Of QR Codes and Restrooms

Yesterday I came across¬†a printed advertisement containing a QR code. It was in a bathroom, so you can imagine what I was doing while staring at it. I was peeing. I’ve been in a similar situation before, and it let me thinking about the reasons of why QR might not be that popular.

Tzec QR Code
Scan me ūüôā

I think that one reason is a translation issue.¬†I mean¬†changing from an abstract visual data/information¬†to some data/information that a person can understand. When we observe¬†QR codes, they basically¬†mean¬†or¬†denote nothing. In that regard, why should a user need to carry out a set of steps to translate, discover what the QR code says? In that bathroom situation, why should I have to take my phone out, look for the appropriate app and scan the code?¬†I can easily google the name of the restaurant by using the same device at that moment. It’d be faster! Those¬†steps for translating the visual abstract data/information¬†from¬†the QR code into a form that a human can understand seem to be unnecessary.

Translation issue when interaction with a QR code
Translation issue when interaction with a QR code

Nonetheless, I do think that QR codes provide an interesting opportunity to design for user experience. Imagine this, as some cameras can detect faces and smiles, it’d be great that our smartphones can detect the QR code and do something with it. Automatize something. For instance, imagine that once you scan the QR code, your phone downloads an app and feeds it with your personal data stored in the phone. Consequently, a restaurant knows “your taste” and offers you a bottle of wine, free desert, or takes into account to guide you in your search for similar restaurants elsewhere.

UX Design and QR Codes
What experience can we design for QR codes?

We have the QR codes. They’re design is there. It’s restrictive. However, I little bit of imagination could bring us to exploit the use of QR codes better.¬†They were invented for some reason. And people are still using them for some reason. An interesting UX design space seems to be there to explore and re-think the purpose and UX with QR codes, including how to make that¬†translation issue¬†seamless or better, get rid of it.




Thanks to I just learned that QR might be more popular than I thought. Want to know more?¬†Read “QRishing: The Susceptibility of Smartphone Users to
QR Code Phishing Attacks”

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  • sixtycycles

    Personally I think that the main problem with QR codes is that they are fugly. They had the opportunity to improve on something like a bar code -ugly as well if you ask me- and they come up with QR codes? I don’t get it. The name is also unappealing. It sounds like something that came out from a stocking warehouse.

    The translation problem that you mention is also a big issue. Personally, I wouldn’t spend any time trying to make QR codes better. Throw them in the garbage and start again!