After a premature outing a couple of years ago, before smartphones were so widely embraced, QR codes are attempting another outing into the public domain.
After years in use in other countries, only now are they really becoming a focus of attention here in the UK. However, despite being a hot topic, the question still lingers as to whether they have any real staying power?
With the invasion of augmented reality imminent, many believe that QR codes will never really have their moment, and instead will limp into obscurity in much the same way as minidiscs never quite took off – a good idea in principle but nothing more than a fleeting fad.
QR code usage seems to range from the dull and pointless to the more adventurous and extreme, with little on show in between. On the whole, the majority of QR codes seen out there at the moment do little to revolutionise the way we take in or interact with media and information. They simply direct you to the contact page of a website, or even just take you to a home page. Seeing a QR code on an advert whereby it simply replaces the company web address is pointless unless you are being directed to ‘secret’ or ‘unique’ information, otherwise the user experiences nothing new and will not engage.
Many articles have been written about ‘prettifying’ the codes themselves – making them more graphical and exciting to look at – but still, functionally; they lack lustre and real reason for being.
On the positive side, there are a few flickers of potential whereby QR codes have been put to innovative use, such as the Tesco Subway QR code shopping experience () or Victor Petit’s CV (), and it is these more experimental, considered executions that highlight the potential of QR codes to engage users in a new way.
In this technological age, where people are thirsty to be ‘wowed’ and constantly expect more, simply being directed to a website provides minimal satisfaction and is little reward for the effort that’s been put in… downloading a QR reader, scanning the code, opening the link…etc… Consequently, if the user feels let down/bored/uninspired upon their first QR code experience, how likely are they to bother again the next time?
QR codes do have potential. They offer brands the chance to connect and engage with consumers on a mobile, interactive level. But an appropriate, clever and unique user experience is essential, both to individual campaign successes and to the success of QR codes as a whole.