QR codes have many flaws, but at least one estate agent thinks they’re here to stay

Posted September 18, 2011 in mobile, user centred design  |  1 Comment so far

There’s been a bit of discussion lately about QR Codes, those blocky visual tags that try to make the real world machine-readable.

They’ve been with us for a while and, unlike NFC, most of us have had phones capable of using them for some time. But have you used QR codes more than once or twice in your life?

I certainly haven’t. Maybe in five years nostalgic 20-somethings will ask each other, “hey do you remember QR codes?”, and they will, but in the same way as my generation remembers laser discs or Global Hypercolour T-shirts: we knew they existed, but never really made them a part of our lives. There are too many points of failure:

Points of failure when using QR codes

Points of failure when using QR codes

Anyway, not everyone agrees with me about QR codes. Recently I came across this sign in an estate agent’s window on Upper Street, Islington:

"You'll be seeing a lot more of these around"

"You'll be seeing more and more of these around" - sign in an Islington estate agent's window

Maybe they’re right, but I’m still not convinced.

It’s not that the fundamental idea is bad. Building bridges between the physical and virtual worlds makes sense, and hyperlinks or metadata embedded in real-world objects is an obvious way of doing that. But for the idea to succeed the execution has to be far more elegant than this.

1 comment so far.  Post a comment

  1. Naomi
    October 11, 2011 at 8:31 am [ Permalink

    The other specific thing I worry about is whether someone will swipe my smartphone while I’m standing there earnestly trying to get the tag into focus. QR tags have also spawned their own form of street-art. On the corner of Hoxton Square as it goes down to Hoxton Street, just opposite the school, there’s a QR tag in *mosaic form* (a bit like the Space Invader ones), but my QR reader refuses to read it. I can’t finally decide whether that’s part of the game/social comment or whether I’m missing out on some valuable nugget of coded goodness. Annoying.

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