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QR Codes 101: Everything you need to know

Have you ever seen a QR code while out and about and wondered what it was for? From advertisements on billboards and restaurants to ticket stubs at movie theaters and in marketing brochures, it seems there are endless possibilities for QR code placements. But what exactly is a QR code, and why would you want to use one?

The following guide to QR codes and QR code generators will tell you everything you need to know — while giving you application tips and tricks for your personal life or business.

Intro to QR codes

They are everywhere, but what are they? In the following section we'll breakdown the basic of QR codes — what they are, who invented them, and how they are different than traditional barcodes.

What does QR code stand for?

QR is short for "quick response." The term refers to the speed at which you can access the information contained within the code.

What are QR codes?

QR codes are two-dimensional barcodes that can open to almost digital location when scanned. They are often black and white on a white background, but Flowcode offers uniquely customizable options for colors, fonts, shapes, patterns, and more.

When a user scans the QR code with their smartphone’s camera, they are automatically directed to the intended digital destination.

What’s the difference between a barcode and a QR code?

Both barcodes and QR codes can store a variety of information; however, they differ in the type and volume of information they are able to store in each type of code. Barcodes use simple horizontal patterns of lines and spaces to represent numbers and letters. Barcode scanners and readers can interpret these patterns to determine the data they contain.

In contrast, QR codes contain more information than traditional barcodes because they include a two-dimensional matrix of dots within the pattern. This structural difference allows QR codes to store 100 times more information than a barcode — and within a smaller space, too.

QR code generator

How do QR codes work?

When you scan a QR code with your smartphone's camera, you will instantly see a link pop up with information on the product, location, or anything associated with that code. For example, when you scan a QR code at a restaurant, you’ll be directed to their website or online menu.

Who invented QR codes and why?

As an engineer at automotive technology manufacturer Denso, Hara Masahiro invented the QR code in the 1990s as a way to better track automotive parts. The previous system of using barcodes proved to be inefficient, as employees would have to scan boxes up to 10 times to track their contents. With the invention of QR codes, employees were able to access a large volume of information in a single scan of each code and thereby streamline the inventory process. It also gave life to a new technology that quickly conveys information to consumers.

qr code generator

Why are QR codes unique?

There are several key features that give QR codes a unique advantage over other forms of marketing:
QR codes can store large volumes of information, unlike barcodes. When scanned, QR codes take users directly to any kind of online destination, enabling marketers to connect their offline audiences with digital experiences, such as videos, documents, menus, promotional content, websites, social media pages, and more.
QR codes are small enough to be placed in a variety of places, including product packaging, marketing materials, and advertisements. This makes them versatile and easy to integrate into any existing marketing strategy.
Error Correction
QR codes are resilient with built-in error correction. This makes them capable of withstanding a significant amount of dirt and damage before becoming unreadable.

Dynamic QR codes contain links that you can change any time. With Flowcode’s dynamic QR codes, you’re able to track the number of times your campaign has been viewed and, collect insights on how well it performed, and update your campaign in real-time whenever you need to swap in new information.

Using QR codes

How do I use a QR code?

All current versions of today’s smartphones are equipped with QR code readers, so you don’t need to download a QR reader app. Simply open the camera app on your smartphone, center the QR code within the square frame on your camera, and tap on the external link that appears. You will be directed effortlessly to the QR code’s online destination. Check out this article for a quick rundown on scanning QR codes from your phone.

qr code generator

How do I scan a QR code on an iPhone?

To scan a QR code on iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch, open your device’s camera app, select the rear-facing camera, and point it at the code. The camera will automatically process the code and prompt you to tap on the notification banner at the top of the screen; this is where you’ll find the information stored in the QR code. You can also pull down on the banner to learn more about the QR code’s contents before tapping on it. To use your iPhone camera with QR codes:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Scroll down and tap on Camera.
  3. Toggle on the Scan QR Codes option so it appears green.

How do I scan a QR code on an Android?

Scanning a QR code on your Android is similar to scanning on an iPhone or any other device. On most devices, you can simply open your camera app and point your rear-facing camera at the QR code. You’ll then see a banner pop up with the designated URL contained within the QR code.

If you don’t see a popup banner, you can also tap on the Google Lens icon on your screen; it looks like a circle inside a broken box. You can also check the settings in your Android device to ensure the Google Lens suggestions feature is enabled.

How do I scan a QR code on a Samsung?

Scanning a QR code on a Samsung device is no different than any other device; simply open your camera app, point the rear-facing camera at the QR code, and you’ll see a banner notification with the intended URL. If you don’t see a popup, go to your Settings  and make sure you've toggled on the Scan QR codes option.

How much does a QR code cost?

It’s free to create a QR code with Flowcode! Our free QR code generator allows you to set up your own dynamic QR code in 60 seconds or less with simple, step-by-step instructions. Flowcode gives you three free dynamic QR codes, plus two free Flowpages, which allow you to set up fully customized, mobile-first landing pages. Your Flowcodes are not only free, but they also last forever and are easy to update anytime you need to make changes. Upgrade to a paid QR code generator plan to unlock even more features for your business.

qr code generator

How do I generate a QR code?

Step 1: Go to flowcode.com.

Choose the destination where you want your scans to go. Options include a website, a file, a YouTube video, social accounts, text messages, emails, and more. Start creating now!

Step 2: Create your design.

You will then have the option to personalize your Flowcode with a pattern, such as a Memorial Day theme or spring colors.

Step 3: Download your code.

Choose your desired file format, enter your email to create a Flowcode account, and click the Download Code button to receive your code. Start sharing it however you please!

What is the safest QR code generator?

Data privacy is a growing concern in the digital age, as more and more people are sharing personal information online. While QR codes are gaining popularity, people want to better understand the risks that come with using them.

The primary issue with QR codes is that, unlike on a desktop device, it’s not always easy to see the details about the code’s destination. Some QR codes can open the door to countless spam emails, calls, or texts. They can also make you vulnerable to malicious acts by cyber criminals, such as phishing, malware attacks, financial theft, and more.

With Flowcode, we take every precaution to ensure security and privacy so that your customers can scan with confidence. This makes Flowcode the safest option out there among the available QR code generators. Here’s why:

● We include our privacy page, privacy.flowcode.com, on every QR code generated — making it easy for users to see the platform behind the code, know exactly where the code was generated, and access our privacy policy.

● All of our codes are compliant with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), the highest levels of privacy standards. GDPR, a comprehensive consumer privacy law that was implemented by the European Union, requires businesses to provide consumers with full transparency on how their data will be used while also ensuring that the data is securely stored and managed. CCPA, which applies to California residents and any organization that targets people in California, gives consumers the opportunity to learn what personal data is being collected as well as opt out of its sale or request that it be deleted.

● We are constantly staying updated with the latest privacy and security practices to provide a safe browsing experience for anyone who uses our QR codes. Flowcode offers peace of mind and ensures your organization is handling customer data safely and securely.

qr code privacy

How long does a QR code last?

Unlike some other QR codes, Flowcodes last forever! They never expire, and they are dynamic, allowing you to update your code’s destination anytime. This makes them a cost-effective option for marketers looking to maximize every dollar.

Setting a destination for your QR code

How do you get a QR code for a website?

Step 1: Go to flowcode.com, and select "Website" as your desired destination.

Step 2: Type or copy and paste the destination URL into the editable field. You can also choose a pattern, select the color of the QR code modules, and upload your own logo or create a logo if desired.

Step 3: Select your desired file format, enter your email address, and click on the Download Code button. That’s it!

How do you make a QR code for a Google form?

Step 1: Go to flowcode.com, and select Google Doc as your desired destination.

Step 2: Type or copy and paste the Google form or document’s URL into the editable field. When a user scans your code, they’ll be taken directly to the document. Pro tip: Make sure your document’s sharing settings are set to allow anyone with the link to access the file.

Step 3: Select your desired file format, enter your email address, and click on the Download Code button to get your code and start sharing it.

How do you add a menu to a QR code?

Step 1: Go to flowcode.com, and select your desired destination for your menu. This could be a website, a file, or an image, for example.

Step 2: Type or copy and paste the destination URL or file into the editable field, or upload an image from your device.

Step 3: Select your desired file format, enter your email address, and click on the Download Code button to get your code and start sharing your menu.

qr code generator

Printing QR codes

How small can a QR code be?  

Aim for a minimum size of 1x1 inch on small- to medium-size assets, such as business cards, flyers, or social media posts. This size is easy to scan by most smartphones, helping to increase customer engagement, yet will not take up too much real estate on your printed materials or web pages. When in doubt and if you have the space, it’s best to go bigger with your Flowcode so customers can easily scan.

What’s the best way to print a QR code?

Always test a sample of your QR code before printing thousands of cards, flyers, or shirts with your Flowcode. Try printing out your code on a piece of paper, and make sure it’s clear, easy to scan, and redirects to your intended destination. If you are unable to scan your code after printing it, make sure you are following all of our best practices, and feel free to reach out to [email protected] for more assistance.

Here are some additional tips to keep in mind:

● When printing on a flyer or a poster, make sure your Flowcode is large enough to be scanned from a distance.

● For smaller items like business cards or postcards, follow the 1-inch-square rule.

● Note that printing on glossy material or placing your QR code behind a glass or acrylic panel can make it harder to scan. Minimizing glare will ensure your code is easily scannable.

● When hanging printed materials with your Flowcode, place them at or near eye level for easy viewing and scanning.

Ready to get going?

If you're in the market for a free QR code generator, Flowcode is the best fit for you. With quick setup, a free plan to try, and affordable options as you scale, it's the best option for your business or personal needs.