Welcome to our simple, step-by-step guide on how to create a QR code – updated for 2021.
QR codes are becoming more popular because consumers have finally learned how to use them. Restaurants, retail businesses, consultants and others all want to learn how to create QR codes to get noticed, generate sales — and do it with contactless solutions.
Any person with access to the web today can create a QR code. There are many free QR code generators and we include a list of the top QR code generators below with notes on the components of each. But first let’s start by understanding what QR codes are and how they work.
What Is a QR Code?
A QR code is a type of barcode that contains much more information than standard barcodes. QR codes look different too. Rather than simply bars and numbers like a barcode on a can of vegetables, QR codes usually come in a recognizable square shape, containing angled markers and more squares inside the body. A QR code can store up to 4296 characters — enough for a URL or web address, an email address and more.
QR stands for “quick response”, which means people get quick access to URLs or other information embedded in the code when it is scanned. Today, any consumer with a smartphone can scan QR codes to get access to a website address or other information.
Denso Wave Incorporated, a Toyota supplier, invented the QR code in 1994 for the automotive industry in Japan. In fact, the phrase “QR Code” is a registered trademark of Denso Wave Incorporated. But today the phrase has taken on broader meaning to generally describe this unique-looking barcode type.
How Do QR Codes Work?
The way QR codes work is that some party first generates a code, and then a user scans a QR code with a QR code reader, which today is usually a mobile phone.
QR codes may seem geeky, but it is not necessary to understand the complex technology behind them. Just know that there are two pieces to using QR codes: someone has to generate the code, and then the user has to scan the code to read it. Let’s break these two parts down further.
Generate QR Code
A business that wants to share information with customers or prospects has to first generate a QR code. For example, a restaurant might want to place a QR code on a direct mail postcard, linking to an online carryout menu.
To create a QR code you will need a QR code generator. A QR code generator is a software app that helps you create your own unique QR code image.
You can find many generators on the web to create a QR code. Pick a free QR code generator from our list below or, if you need advanced capabilities, pick a paid QR code generator. Enter the information you want to convey into the fields. Press a button.
Voila! The output is a QR code image file that you can download. You then insert the image onto marketing campaign materials, a tradeshow banner, a sign, an email, an ad or somewhere else.
Scan a QR Code
The second part of how a QR code works is that the party you intend to receive the information has to scan the QR code to “read” it. In our example, the intended user might be a potential customer who receives a postcard with a QR code on it.
The intended recipient uses a QR code reader or QR code scanner app. Today, a camera app in a mobile phone can do QR code scans. Many newer iPhone and Android smartphones come with this functionality built in. Or users can download a QR code scanning app from the relevant app store to their phones or to other devices like tablets and laptops.
The user points a phone at the QR code using the camera app. The app recognizes and “reads” the code, giving access to the information.
How to Create a QR Code
The steps to make a QR code are so easy, you will be wondering why you didn’t do it sooner. Ready to learn how to create a QR code?
1. Decide How You Plan to Use a QR Code
In step 1 of creating a QR code, select how you plan to use it. Start with the end in mind. What are your goals and needs? What information do you want to share?
A lot of QR code use cases relate to marketing. You may need to give users more information than you can fit into a small space such as an ad, so you place a scannable QR code that takes up very little space. A scan might lead the user to landing pages or prompt users to take some other action. Here are some use case examples:
- Use a static code to create a WiFi QR code to allow guests to join your WiFi network without manually entering a password. Read: QR Codes for WiFi.
- Add a vcard QR code to business cards. Your name, phone number, email address and other contact details in the QR code content can be downloaded instantly to the recipient’s phone.
- Create a QR code to send people to a website address where they can like your Facebook page, LinkedIn or other social media profiles. People may not physically type in a website URL, but will quickly scan QR codes.
- How about storing your bitcoin or crypto address in a QR code?
- Create a QR code that leads users to Google Maps directions to your showroom or office, and place the code in flyers or print ads.
- Get QR codes created to send an SMS message to customers containing a coupon code or plain text instructions.
See more QR code use cases for small businesses at: 50 Uses for QR Codes.
2. Find a QR Code Generator
The second step to create QR codes is to find a QR code generator.
QR code generator apps are easy to use. You enter some information into the appropriate field, press a button, and you get one of the odd looking QR codes instantly in the form of an image. You then paste or insert the image in post cards, a business card, a sign or promotional materials.
Free QR code generators are a good place to start if your needs are simple and you just want to create one QR code. If you plan multiple campaigns using codes, or have specific design or feature needs, then a paid platform offers more flexibility. Keep your needs in mind as you review our list of the best QR code generators below.
3. Decide Static or Dynamic QR Code
Before you create a QR code, it’s important to know the two main QR code types: static and dynamic.
Static QR Codes
A static QR code is fixed, meaning the data that is stored in it cannot be changed once the QR code has been generated. A good usage for this QR code type is to create a VCard with your contact details for a digital business card. Static information works fine in this type of QR code because the contact information you share rarely changes.
Dynamic QR Codes
A dynamic QR code is one that is changeable. This is accomplished through a redirected URL. The content is not stored in the QR code, but instead in the website URL. Here are a few attributes of dynamic QR codes:
- If you need to change anything, you can change the redirected URL or change the content on the destination web address.
- In addition, you can capture and measure scan statistics with a dynamic QR code.
- You can even do automatic downloads. For example, create PDF file documents that immediately download as soon as the user scans. Make sure the file size of any PDF is not too large, because it will be stored in the user’s phone.
- Remember, the user must be connected to the internet to use dynamic QR codes because the user will be directed to a web URL such as a landing page with a call to action.
Dynamic QR codes are the most popular option for marketing purposes. Most marketers will be using dynamic codes.
4. Enter Information and Customize the QR Code
The next step is to enter data and customize your QR code. You must, however, choose a QR code generator that supports the design options you want. Not all services will have the settings to let you create QR code designs so don’t choose the first name you come across.
For example, you can get really creative, going beyond the traditional black and white QR code. Add a logo to build brand awareness. Imagine your recognizable company logo or favicon appearing in the center of a code. Customize to your brand colors by choosing another color other than black and white. Even add a map, animation or music.
Test your QR code to make sure it is working and sends users to the right destination. Usually you can scan the preview with a QR code scanner to test it.
Testing is especially important for a static code, because you cannot edit it. Once you’ve printed business cards with a static code, for example, you would have to reprint them to correct typos.
5. Download Your QR Code
Step 5 is to download the QR code you’ve created to your computer. The best generator platforms allow you to save QR images in different file formats. And the format you choose should take into consideration where you are going to use the QR code. Print, for example, requires higher quality formats.
ONLINE: If you are going to use QR codes on a webpage, then a tif, gif, jpeg, jpg, bmp or png format will work. One advantage of a png format is that it preserves all the color information as well as opacity and transparency with high resolution.
PRINT: If you plan to put the code in a print campaign, you need print quality that will be crisp and clear when printed. This can be a svg, eps, or pdf vector graphic. They can be proportionally resized without losing quality. And this is important to keep the integrity of your QR code. A high resolution png file also works for print.
Whether digital or print, the QR code must be clear and not blurry. This is because QR code readers can perform differently depending on the operating system and camera of the mobile device. Android and iOS operating systems, as well as BlackBerry, all have different reading capabilities.
After downloading, you’re ready to share your QR code on promotional materials, on your website, or in other locations. Make your QR code highly visible. That’s the ultimate goal.
QR Code Benefits
QR codes are gaining popularity and one of the biggest selling points for businesses is convenience and ease of use by customers. To scan a QR code, customers just point and focus their mobile phone cameras on the code.
Here are seven ways QR codes benefit a small business:
- Inexpensive –Reduce the cost of print brochures, instructions for products, and marketing materials.
- Green – Cut down on printed materials meaning less waste for the environment.
- High Conversion – Increase conversions with QR Codes. Make it easy on people, without typing things in, and they will be more likely to take action.
- Engaging – Use QR codes to get customers to interact with your company, e.g., enter a contest or complete a survey to leave feedback.
- Customer Satisfaction Oriented- Include installation or product care instructions on QR codes placed on packaging or tags to increase customer satisfaction. Packaging remains uncluttered, and users will have product information in their mobile devices where they can find it later, versus print instructions that may get lost.
- Trackable – Use dynamic QR codes to track how many times your code is getting scanned and measure other performance metrics. You will need a QR code creation app that supports QR code management in this fashion giving you analytics or the ability to download statistics.
- Contactless – Offer contactless payment and pickup of orders for visitors using QR codes. Read more at: Restaurants go contactless.
Best QR Code Generators List
Here is a list of the best QR Code generators to create codes — both free and premium. You can visit the QR code generator site using traditional links. We’ve also included the QR codes to scan to visit each site, because we wanted to highlight just how easy it is to create a QR code.
Visualead offers branded and highly visual codes which it says get 50% to 400% more scans. These QR codes include 20 data types to connect your customers from your vCard to YouTube and other destinations. Visualead is used by some of the top global brands, but has a price point even small businesses can afford, starting at free for just the basics. Visit Visualead or use the following QR code.
Scanova is a QR code generation platform that creates basic, non-designed codes for free. Other tools include an API, and QR SDK which can generate a high volume of static codes. It has a DIY design tool so you can edit color or patterns. You can add a logo but this is only available to premium subscribers. Click the Scanova.io URL or scan the code and visit the site.
Established in 2009 by Egoditor, QR-Code-Generator is one of the earliest companies to provide the service online. The company offers non-URL based codes that are free and will never expire. The Pro level lets you fully customize your dynamic QR code with your branding. You can track when and where people are scanning your codes and export the data in CSV reports. A neat feature: you can create an image gallery QR code. Visit QR-Code-Generator.com. Or scan the following QR code.
If you want a completely free QR code service, GoQR.me is a good site, but it is limited to static QR codes. The company prides itself in encrypting your QR code during transmission with TLS/SSL and not storing it. This ensures your privacy and that of your users. If you want dynamic QR code service, it is available for a fee. Visit with the GoQR.me URL or use the following QR code.
QRStuff offers codes with more than 25 data types, and 23 of them are available in the free tier. The company also provides custom QR code printed products you can put on t-shirts, coffee cups, hats, and other objects. This is another way to engage with your potential customers. Visit QRStuff or scan the following.
Shopify Shopcode App
If you are a Shopify ecommerce seller, the Shopify Shopcode app helps you create QR codes that are tied to your Shopify store. Shopcodes can be placed in your physical store so people can find more product details or variations such as the color. Or they can be placed on ecommerce pages to provide more product information. Read: Shopify QR Codes. Or check it out by scanning this code.
The codes from QR Tiger give you 16 different data types. And you can use different patterns to create the image for the QR code. This includes adding your logo, millions of colors, and frames. You also get a choice of templates to give your code a unique look. Visit the QR Tiger URL or scan the following.
Do you want a different shape for your next QR code? Flowcode creates round codes with beautiful customized designs and multiple data types, with your logo and other design details. And don’t worry, the shape doesn’t affect its ability to get scanned. All its tiers provide unlimited scans, real-time analytics, unexpired codes and ultra-fast scanning. This round QR code is from Flowcode.
This is one of the best free QR code generator sites. Codes do not expire and you also get the highest resolutions for print with vector svg, eps, and pdf formats for download. There’s also a premium version called QRCode Studio. Visit QRCode Monkey or scan this code to take you there.
Becaonstac specializes in proximity marketing using QR codes, geofences, beacons, and NFC. The QR code you create can be integrated with Google Analytics, accommodate GPS location scans, and provide Zapier integration. This also comes with templates, different data formats, colors and logo options. Here’s an example of Beaconstac code:
Unitag has an easy-to-use interface for creating a QR code quickly with lifetime code validity. This includes full customization of modules and allows you to add your logo. You get advanced scans, analytics with multiple QR code redirects, custom domain name and batch and API generation. Visit Unitag.io or scan the following code.
Best Practice Tips for QR Code Creation
Remember, the QR codes you create must be readable by other devices. Some QR code reader apps are touchy. Getting it right can be tricky. Here are best practices and takeaways for how to make a QR code:
- Make it Big Enough: The recommended size for a QR code is one inch by one inch. It can be a little smaller or bigger, but clarity is the most important thing.
- Be Careful of Density: Limit how much data you put in a QR code, regardless of its storage capacity. The more data, the more dense it will appear. And the more chance for user errors, because some people will have minimal-quality mobile phone cameras offering limited ability to detect each marker and shapes.
- Consider Advanced QR Generator Features: The more important your marketing campaigns and the more usage you plan, the more important it is to choose a tool with advanced capabilities. Free generators are great to get started but have limitations. When you get serious with mobile marketing or need custom QR codes, you will want an account on a premium platform.
- Look for Error Correction: Pick a good tool that will support error correction when creating QR codes. This is particularly important for a high-profile marketing campaign.
- Use Contrast: Pay attention to placement of the image and choose a white background color. It’s important to have contrast against the pixels in the QR code image.
- Include a Border: Include a sufficient plain margin or “quiet zone” around the QR code to distinguish it from any background designs.
- Watch Image Version: Always save the QR code as a high quality image. Use the proper graphic formats and high-resolution image files for print items. For print, a vector format, svg or eps formats are better than jpg or png.
- Do Testing: Test your QR code with your own mobile device. Do a number of scans, and get other people to test with a variety of mobile phones. Make sure the destination link is correct. Failure to test can cost you time and money.
Finally, consider adding a text call to action below the QR code, saying something like “scan me to sign up for deals” or “scan for more info”. This prompts a person to take action.
Are QR Codes Free?
You can create free QR codes with dozens of tools online. Most of the QR code generators on the web offer a free plan with limited features. However, you have to upgrade to a premium product if you want customization and advanced options.
Get Started Creating QR Codes
QR code creation is easy, fast, cheap and efficient. Small business owners take note. It’s worth experimenting with a code. QR codes are also now a proven technique, because American consumers have finally caught on to them. Twenty five years after the QR code was invented, its time has arrived.
One last tip: don’t overthink it. Get started, experiment and learn as you go. Pick a free generator. Take a few shots at generating codes until you find an idea that works. Create some free QR codes and test them on your target audience. You can always transition later to an advanced QR code generator.
QR Code Image via Shutterstock