They are a 2 dimensional code that can be scanned by a smartphone to automatically pull up information such as URLs, phone number, videos, photographs, music, text etc.
QR stands for ‘Quick Response’ and QR codes were first developed in Japan by a company called Denso-Wave in 1994. In essence QR codes are 2 dimensional bar codes that can be read both vertically and horizontally. The codes consist of a grid of tiny squares. This allows for far more data to be encoded in a much smaller space than a conventional bar code.
QR codes are readable by smartphones and QR scanners. Initially they were used to track car parts in Japan, where they are very popular, but now they have a much wider commercial use within the digital world. They can be added to a business card or an email to send someone with a reader directly to your website.
So, whereas a bar code pretty much can only identify a product and needs a special device to be scanned, QR codes can embed much more information and trigger an action when read such as downloading a music file or launching a website directly on your phone.
Imagine how easy this make it for someone to go to your website, without the bother of actually typing in the url, especially useful if you have a less than memorable or difficult to spell web address.
Some popular uses of QR codes:
Contact information – add all your contact information including phones numbers, office address, website and email
Name tags: Add all your information to your name tag at a conference and colleagues can simply scan it to download all your details.
Art: Street artist Banksy has a piece of work in a disused railway tunnel in London which includes a QR code, when scanned this code takes you directly to his Wikipedia page.
Shop Windows: In the US Google is sending out QR code decals to small businesses on Google Places, to be placed in the shop windows for passers-by to scan.
QR codes are still fairly alien to most people, so make it a little easier for them by adding something of value. Don’t just send them to your website when scanned, maybe send them to a special offer page, just for users of QR codes, add something of value to encourage your users.
Whatever you decide to do enjoy using your codes and start being creative as they are likely to become extremely popular as more and more people surf the net on smartphones.