Using QR Codes

QR codes can be useful tools for marketing (including for lawyers) and other uses – but they are a tool that must be used correctly, not a strategy on their own. At a TechAlliance session this morning on QR codes Donnie Claudino of TechAlliance and Jonathan Kochis of Resolution Interactive Media talked about how to use them. 

To put them in context, consider that some extimate that half of all web traffic will be mobile by 2015.

A lot of the bad press QR codes have received are based on poor uses. Examples of QR code fails can be seen here and here. A prime example of a poor use would be this code:

First, it is in a blog post, so a link should be used, not a QR code. It doesn’t make any sense to have to pull out a phone and take an image of a QR code on a web page. And second, it takes you back to the Slaw homepage, which is pointless when you are already on Slaw reading this, so it adds no value.

Keep in mind that QR codes are useable for more than just advertising. Indeed, they were originally developed by Toyota to track vehicles during the manufacturing process. A manufacturer might, for example, place them on its product to point users to a site for replacement parts or accessories or operating manuals.

Some tips:

Make the experience valuable – think of what the QR code provides the user.

Make it easy to scan (eg not on a roadside billboard).

It must go to a mobile friendly place (eg a mobile friendly web page, and no flash).

Don’t use in places without wifi or 3G (eg an in-flight magazine, or a subway).

Give users a clue about what the QR code does to encourage its use.

Test it on different devices before it is published.


  1. We should note it requires someone to download a QR code reader app to a mobile device to use these. The device uses its camera to scan the code. On my iPhone I am using the aptly named “QR Reader” but there are others.

    I had fun yesterday trying out the QR codes in a store flyer (Winners). It took me from photos of a model wearing some new clothing products to short little videos on YouTube with one of the store’s fashion experts talking about the trends the clothing items embodied and suggestions for wearing the items in different ways. If law firms or law schools are handing out any print assets, a similar tactic might be a fun way to supplement the content with something on the web.

    When I attended the Grace Kelly exhibit recently in Toronto at TIFF, they had supplementary audio content to the exhibit available via QR codes posted on the walls as an alternative to the traditional audio tour. Unfortunately I was the only one using them at the time I was there, most people did not seem to know what the codes were for. I am thinking this sort of example might have some value in libraries or archives if we can get people to understand what they are and how they work. That will be the trick!

  2. Statutes and Regulations posted on the BC Laws website each have a QR code linking back to their electronic version on the website.

    If you have a printed version of an Act and need to confirm with your mobile device that the provisions you are reading are up to date, there can be some benefit. I don’t think however that anyone needs to read the whole document on their mobile device when they have a paper version available in the first place.

    Unfortunately, on the BC Laws website the actual code is not displayed on the main document but only accessible through a link on a second page. When you print the document itself, you don’t get the QR code but merely an icon.

  3. Have you tried for creating and tracking qr codes at no cost? This site is really easy to use and has great reports built in.

  4. Jonathan Kochis

    Thanks for including me in this post David. There are indeed some limiting factors when it comes to QR codes (understanding what they are, having to download an app) but what they represent, the bridge between physical and digital, is key. It’s quite likely that the future doesn’t belong to QR codes but I’m hopeful that the lessons learned with QR codes will lead to a better understanding of how to use technology like NFC and augmented reality.

  5. Interesting point about QR codes being an interim step to NFC, location based or augmented reality. Those technologies add a layer of privacy, spam and permission that will be interesting to sort out and watch as it unfolds. A QR code only does something when the user takes a positive step – while location based technology has the ability to send us unwanted and unrequested stuff.