What’s a QR code and why would I want one?

If you search for WordPress plugins that support QR codes, you’ll find over 30 of them actually have “QR” in the plugin name and over 70 that do something related to QR codes. In fact, right here at WPMU.org, there are numerous posts pertaining to QR codes.

Unfortunately, it’s really easy to do silly stuff with QR codes, but to get real benefit from them requires time, effort, and creativity.

What is a QR code and how is it used?

(Note: If you already have a QR code reader installed on your smartphone and have actually used it, scroll on down to the next heading.)

“QR” stands for “quick response”. QR code contain information that is transmitted to the device reading the QR code. Probably the most common use of QR codes is in smartphone app stores, where you read the QR code for an app to initiate the download and installation process. This requires a QR code reader which will use the camera in your smartphone to scan the code. Most QR code readers are free. On my Android phone, I have the free Zxing Barcode Scanner. This QR code will install a popular free QR code reader on your Android phone. Of course, if your phone can read this code, you don’t need it. Oops.

scanner-QR-code
QR code installer for Android

Why many of the QR code uses are incredibly boring

In my opinion, there’s not much point in capturing a QR code on your computer screen which then logs you into a WordPress site. You’re already at the login screen on your computer, so why in the world wouldn’t you simply type in your userid and password – and save them so you don’t have to enter them the next time you visit the website? Are you really that lazy?

Maybe I’m a little bit harsh since there is a certain whiz-bang cool factor to taking a picture of a computer screen and having it log you in to your computer, remote control. WOW, at least for the first-time you do it.

The problem is that you’re using your smartphone to do something on your PC that could just as easily have been done from the PC without using up your smartphone battery. Even so, it is an easy way to see how QR Codes work.  To see this in action, install a QR Code app on your smart phone. Then, install No More Passwords on your WordPress site.

I’m going for a cup of coffee, how do you want yours? Even if you don’t bother with No More Passwords, do take the time to install a QR code reader on your smartphone!

 No More Passwords QR code plugin screen
No More Passwords QR code plugin screen

QR Codes are incredibly useful for allowing someone to record information you want them to have or to get information from them. Many trade shows now put a QR code on exhibitor and attendee name badges for the exchange of business information such as a vcard or to sign a visitor up for a newsletter.

Badge-QR-Code
QR code name tag

What’s the real value of a QR code used with a WordPress website?

So, what is the value of QR codes used with WordPress websites? The key questions to ask are:

  • How would someone with a smartphone use it?
  • Is the QR code presented to the user at a time and place they will be motivated to use it?
  • Is it worth the time and expense to create things that will provide value to the smartphone user who scanned your QR code?

Uses for QR codes on your website

Here are some examples useful on a WordPress website:

1. Do you provide printable versions of your pages or other materials for your site visitors to download and print? If so, they should all have QR codes on them. The QR Print plugin will automatically place a QR code linking back to your website on the printed versions of your pages. You can’t click a link on a piece of paper, but you can scan a QR code printed on it! This allows the smartphone user to bookmark your website.

2. Put a QR code on your contact us page. Scanning it will allow the user to record your information in their smartphone’s contact list, dial the phone, bookmark your website, or even see your location on a map and use their GPS to get driving directions.

3. Direct customers to the mobile version of your WordPress site. With the increase in smartphone use for web searches and eCommerce, a handy way to get a potential customer to your site is to place QR codes on your business card, printed literature, or in advertising, whether print or on the web. The QR code directs the users browser to a specific page on your website.

I created this QR code on one of my websites using the QR Code Redirect plugin. I could have created it with the QR Print plugin just as easily.

Wanna buy some WordPress Swag?
Wanna buy some WordPress Swag?

Sorry, but I’m not going to tell you where this QR code goes. You’ll just have to use the QR code reader you installed while I was getting a cup of coffee to find out.

I’d like to invite everyone reading this to use the comments to list their ideas about using QR codes with a WordPress website.