see though, maybe I’m just a little bit too ‘2004’
Jym | Blog Tools recently posted..CommentLuv+ Is Revolutionizing the Power of Blog Commenting. Here’s What You Need to KnowMy Profile


Danny | Excited By Life September 22, 2011 at 6:55 am

I use the Optiscan iPhone app on my iPhone for scanning qr codes from magazines I read. It’s useful for collecting addresses and saves a lot of typing.
Danny | Excited By Life recently posted..Why I Moved From Thesis To WooThemesMy Profile


Cathy September 22, 2011 at 7:01 am

Thanks for sharing that information, Danny, and for stopping by.

I found the link on Apple’s apps –


Cathy September 22, 2011 at 7:09 am

Hey Jym: Had to retrieve you from the spam filter – how rude. 🙂 Good news is that you’re approved now so we look forward to you visiting often-subtle, huh? 🙂

Don’t apologize to me about your daft phone (love that!) I recently returned the iPhone4 because it wouldn’t do what I needed for sending client appointments. You can read about my woes on my personal blog==> http://bit.ly/rmy0vN

I’m with you, Jym, that I don’t think QR codes are completely ready to rule the world, but people like their communication in all forms so I think it’s good to deliver options.

I appreciate you dropping by and sharing your comments.


Sharon Hurley Hall September 27, 2011 at 7:51 am

I think QR codes are singularly unattractive, but offer useful functionality for smartphone users. I haven’t yet replaced the code on my website, because I’m spending some time deciding what I want people to take away from the site when they scan it in.


Cathy September 27, 2011 at 10:25 am

Hi Sharon. Sounds like a good plan. I definitely think we are moving towards a time when much will be held in the plam of out hands. 🙂

Thanks for sharing your perspective, Sharon.


Nicky Parry September 28, 2011 at 10:48 am

Oh goodness, the idea of the really ugly with these codes is just frightening, isn’t it? In this day and age, the digital era is really a blessing and a curse. Usually just when I am having a moment of inspired awe over the interweb, I hear a story of the really ugly that just blows my mind and brings me down to earth again.
Nicky Parry recently posted..Taste Buds #10My Profile


Cathy September 28, 2011 at 10:54 am

I know, Nicky. Wouldn’t it be nice if all that brilliance was used towards something really useful – like eliminating world hunger? 🙂

Thanks for stopping by, Nicky. Good to see you again.


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