The QR code is fast becoming a beacon for an ‘activate now, think later’ mentality, with a number of websites springing up to highlight the misinterpretation of this increasingly ubiquitous medium. Some are funny, some just beggar belief.
Although only 5% of the American public have ever bothered to scan the little black and white markers, the use of QR codes doesn’t appear to be letting up, with everyone from global superbrands to your local hardware store seemingly opting in. However, despite the promise of additional content that these markers often allude to, there seems to be very few companies delivering anything close to a credible pay off for taking the time to interact with the glorified barcodes.
The problem here often stems from a desire to use new technology simply because it is new technology, rather than using technology for its core purpose – as a tool, as a means to facilitate ideas.
One particularly good example of utilising a QR code as a tool to enhance user experience is Project Paperclip. The concept sees Portuguese photographer Nuno Serrão augmenting an exhibition of his work with QR code markers, which – when scanned with an accompanying app – provide a tailored soundtrack that compliments the visual experience, transporting viewers to a “parallel reality”.
It’s an idea that has been used before, notable by the Tate Gallery with its especially composed Tate Tracks exhibition. However, the interesting part here is in the app itself, which adjusts the soundtrack based on a users exact location, the time of day, proximity to others, and the noise in the room - generating a unique experience for every participant.
QR codes are not just about pushing a direct sales message, or traffic to a website or pre-existing content. They are a gateway. Make them easy to open, and most of all focus on what awaits behind the gate (something or someplace actually worth discovering), and not on the gate itself.