Making a QR code yourself

Do you want to start using QR codes for your business? You can make them yourself. There are several free online tools you can use. In this article, QR expert Frans Hendrikx gives you some pointers, and security expert Jeroen Klaver tells you how to use QR codes safely.

Lately, QR codes have been used mostly for the corona entry pass. But they have been around for some time. QR codes make doing business easier for your clients. For instance, they can use QR codes to pay with their mobile: quick and easy. In some restaurants and bars, guests order using a QR code, solving the current staff shortage (in Dutch).
However, there is little know-how (in Dutch) on how to use QR codes safely. There was an increase in QR code fraud (in Dutch) in 2020, compared to previous years. So, if you do decide to start making your own QR codes, use them in a safe manner.

Start making QR codes

You can make your own QR code. There are several QR code generator websites. Which is the best choice for you? Your specific situation and targets can help you choose.
Use the following questions to assess: 

  • Do the QR codes you make remain valid? For some generators, the QR code expires after a while and stops working.
  • Is scanning the QR code free? Sometimes, only the first few scans are free, and you have to start paying per scan after that. 
  • Do you have access to data about the use of your QR code? For example, how often, where, when, and with which device your QR code is scanned. This will help you find out if your QR code reaches its targets.

General pointers

Omnisense Communicatie & Marketing owner Frans Hendrikx gives a few general pointers for making a QR code.

Target

What will you use the QR code for? What is the message you want to convey? For example, if a customer sees a QR code on the tag of a product in your shop, they will expect to get more product information. A QR code on your business card will most likely link to one of your social media channels, like Twitter.

Target audience

Who do you want to reach by using a QR code? Put yourself in your target audience’s shoes. Will they scan this code? A QR code on a poster will reach a different audience than a door-to-door flyer. 

Mobile website

People scan QR codes using their mobile. Always link to a mobile website that shows well on a smartphone display. 

Attractive

Make the QR code attractive, so that it invites customers to scan it. For example, by putting your logo in the centre of the code. And include a call to action, like ‘Watch this tutorial’.

Create a QR code online

Make a QR code for free on one of these websites:

Make a QR code

  • Choose your QR code colour and size. If you want to, place your logo in the centre.
  • Indicate the type of information the QR code will disclose: a website, phone number, or a text message.
  • Download your QR code as an image and print it: on your stationery, or as stickers.  

Using QR codes securely

How do you know that the QR code you are using is safe? 

1.    Free QR code generators are just as good as paid ones

“It is important to remember that the black-and-white pixels in a QR code are not good or bad”, says security expert Jeroen Klaver of KPN Security. What matters is where the QR code takes you. “If the target of your QR code is above board, it should be safe to use. The code refers to a safe place. Free QR code generator websites are just as safe as paid services. They use the same technology.”

2.    Put your QR code where you can see it

Fraudsters can use your QR codes to cheat people”, Klaver warns. “If you put up a QR code in your store or on your terrace, a criminal can put their own QR code on top of it.” Once customers scan that code, they land on an unsafe url. So, make sure you keep an eye on your QR code.

3.    That is a strange URL

Scan your own QR code regularly. Check the link. Does the address look suspicious, or is it a different one from what you expected? Then do not click on it. A suspicious link usually has a strange name, or an extension you did not expect (instead of .nl, for instance, it will say .co or .tl).

QR code alternatives

A QR code is less effective in the dark, because the code is harder to scan. And a QR code is no use without a mobile internet connection, because your customer will not be able to visit the website the code links to. In those cases, you may want to reconsider and hand out an ‘old-fashioned’ business card or flyer.
And there are other technologies you can use to establish a link with your customer. For example, if you want to receive information as well as give it. Here are 2 alternatives to the QR code:

Barcode

Many products have a barcode. A barcode contains less information than a QR code. And it usually requires a barcode scanner. Barcoding systems are often used in warehouses, for stock control. On narrow or rounded objects a barcode is more practical. For instance, on cables. A barcode scanner only needs a couple of millimetres of the label to scan the entire barcode. A QR code must always be fully visible to the scanner.

Near Field Communication chip

A Near Field Communication chip (NFC) allows your customers to pay with their mobile or debit card contact free. Not every smartphone has an NFC scanner, and the NFC tags you scan are not free. When you use NFC, you receive information, just like a QR code. But NFC can also be used to exchange information between 2 devices, for instance contact information, or a video. You cannot do that with a QR code.

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