The basics of creating and using QR codes

QR code linking to our Freeport Maine Bed & Breakfast
Sample QR code linking to our Freeport Maine Bed & Breakfast
There has been a lot of buzz recently about QR codes. Most articles tell you what they are (think of a bar code, that smartphones or other mobile devices can read, and usually link to a URL, an image, or some useful information), and give some ideas of what QR codes can be used for, or even how to make QR codes more attractive. But where does the non-technical person begin?

One reason most articles don’t really explain how to make your own QR codes, and how to use them, is that it is a very easy process. There, no need to feel intimidated! Try it yourself if you have a smartphone or other mobile device with a camera. Just activate your Bar Code Reader app, and point your device at the QR code in this article, and see what happens (you may have to download a Barcode Reader app, if you don’t already have one).

OK, What are QR Codes, Again?

Others have described them in detail (see the two articles in the first paragraph, above), so we’ll simply say that QR codes are like a bar code. You can scan or read them with a mobile device’s camera, and they provide a link to something. You decide what the something is – that’s why most of the articles are called “15 way to use QR codes” or similar titles – the possibilities are nearly endless.

So, the way this works is that you put a QR code somewhere (on your business card, in a magazine ad, on a web site, T-shirt, billboard, anywhere in the physical world). The prospective user sees it, reads it via their mobile device, and their device opens the URL embedded in the QR code. They then experience whatever wonderful thing you have placed at that URL. Maybe it is a map, a video, a photo, a great review, or any of the other marketing ideas people have created. Or, create your own.

A Link between Virtual and Physical

Think of a QR code as a way to provide a connection to online information (the virtual) and the real world experience (the physical). If there is something you would like your guests (who are in the real world) to see, but they need to see it in the virtual world, the QR code is your pathway from the real to the virtual.

OK, a bit less esoteric. The QR code is an easy way to get people to find what you want them to see, using their mobile device.

Maybe you want to put a link to your website on your business card. Instead of just writing the URL on the card, you put a QR code (that links to the website, or to a video, or whatever) on the business card. Then the guest can scan the code and go directly to the website.

Getting Started

  • First, the planning. Where would you like the guest to go? If you need ideas, read one of the first two articles for a number of suggestions. We’ll assume you have a YouTube video to which you’d like to direct a potential customer, by embedding a link on your business card.
  • Copy the URL of the video (for YouTube, click the Share button beneath the video, then use the URL in the “Link to this video” box; don’t use the “Embed” link).
  • Choose one of the free QR code creation sites (several are mentioned here, or just search for “QR code generator”) and go to their page for creating a QR code.
  • If the QR code generator asks for the content-type of the link, select the correct content-type. For our example we’ll use URL, since we want to direct the user to the URL of our YouTube video.
  • Select any other options available, such as the size of the QR code, and click on “Generate” or whatever your generator’s button says to create the code.
  • You’ll now see a QR code, looking something like the illustration at the top of the this page (our example links to our Freeport Maine Bed & Breakfast, so it will be slightly different from a code linking elsewhere).
  • The QR code you’ve created is simply an image. Download it or save it in whatever way you ordinarily steal save images. For some QR code generators, you may need to do a screen capture (use a screen capture program, or just use the Print Screen key, and paste the image into a graphic file – some cropping may be needed)
  • Put the image wherever you want people to find it. In our example, we’ll add it to our business card when we send it out for printing

That’s all there is to it!

Now get out there and get QR happy!