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Using QR codes effectively

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📥  Communication

QR codes are increasingly in use around campus and, regardless of opinions of whether they are actually useful or not, there are still some best practices to follow to get the best results:

  • legibility
  • suitability of destination
  • statistics tracking


You have to remember the practicalities of QR codes - it's no use putting them on a billboard in the middle of a train route - no-one can get out their phone, load the scanning app and get a decent picture in anything less than ~10 seconds. Similarly, it's no use putting them on a poster which is too high, or on the bottom of a poster which is stuck at ground level. In the same vein you need to maximise the number of people who can scan the code correctly - don't play with the colours! It's black on white or nothing.


You might have the best, most whizzy, dynamically updating, image scrolling, pop-uppy website in the world, which all your users tell you they love, but it'll probably suck on a mobile phone. You don't need to test on a thousand different phones, but having a good idea of the capabilities of the devices that your target audience has will help you keep it simple and deliver a good experience once they've scanned your code. They'll love you for it.

Statistics tracking

If your QR code goes straight to a target page without going through an intermediary, you will have no idea whether your campaign has been successful or not. Lots of URL-shortening tools will also give you statistics on the number of visitors, when they came etc. - using one will also keep your QR code simple, and be easier to scan. The other part of this is authenticity - if you are publishing a QR code and the user has an expectation of where it will take them, then why are you sending them to a address? Far better would be to either run your own in-house URL shortener, or create a simple PHP file which exists on your domain and is just used to increment a counter and redirect people to the full URL. The latter won't give you detailed statistics, but it'll be far better than nothing.

Have you got any more advice for anyone wanting to use QR codes? Let us know in the comments!

3 Responses to “Using QR codes effectively”

  1. Jez Cope on

    Thanks for this Phil, some really useful advice. I'll be sure to point any academics who ask me about QR codes in this direction.

    Are you able to comment on this advice from the University of Bath perspective? Particularly, how well do our web pages degrade on mobile, and are there statistics available from our own QR code generator?

    By the way, my favourite use of QR codes remains our library catalog — not a URL in sight, just a very easy way to note down a shelfmark so I can find the book.

  2. Phil Wilson on

    There are a few aspects here -

    a) the pages look great on an ipad 😉
    b) our templates aren't responsive, so they don't shrink and grow with screen size - this is where we want to be, but need to work it into the schedule somehow!
    c) we provide for mobile visitors to access some of our central services (maps etc.) - we don't currently do a great job of linking to this through from the relevant areas of the site, but will be doing so shortly
    d) for the last 8 months or so all visitors to the external homepage on screens <1024px wide have seen a message asking for feedback on how the site works on their device. The vast majority have praised both the main site and m.bath - where we've had specific complaints we've either made changes or noted them for future work.

    We do have some basic stats for but nothing hugely useful. Because of some infrastructure changes we'll probably have to redo part of go.bath and will probably look at either improving that side of it or migrating to a tools like

    The QR code for shelfmarks is good yes, I've used it a few times myself!

  3. Mike Nolan on

    I just saw a tweet 99 character tweet containing a link to a picture of a QR code which resolved to 90 characters of text. With two typos.

    We've been using YOURLS for about a year and pretty happy with it:

    If you adopt it our bit of Mod Rewrite for doing QR codes is:

    RewriteRule ^([0-9A-Za-z]+).qr/?$$1/qr [P,L]

    And we have a custom plugin allowing anything after an extra slash to be passed through as a Google Analytics campaign code.


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