So You Want to Use a QR Code

You heard they’re useful and all the cool brands are posting them up on their marketing materials. The truth is that they can be very useful and make your brand that much more accessible. But before we go adding black and white pixelly boxes all willy-nilly, we should briefly dive into what these neat little codes do and how to best use them. 

You can think of a QR code just like you’d think about a hyperlink online, except that the link is in the physical world and links you to a place in the digital world. 


Use a QR code to link directly from print media to a topical web page.

This is, as far as we’re concerned here, their main purpose is to get the user from the physical print piece to a specific webpage on their phone in a nearly-seamless manner that doesn’t require any real cognitive load on the user’s part. 

Use a QR code as a barcode

Totally valid, I’ve seen it a hundred times. They work great for check ins purposes.

Accompany your QR code with a clear call to action.

People simply won’t scan a code that has no context and doesn’t tell you where the link is going. Hold their hand and tell them to scan the code and tell them what they’re supposed to do once they get there. 

Make the QR code big enough to be scanned at an appropriate distance.

This is context-specific, but something like a QR code for a menu or on a table tent can be much smaller than a check-in sign. Consider the proximity of the user to the code when deciding how big it needs to be.

Make the QR code small enough to not interfere with the rest of the design.

Don’t make it huge for no good reason. 

Send the user to a page that’s mobile-friendly.

Users aren’t scanning these codes with their laptops! If a user scans a code and the resulting site doesn’t appear to load properly, they’ll likely close the tab and move on.

Accompany the code with link text when appropriate.

Some audiences have adopted QR code technology more fully than others. Typically, younger audiences know what to do while older audiences may need more direction or alternatives if their phone’s camera doesn’t natively scan the codes. 


Use a QR code when the link you’re going to is simple. doesn’t need a QR code, but could use one. The idea here is to save time. 

Use a QR code on a mobile webpage, except for registration purposes. 

You can’t scan a code that’s on a phone screen except with another device. This is useful for registration purposes, but not for links. 

Link to a non-specific page. 

It’s called a landing page, but I like to think of it more as a “catching page.” Your users need to have a cohesive experience transferring from the physical to the digital world. They need to know where they’re going and when they get there. Even if it’s literally a matter of milliseconds. Never leave them guessing what they’re supposed to do!

Use a QR code on your social media posts

Easy mistake that I’ve seen a few times, but you can’t scan a code that’s already on your phone screen! Just something to be mindful of when you take your content from physical to digital media. Include the URL for content that’s going to be on people’s phones or devices, but a QR code can be used effectively in your print materials. 

Hopefully you find this to be a helpful guide on common mistakes when using QR codes. 

If you’re looking for some solid design solutions for your business that involve the proper use of QR codes, Why not send me a quick message?