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QR Codes 101

Updated on March 24, 2016
QR Code in the above image was created using the website
QR Code in the above image was created using the website

Quick Response (QR) Codes

QR Codes, also known as "Quick Response" codes, similar to the one displayed in this picture to the left, are used by businesses and individuals alike. They are a type of 2D barcode and can be decoded using QR code readers.

You have probably seen Quick Response codes at the malls and subways, on magazines and billboard ads, on coupons and business cards, restaurant menus and cereal boxes.

QR codes have been around for almost two decades and have been widely used in Japan as well as Europe. We have seen increased use of Quick Response codes in North America, especially in the world of smartphones, however, as per comScore, only around six percent of the total US mobile users have scanned a QR code via their mobile devices.

This web page is dedicated to helping people learn more about QR codes, how they work, where to get QR code readers, how to scan QR codes, how to generate your own QR codes, using QR codes for business, and QR code safety. Also, you will learn about an alternative to QR code technology, namely, MVS (Mobile Visual Search) technology available through Google Goggle App, for Android and iPhones.

QR Codes Overview

Quick Response (QR) Code Structure

QR Code Structure Example
QR Code Structure Example | Source

QR Codes, as mentioned earlier, are a type of 2D barcodes that can be decoded using QR code readers and camera phones or smartphones. From the above image, you can see the basic structure of a QR code which is made up of black modules arranged in a square pattern, generally on a white background. A standard QR code usually holds around 7,089 characters of information.

I'm not going to get too technical about QR codes, but essentially, they are encoded with information to direct recipients to text messages, website URLs, maps, etc. QR codes are decoded at high speed using QR code readers as well as through smartphone cameras like Apple's iPhone, Google's Android and most others.

QR codes were first developed, in 1994, by a Japanese company called Denso-Wave which is a member of the Toyota Group of companies. They were mainly used to track parts in the vehicle manufacturing industry, but have now found their way in mainstream media and mobile marketing.

Video: How to Use QR Codes?

This is a short and sweet video showing you how to use QR codes by scanning them and accessing the information contained in them. Basically, you place your smartphone to capture the QR code through your smartphone camera; the code is automatically scanned; and you're directed to the destination website URL, text message, video, contact details, map, event promotion, etc. They are quite innovative!

Poll: Quick Response (QR) Codes - Take a Poll on QR Codes

Have you seen or used QR Codes?

See results

QR Code Generator

QR Code generated using Beqrious
QR Code generated using Beqrious

QR Code Generator

How to Create Your Own QR Code?

Generating your own QR code is fairly simple and there are various software applications as well as free online websites that allow you to create a QR code.

Some QR code generators are basic, in the sense that they allow you to create QR codes for only URLs. Whereas, others are a more extensive and provide the capability of generating QR codes for maps, YouTube videos, Vcards, and even add your own graphics.

I generated this QR code, in the image to the right, at It's a very user-friendly website and allows more than just the basics for generating QR codes.

QR Codes for Business

Video: Mobile Marketing

Marketing Your Business Using QR Codes

QR code mobile technology is a great tool for businesses to stay competitive and reach a greater customer base.

As popularity of QR codes increases, more and more businesses will start using this technology to promote their products, services, events, and stay in touch with their customers. The short videos here provide a good snap-shot of how various types of businesses are leveraging from QR code technology.

Some of the ways to leverage QR codes in business are: using QR codes on business cards to promote your company website; including QR coupon codes in direct-mail flyers and magazines for special discounts; promoting your social media sites like Facebook and Twitter; including QR codes in menus to provide additional information like nutritional facts; and the list goes on.

Video: How to Use QR Codes in the Food Service Industry?

Using Mobile Technology in Marketing

With the increasing popularity and usage of mobile technology, it's becoming evident that businesses need to become more creative in order to gain competitive advantage.

With online advertising on the rise, businesses need to become innovative in their approach to enhance their customer experience and increase customer base.

QR code mobile technology is still quite new and remains relatively untapped, so it's a great way for companies to use this technology to remain in the forefront.

Poll: Leveraging QR Codes for Business - QR Code Technology for Marketing Your Business

Would you use QR Code Technology to promote your business?

See results

Google Goggles MVS Technology an Alternative to QR Codes

QR Codes have been around for over a decade and have made their way to the mainstream mobile world. However, as indicated earlier, only a small population of mobile users have embraced QR code technology. Some of the reasons could be that QR codes are boring black and white bar codes, users require QR code readers to be downloaded, QR codes are mainly used by businesses for advertising, and the potential security issues that come with scanning QR codes.

As a potential alternative, Google has introduced an app called Googles Goggles which uses MVS (Mobile Visual Search) technology. With Google Goggles, mobile users take a picture of a product, logo, landmark, book cover, etc. and Google Search generates potential search results related to the picture.

Though you still need to download the Google Goggles app, this technology seems more user-friendly and easier to use and more useful. Given that this technology is still relatively new, it will take time to develop. You can watch the video below demonstrating how MVS technology and Google Goggles works.


Guestbook: Have You Used QR Codes

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    • Aptika profile image

      Martin 3 years ago from Zionsville, Indiana

      You can also add to your list. You can create you QR code up to 2048x2048 pixels, for free, no ads and no sign-up required.

    • Grasmere Sue profile image

      Sue Dixon 5 years ago from Grasmere, Cumbria, UK

      I'm thinking of using one on my blog for the first time.

    • profile image

      arhit 5 years ago

      Nice lense :)

    • TransplantedSoul profile image

      TransplantedSoul 5 years ago

      QR codes are great. I use one in my standard email signature.

    • MichaelTaylor1 profile image

      MichaelTaylor1 5 years ago

      No I haven't. I don't have a smartphone yet but I will soon. Thanks for helping me understand more about this technology

    • profile image

      dressygirlkouture 5 years ago

      Good lens, QR Codes are great!

    • ajgodinho profile image

      Anthony Godinho 6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      @anonymous: Yes, you can delete QR codes from your iPhone 4S. How you delete it depends on which QR code reader you have installed. The QR codes are scanned by you iPhone camera. Once you launch the app, check the options, settings or history menus.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Yes I think they are very helpful and fun, but how do you remove them from your IPhone 4S?

    • ajgodinho profile image

      Anthony Godinho 6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      @domyeadon: I did take a brief look at your QR Code tracker website and watched the video on your lens. I'll check it out in more detail later.

    • profile image

      domyeadon 6 years ago

      You might like to add to your list. Have you visited my lens on QR Codes where you can see my take on how important tracking is? I would really appeciate your feedback, thanks. Dom.

    • Michey LM profile image

      Michey LM 6 years ago

      Great info, I feature your lens on my mobile Marketing lenses. Thanks

    • Pam Irie profile image

      Pam Irie 6 years ago from Land of Aloha

      My cell phone doesn't have that capability; it's pretty outdated. ha

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      The free web application offered by uses QR Codes placed in public locations such as art galleries, museums, zoos and nature parks, to allow anyone with a smartphone to locate information related to their current location. This information is created through your free learniply account, and can include anything from information about a nearby exhibit to interpretive or way finding information.

    • ajgodinho profile image

      Anthony Godinho 6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      @LavishlyHip: All the best as you start using QR codes in your business. We are starting to see them used more and more.

    • LavishlyHip profile image

      LavishlyHip 6 years ago

      I am looking to use one for my biz and this article was very helpful. Thanks!

    • ajgodinho profile image

      Anthony Godinho 6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      @crystalwriter: I agree, it's important for the consumer to know the intention of those marketing using QR codes. They are very handy tools and should be used appropriately. At the same time, consumers need to ensure that they don't scan just any QR code, but ones from reputable companies because like anything else on the internet, QR codes are open to fraud.

    • crystalwriter profile image

      Crystal A Murray 6 years ago from Corydon, Indiana, USA

      I'm okay to use a QR code for going to,or learning, new information, but I'm uncomfortable with it wanting to get information from me. I visited a Cracker Barrel the other day and saw the table tent with their QR code, but it said scanning it would allow them to send you text messages with specials. That would mean they would have your number and could then sell or rent it. They probably would not do so, and it may have required me to give that info after I scanned as I'm not sure the QR code itself could work two ways. I will say however, for any who use these for your own marketing, please make sure the consumer knows your complete intentions if you want more scans.

    • ajgodinho profile image

      Anthony Godinho 6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      @JollyvilleChick: Those are good ideas on using QR codes. With smartphone technology becoming increasingly popular, we will continue to see the rise in QR code usage.

    • JollyvilleChick profile image

      JollyvilleChick 6 years ago

      I included a QR code on my most recent resume. It links to my website which makes it easier, faster, and more fun that having to type in a url. I am also putting a QR code on the back of my new business cards.

    • ajgodinho profile image

      Anthony Godinho 6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      @Wtrombly: I checked your lens on mobile marketing and as requested, I sent you an email with my observations and suggestions. Hope it helps.

    • profile image

      Wtrombly 6 years ago

      Currently I use QR codes as a promotional gift, to ad value to articles and business pages. So how does the new mobile marketing going to fit into this. I am sure there is a way.

      A new lens, would like some suggestions, and comments are helpful and will be accredited to the article by promoting you and your articles.

    • Elle-Dee-Esse profile image

      Lynne Schroeder 6 years ago from Blue Mountains Australia

      I am just learning about QR codes now. I think they offer a huge potential for promoting businesses. Thanks for filling in some of the gaps for me

    • ReluctantAuthor profile image

      Michael Camarata 6 years ago from Medford, OR

      Yes, I have used QR Codes. Here is how - QR: An Experiment In Poetry

    • ajgodinho profile image

      Anthony Godinho 7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      @themacman: Good use of QR codes in yearbooks.

    • themacman profile image

      themacman 7 years ago

      I am a high school yearbook adviser, and my yearbook staff added QR codes in our annual publication with the help of Yearbook Unlimited ( It is a great addition to the book and unlike a DVD really keeps our readers in the moment. I have written a lens on our experience to help other yearbook advisers and staffs who want to add Quick Response codes to their yearbooks.

    • ajgodinho profile image

      Anthony Godinho 7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      @hlkljgk: It's nice to hear from people who are using QR codes practically in business. Thanks for sharing your feedback!

    • ajgodinho profile image

      Anthony Godinho 7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      @phil_ayres: Yeah, QR codes have found their place in many businesses and I think they are a great tool to use given that smartphones are here to stay. I will take a peek at your ebooks.

    • hlkljgk profile image

      hlkljgk 7 years ago from Western Mass

      i use a google places qrc code for my photography business. really well done page.

    • profile image

      phil_ayres 7 years ago

      Great intro to QR codes. We have been working with them for a while now, both in our own marketing, and creating and tracking them for other people. There seems to be special interest in for real-estate sales, as it is such a good way to get people more information about a property in an instant. Really anything that can get potential customers engaged and talking to you earlier is a good thing.

      I have written a free series of eBooks about QR codes and mobile websites (which are an essential partner of the QR code). Feel free to take a look at

    • ajgodinho profile image

      Anthony Godinho 7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      @anonymous: Thanks for your input on QR codes. I've briefly checked your QR code generator and will test it out. If I find it good, I will feature it on this lens with the others that I have tested.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      QR Codes are in top 5 trends for 2011 and we like them very much.

      If it is not to pushy we would like to express our opinions about come interesting areas where QR Code can be really useful for businesses.

      Some ideas:

      1. QR Code Tracking - you can track all your QR Codes (i.e. that are printed somewhere in the city centre on large billboard posters) and see which generates most traffic for you

      2. Reusing existing QR Codes - if you already printed some QR Code that points to some live URL location you can keep existing printed QR Code and just change where it is pointing to (so you do not need to print it again)

      3. Inserting custom image (logo, message, ...) inside generated QR Code (branded QR Code)

      Recently we finished free QR Code generator ( that allows creating all sort of QR Codes. Tracking and reusing we talked above are already supported - soon will be custom logo/image integration. Hope you will like it.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Well, this is new to me and something to get familiar with for sure. Thanks aj for keeping us up with technology, fascinating!

    • profile image

      COCavemen 7 years ago

      Visit Liquid Spins to see how we deliver music downloads and other media via QR Codes and mobile technology.

    • SunShine80 LM profile image

      SunShine80 LM 7 years ago

      I always wondered what purpose these strange pattens performed. Thanks for sharing your knowledge. I'm now off to find out if I can use them beneficially for myself.

    • Bus Stop Toy Shop profile image

      Bus Stop Toy Shop 7 years ago

      Wow, I was only vaguely aware of these - I'm already on my way to one of the links above to have a look at how they could be used. Huge thanks!

    • UKGhostwriter profile image

      UKGhostwriter 7 years ago

      good lens - thank you

    • TapIn2U profile image

      TapIn2U 7 years ago

      Now this is something that EVERYBODY can browse and enjoy. I think everyone should know this QR codes. Great lens!

    • JanieceTobey profile image

      JanieceTobey 7 years ago

      I've never heard of QR codes before today! I'll be on the lookout for them!


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