Quick Response codes as technolust?


I think so. On the surface they seem like a great idea: they’re square images which have encoded information which can be easily captured with a smartphone’s camera. The encoded information is usually a URL but can also be an email address, a SMS destination, etc. The user snaps a photo of the quick response (QR) code image with their QR code app and then something happens (usually a web page opens). Sounds simple, right?

It turns out to be not so simple. Many smartphones don’t ship with an app that can read QR codes, so potential users have to chase down a QR code app … this isn’t difficult, but it’s the most important step and most users don’t realize they have to do this until they encounter a QR code they want to work with, and then it’s too late (so the first QR code interaction is often a failure).

Those who expect to use QR codes usually need  a smartphone with which to process the code but there are still a significant number of Americans who don’t have the use of a smartphone. Last year Nielsen (the consumer surveying organization) reported that nearly 50% of Americans have a smartphone. While they also reported substantial growth among smartphone users a significant number of people don’t yet have the technology with which to view QR codes.

QR codes are not the simplest, most transparent way to present information. A URL or email address can be used by many library users using technology already available in most libraries. It seems counterintuitive to use a technology that may keep users from participating in the library community.

13 thoughts on “Quick Response codes as technolust?

  1. Emily says:

    While QR codes may be difficult to use now, I think there is real possibility there, especially in libraries. My thoughts on the QR issues would be simply to embrace them and to teach patrons about how they work and what benefits they have. Tomorrow I start a new job which involves community outreach as well as demonstrating to patrons how our different services work simply by roving around the library. I think introducing QR codes would be a great experiment, even if all we get out of it is finding that nobody likes them.

    I think as the technology improves, or we improve it, that QR codes could help enhance library services in many ways. After reading this article found in the recent publication of American Libraries http://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/columns/practice/e-discovery-qr-codes
    , I found that QR codes have true potential, and it is our job to embrace that potential and move the technology forward.

    • Henry Mensch says:

      Have you actually used a QR code (in or out of a library context)? It’s pretty staggering how these turn out to be not-so-well used … and how difficult they are to use. I think there can be successful applications for QR codes, but these are pretty limited.

  2. Jolene Finn says:

    I have mixed feelings about QR codes. Especially, after I read this article: http://readwrite.com/2012/09/10/readwriteweb-technology-deathwatch-qr-codes

    • Henry Mensch says:

      Exactly. It turns out they’re hard to deploy so users may easily use them, and so many users can’t use them, that I remain a skeptic.

      and … I love it when technology makes things easier. QR codes just don’t make things easier.

  3. michael says:

    I’m still on the fence about QR codes. I have yet to see many deployed to much use or any solid studies that show people actively use them for information gathering/seeking. I do think it’s good for us to understand their use, however.

  4. Lewis Chen says:

    My feelings go along the lines of the states on how many actually have smartphones. I still have an old Motorola RAZR (the flip phone, not the Droid). I don’t actually have a QR Code app on my iPod Touch.

    So far, we only use QR code for the library website links in our event calendars.

    I guess as long as it is utilized in a way where it’s not a big deal if the library opts out of using QR codes. As long as library productivity/functionality isn’t affected by the presence/absence of QR codes. Use in advertisements or event/service promotion seems adequate.

  5. caitlin says:

    I think Lewis makes a valid point about flexibility. QR codes aren’t perfect by any means, but I don’t think it’s necessary to right them off as an option. If they were the only means of finding information that would be a serious problem, but as an additional method to enhance other ideas, QR codes can be fun and informative for those that choose to use them.

  6. Matt Hinch says:

    My issue with QR codes is less with the codes themselves and more with their ineffectual deployment. Too often they’re treated like a badge or logo than a portal to information.

    • joseph ferrer says:

      or a tattoo. thank you for this enlightening discussion. Jo-sep

    • Henry Mensch says:

      That’s often true. Having a visible QR code could say “modern, trendy, with-it” to many people.

      In San Francisco we have bus shelters which feature large poster-sized ads which change several times a minute. Naturally, some of these feature QR codes … so you have to get out your phone, start your QR app, point at the QR code … and then the ad changes out and you’re out of luck for a while.

  7. Kelsey Smith says:

    On the topic of QR codes, this guy got one tattooed! Pretty cool, I think: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f3qv2dSXQXk

    Skip to about 2:00 in if you want to get to the good part :)

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