QR Code Best Practices: Tips & Tricks to Create QR Codes that Engage and Convert

Illustration of QR Code best practices

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QR codes, short for “Quick Response” codes, are playing an increasingly important role in today’s modern world. These two-dimensional barcodes are known for their ability to link the physical world to the digital world, giving businesses unprecedented opportunities to drive user engagement and conversions. Check out our articles on what QR codes are and how QR codes work for an in-depth understanding. 

QR codes have been around since 1994, but their usage and popularity have grown exponentially after the SARS-COVID-19 pandemic. According to Insider Intelligence eMarketer, the US market alone saw an impressive 25% growth in smartphone users scanning a QR code in 2020, nearly doubling the 12.6% increase in 2019.

Today, QR codes are found almost everywhere and used for various purposes, ranging from marketing campaigns to contactless payments. However, in order to maximise their benefits, QR codes need to be designed and implemented strategically.

In this article, we’ll take a look at some QR code best practices. These tips and tricks will help you incorporate QR codes that engage your target audiences and help drive conversions.

QR codes and barcodes are often confused with each other; however, there are some key differences between the two. Refer to our QR code vs barcode article to understand the differences between the two.

Determine the Purpose of Using a QR Code

Just because you know what a QR code is, doesn’t mean you should start creating one and use it for everything.

Before you embark on your QR code designing journey, take some time and ask yourself.

  • Why this barcode technology is the best choice?
  • Who is my target audience, and how will they likely use the QR code?
  • What action or information do you want your target audience to take away from the QR code?
  • Will QRs help you achieve your business and marketing goals?
 

Once you have answered these questions and identified the purpose of using QR codes, it will be much easier to create an effective QR code design that will engage with your target audience and enhance user experience.

Illustration of QR Code best practices
Illustration showing how to create personalised QR Code

Personalize QR Codes to Grab User Attention

Standard QR codes are often dull and boring and will do nothing to capture the attention of passersby and potential customers. However, with a little bit of creativity and personalisation, you can turn your QR codes into eye-catching visual elements that will stand out from the crowd.

You can add colours, graphics, and brand logos & images to your QR codes. You can also use branded fonts to make the QR code look more attractive and integrated with your overall branding strategy.

Make Sure the QR Barcode is Scannable

The most obvious requirement for using QR codes effectively is making sure that they are scannable.

The following factors must be considered to ensure that a smartphone camera can read the QR code.

Illustration showing six points to consider to ensure scannability

Physical Size

Illustration showing three points about Physical Size of QR code to Ensure Scannability

The size of a QR code is an important factor when it comes to its scannability. The minimum physical size of a visible QR code needs to be at least 2 cm by 2 cm (0.8 inches by 0.8 inches) (excluding quiet zone) for it to be readable and scanned successfully.

Please note that QR codes must be resized according to the distance from the viewer (QR code scanning device). The farther away a scanner is, the larger the QR code must be.

As a general rule of thumb, a QR code should have a 10:1 distance-to-size ratio. For example, if the expected distance of the QR code from the QR code scanner is 20 inches, then the size of the QR code should be at least 2 inches (height and width both).

The minimum digital QR code size for digital applications should be at least 240 pixels (6.35 cm by 6.35 cm) at 72 DPI.

Triton recommends the following minimum sizing of QR codes based on distance.

Media Size
Scannable Distance (Without Zoom)
Recommended QR Size (Including Quiet Zone)
1.2 m x 1.8 m – e.g. sheet
up to 2m
26 x 26 cm
4 m x 3 m – e.g. Billboard
up to 6m
70 x 70 cm
8 m x 4 m – e.g. Digital Large Format
up to 10m
125 x 125 cm
Illustration showing perfect colour contrast of QR code to ensure scannability

Contrast

A QR code should have good contrast between foreground and background colours, or else it will not be recognisable by the mobile phone camera. It’s recommended that you use a light-coloured background (such as white, yellow or pink) with a darker colour for the foreground (such as brown, navy blue, and forest green).

Check out our Barcode 101 guide to learn why contrasting colours are important for barcode scannability.

Sharpness and Clarity

No matter how big a QR code is, if it’s not sharp and clear enough, then it won’t be decoded by a QR code scanner.

To ensure that the QR code is readable, make sure that all the squares of the QR code are crisp and clearly visible to the naked eye. Any attempts to stretch, shrink or skew the QR after it’s generated could render it completely unreadable; so keep any modifications minimal.

Illustration showing sharpness and clarity of QR codes to ensure scannability
Illustration sowing correct and incorrect example of design element quality to ensure scannability

Design Element Quality

If you plan to add logos, images or other design elements to the QR code, ensure they are of high quality. Low-resolution images make the QR code look blurry and reduce its scannability.

Print Resolution

If you plan to print and display a physical QR code, you will need to make sure that the printout is of high resolution. In general, for any size QR code, 300 dots per inch (DPI) resolution or higher is the recommended resolution.

Illustration explaining Print Resolution of QR code to ensure scannability
Illustration showing Framing and the Quiet Zone to ensure scannabilty

Framing and the "Quiet Zone"

Quiet Zone refers to the empty space or margin surrounding all four sides of the QR code. This extra space helps the scanner quickly identify and recognise the QR code.

To ensure maximum scannability success, make sure that the QR code is surrounded by a “quiet zone” of roughly 15% of the whole QR code dimension.

For example, if the dimension of the QR code is 10 cm by 10 cm (3.94 inches by 3.94 inches), then the quiet zone should be at least 1.5 cm (0.59 inches) on all four sides.

Utilise Error Correction Algorithms

Illustration showing with examples about using Error Correction algorithms

QR codes have error correction (EC) capabilities, which allow them to recover data and remain readable even if the barcode is partially damaged, dirty, or missing. It is expressed as a percentage and reflects how much damage a barcode can take before becoming unreadable.

QR codes have an error correction capability ranging between 7% to 30%. They offer four error correction levels to choose from.

  1. Level L (Low) – 7%
  2. Level M (Medium) – 15%
  3. Level Q (Quartile) – 25%
  4. Level H (High) – 30%
 

Please note that choosing a higher EC level will reduce the maximum data storage capacity and increases the overall size of the QR code.

Avoid Overcrowding a QR Code

When creating a QR code, make sure that you keep it simple and uncluttered.

Refrain from crowding your QR with too many design elements or text. Additionally, make sure to minimise the visual noise around the QR code so that it stands out and is easily identifiable by the customer.

Illustration explaining in four points to avoid overcrowding
Illustration explaining in four points about avoiding inverting the colours of the code

Avoid Inverting the Colours of the Code

Inverting the colours (dark to light and vice versa) of a QR code may look aesthetically pleasing, but it has a negative effect on its scannability. Doing so may change the pattern of the QR code and confuse the scanner, leading to an unsuccessful decoding process.

Always remember that the foreground colour of the QR code should always be darker than the background colour. Moreover, you should refrain from utilising shades of red, orange, and yellow colours in the foreground, as barcode scanners have a hard time recognising them.

Strategically Locate Your QR Codes

Illustration showing five points to consider to strategically locate the QR Codes

QR codes will only be effective if they’re visible and in an easy-to-locate spot. People won’t take the extra effort to search for the code if it’s not placed strategically.

Here are a few tips for determining the right spot for placing a QR code.

  • Ensure that the QR code is placed in an area of high foot traffic.
  • Place the code in a well-lit area, as low lighting makes it difficult to scan.
  • Place the QR at eye level to make it visible and easily noticeable.
  • Ensure there isn’t any other visual clutter around the QR code to avoid dissipating user attention.
  • Be sure to choose a location that is not exposed to extreme weather conditions like direct sunlight or rain.
 

Along with these tips, it’s also important to consider what information the QR code contains, as this will influence where you put the code. For instance, if the QR code links to a landing page or directs people to an online store, then it’s best to place the code in an area where people can easily access Wi-Fi or a mobile network. 

Place QR Codes At The Right Locations

Apart from choosing the right location for the QR code, strategically placing them on different mediums is also important.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when placing QR codes on different mediums.

Illustration explaining how to place QR Code at right location

Place QRs on a Non-Contact Surface

To ensure your QR codes will stand the test of time, place them on a surface that won’t be subject to direct physical contact on a regular basis.

For example, instead of placing a code above the glass counter or outside the storefront window, put it beneath the countertop or on an indoor-facing glass panel. The basic idea is to protect the QR code, so you don’t have to replace the QR code.

Keep Comfort of Scanning in Mind

Make sure your QR code is placed in a safe and convenient spot (on the medium) that is extremely comfortable to scan. Avoid places that require customers to make an extra effort, like bending or stretching to scan the code.

Let It Stand Out on the Collateral

When placing QR codes on marketing collaterals like flyers, brochures, or posters, make sure it stands out from the rest of the content. The QR code should be prominently visible and should not be drowned out by other visuals or text.

Place the Code Where it Receives Minimum Damage

It’s important to place the QR code in areas where it will receive minimum damage.

For example, if you’re placing a QR code on a visiting card, make sure to put it in the centre instead of the corners. Doing so will reduce the chances of the QR code being torn or wrinkled due to regular handling.

Include an Actionable Call-to-Action (CTA)

Illustration showing six call-to-action sentences

Just slapping a QR code on a piece of marketing collateral or other material won’t do much to engage your customers. Therefore, add a clear call-to-action (CTA) with the QR code.

Call-to-action (CTA) is a short phrase or instruction that encourages customers to take a desired action that eventually keeps them engaged with your brand.

CTAs are excellent for capturing people’s attention and quickly giving an insight into what they’re checking out. Plus, some people may be hesitant to scan a QR code if they don’t know what’s on the other side. A CTA labelling will inform readers about the content and alleviate any suspicion they may have.

The ideal location for adding a CTA is below the QR code; however, you can also place it above the code or even next to it. Here are some great examples of CTAs that you can use.

  • Scan Me
  • Scan to learn more
  • Scan here for coupons
  • Scan to get a discount, or scan this code for 10% off on the next purchase
  • Scan to join our mailing list
  • Scan to join our social media today
  • Scan here to meet our team
  • Scan to download the app
Illustration explaining on why to mention the destination URL

Mention the Destination URL of the QR Code

One of the best practices for QR codes that are often overlooked is to ensure the destination URL or content link of the code is provided alongside the code.

Mentioning the destination URL has a twofold purpose.

Security

By specifying the URL, you ensure that visitors are aware of the content or website they will visit after scanning the code. As a result, in case your QR code gets compromised, users will be able to notice that the URL is different from what it was originally supposed to be and thus secure themselves from any potential harm.

Backup

Specifying the URL also acts as a backup for the code. So, in case the QR code gets damaged or is not scannable, users can enter the URL manually in their browser and access the content.

Avoid Messing With the Shape of QR Codes

QR codes offer the flexibility to alter their shape to fit better within the design of your marketing material.

Although it may sound like a great idea, we don’t recommend changing the shape of a QR code. This is because any modification to the shape of the code can easily distort the pattern that makes up the code, which reduces its scanning accuracy.

People are more familiar with the classic square shape of a QR code. Therefore, if you experiment with different shapes, there is a high chance that people may not recognise the code and won’t even bother to scan it.

Illustration explaining the effects of messing with the shape of QR code
Illustration showing five points to ensure the code leads to mobile optimized page

Ensure That the QR Code Leads to Mobile Optimised Page

The majority of people use their smartphones to scan QR codes and access the content behind them. Therefore, checking that the content or webpage your QR code points to is optimised for mobile devices is essential.

Make sure your content/page loads quickly, looks great on small devices, is easy to navigate on a small screen, has clickable links, and contains relevant and engaging content for your target audience. 

Consider Using Dynamic QR Code Over Static QR Code

Illustration showing with points about advantages of Dynamic QR code

There are two types of QR codes – Static QR codes and Dynamic QR Codes.

Dynamic QR codes have clear advantages over static QR codes, which makes them a better choice for businesses. Some of the benefits of dynamic QR codes are.

  • More data storage capacity
  • Faster scannability
  • Ability to modify data even after the QR code is generated
  • Real-time data tracking and monitoring
  • Easy management of multiple QR codes
  • Online retargeting
  • Schedule and automate campaigns
  • Advance security features
 

Please refer to our dynamic vs static QR code comparison guide for an in-depth look at how these two types of codes stack up against each other.

Use Thermal Print Technology to Print Physical QR Code

Illustration showing the benefits of using thermal printers to print QR codes

If you plan to print physical QR codes and stick them on products or marketing material like posters or flyers, then choosing thermal printing technology is highly recommended.

Thermal printing is a non-impact printing method that uses heat generated by a device called Printhead to activate the dye or melt and transfer the ribbon onto the material. Thermal printing is of two types – Thermal Transfer and Direct Thermal. Please refer to our direct thermal vs thermal transfer guide to learn more about these two thermal printing technologies.

Thermal print technology outperforms traditional inkjet and laser technologies in various ways, making it the best choice for printing QR codes. Some of the advantages of thermal printers over inkjet and laser printers are.

  • High-quality prints that ensure better scanning accuracy
  • Fast printing speeds
  • Low running costs
  • Low maintenance costs
  • Silent printing operations

Triton is here to make thermal printing a breeze! We’ve got an unbeatable selection of top-of-the-line thermal printers from major brands like Zebra, Honeywell and TSC that can print with utmost accuracy and efficiency. Whether it’s an industrial label printer or a desktop label printer, purchase with confidence knowing every option available to you has been expertly chosen.

If you have any questions about our products or need help finding the right printer for your business, please don’t hesitate to reach out. Feel free to contact us via the live chat widget below, and our friendly and knowledgeable customer service team will be more than happy to answer all your questions.

So what are you waiting for? Contact us today to get started with all of your thermal printing needs – we guarantee you won’t be disappointed!

Consider Laminating the Code

QR codes are typically printed on paper or stickers, making them vulnerable to weathering and wear and tear. Therefore, it’s highly recommended that you laminate the code once the printing is done.

A good lamination job will extend the life of your QR code and provide additional protection against external factors like water, dust, or dirt.

Illustration showing the benefits of laminating the QR Code

Export QR Code in an Appropriate Format

Illustration on Exporting QR Code in an Appropriate Format

Once you are done with the design process, make sure to export the QR code in an appropriate format that is suitable for its intended purpose.

If the QR Code’s intended purpose is the web (email, website, mobile app, etc.), you should export the QR Code in raster formats, such as PNG or JPG. It’s worth noting that raster can handle small-size print tasks like business cards. Raster formats allow you to specify the image size in terms of pixels or actual measurements (inches, mm, or cm), assuming a 300 DPI resolution.

If the QR Code’s intended purpose is to print (feature in outdoor posters, banners, product labels, etc.), you should export the QR Code in vector formats like EPS, SVG or PDF. Vector formats allow you to resize the QR code without losing quality.

Measure the Success of QR Code Campaigns

Illustration showing four points on tracking and analyzing QR Codes

Analytics is an essential part of any successful marketing campaign. Tracking and analysing QR code usage will help you to identify which codes are working well and which aren’t, and will give you valuable insights into how to improve the effectiveness of your campaign moving forward.

You can consider using an analytics platform such as Google Analytics or Adobe Analytics to get more comprehensive insights about the intended target audience. Through these tools, you can track metrics such as the number of scans, location-based scan data, device type used to scan the code and other demographic data such as age and gender.

Please note that you need to use a dynamic QR code to track and analyse QR code results.

Test the QR Code Before You Publish Them

Illustration showing how to test QR Codes beforehand

One of the most important best practices for QR codes is to test them before you make them available to the public. QR code testing takes only a few minutes, but it can save you from numerous embarrassing moments and inconveniences.

To avoid any unexpected issues with your QR code, make sure to test them with multiple devices (mobile phones and barcode scanners), in various lighting scenarios, in different orientations, on different surfaces, with different scanning distances and by intentionally damaging the QR code.

It is also recommended to double-check the link or content that is associated with the code to make sure it’s working properly and is accessible to users.

Got barcoding needs? No worries, Triton has got you covered. Our range of barcode scanners includes mobile terminals, general barcode scanners, rugged barcode scanners and fixed scanners & sensors – all at competitive prices! Contact us to learn more.

How Do I Create a Quick Response Code?

QR codes are a public domain technology, which means that no single individual or company owns them, and there are no license restrictions or fees associated with their use. As a result, there are a bunch of free QR code generators available on the web.

However, these free QR code generators do not provide the same level of flexibility, customisation security and support as paid QR code generators. Therefore, we recommend using paid tools and software for creating and managing QR codes.

One software that we suggest to our customers is Seagull Scientific’s BarTender Software. BarTender is the world’s leading label designing and printing software, allowing you to create labels with images, texts, barcodes, and RFID tags, as well as automate and manage the entire labelling operations.

Triton is proud to be an official reseller of Seagull Scientific BarTender Software. We offer all four editions, namely, Starter Edition, Professional Edition, Automation Edition and Enterprise Edition, at competitive prices. Visit our BarTender software page or contact us via the live chat widget to learn more about this amazing label printing and designing software.

Wrapping Up

Using QR codes is a compelling way to maximise your business’s reach and attract new customers. From driving website traffic, adding extra product information, kick-starting marketing & advertisement campaigns or just simplifying the payment process – there’s no limit! With just a few tweaks here and there, QR codes can unlock tremendous potential for businesses looking to engage with their customers in new ways.

With these best practices in mind, you now know how to create an effective QR code that is sure to get scanned and help increase your business’s visibility. So go ahead, twist those old-fashioned print materials and wow your customers with your innovative use of QR codes.

Thanks for reading!

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