QR codes are becoming a popular form of marketing for businesses but they do look quite bland in their native form. What a lot of people are not aware of is that QR codes can be altered a certain amount without changing the information that they contain. This can arouse more interest from potential scanners of your code.
I am going to show you a little about how you can enhance your code but, ultimately, what you can do is only limited by your own creativity. All I stress is that you constantly test your code as you alter it, little bits at a time, because at some point it will become unreadable. Try to use 3 or 4 different scanners if you can.
Firstly, I need to cover some important things about creating the initial code. QR codes use Reed-Solomon Error Correction. There are 4 levels of error correction available when creating a QR code, each one offering more scope to enhance the visual look of it. Some generators don’t offer an option for what level of error correction you want, so try to find one that does. For the examples here I used ZXing.
There are 4 error correction levels. Figure 1 shows the 2 pixels that tell what level a particular QR code uses. Figure 2 shows the different correction levels and the corresponding 2 pixel configuration which will always be in that bottom, left corner of the code. The code in Figure 1 uses Level L, so therefore only 7% of the code can be corrupted before it becomes unreadable.
The higher the correction level, the more you can alter your code. For example, a Level H code can have up to 30% of it corrupted before it is unreadable. However, the higher the level, the denser the code becomes. The denser the code is, the harder it becomes for scanners to decode it. This isn’t normally a problem with a URL but if you are going to store a Vcard, which contains a lot of characters, then you need to think about how much you want to alter your code. Figure 3 shows an example of 2 QR codes with the same data but different correction levels. Notice the left one is less dense than the one on the right.
So, on to the fun part….
As mentioned at the beginning, it pays to alter your code a little bit at a time and keep testing it to make sure it still works. All the alterations shown here were done on paint.net, but you can use just about any graphics program you wish.
One of the easiest and most effective thing you can do is change the colour of the code. The key thing to remember is that you need good contrast for scanners to be able to read the code.
As you can see, simply changing the black pixels to a different colour has brought the code alive. Avoid using white on a dark background as a lot of scanners cannot decode that type of contrast, the ones that can basically turn it into a negative to decode it.
Now I’m going to add a logo. Again, play around with the size of the logo, and test regularly.
To really attract attention to your QR code, why not change the shape of it a bit? The main thing to be careful of here is to make sure it still looks like a QR code. If it can’t be recognised then obviously people won’t scan it, defeating the whole purpose of having a code in the first place.
With a bit of crystalisation, I have changed the main shape of the code. I was able to scan this with a few different scanners, although it did take a little longer to decode it. If it was larger, it would have scanned easier but that is not always practical. The main thing I want to demonstrate is how much a code can be altered before it is completely unreadable. Also be aware that the quality of camera being used can have an impact on how a code is scanned.
So, have you got any ideas for your own codes yet? Check out some edible QR codes here to give you some inspiration.