About QR codes

We follow a few guidelines if we’re asked to implement QR codes in our designs.

An illustration of tiny robots assembling, or possibly dissassembling, a colourful QR code.

I’ve never been a particularly big fan of QR codes. I like the idea of them. But I’m just not an enthusiastic QR code user.

A multi-colored QR code that points to this very web article.

Other people are enthusiastic about QR codes. So I play along.

Over the years, uptake has been gradual but steady. We’ve been asked to put them on business cards, in magazine ads, on signs and posters and other marketing collateral.

Sometimes I try to talk folks out of using them. Ten years ago, we avoided print contexts that were more public, like signs and posters. Back then research was telling us that a lot of people were too embarrassed to try to scan a code in public.

But, times are changing. People use these barcodes now to order lunch, and also to pay for lunch.1

But we’re still a little skeptical about their use. When we’re asked to put them on designs, we follow a few guidelines:

  1. Use them to link to webpages with related information to the context they’re embedded in.
  2. Write out the web URL where the QR code is going to.2
  3. Consider tracking the stats on the QR code usage.3
  4. Test, double test, and stress test the size and durability of the QR code, in context if possible.


  1. QR code payment is more common in places like China and Southeast Asia.
  2. There’s no surprises this way, and people can choose which door to move through.
  3. You might be surprised how few people scan/click through.