What Is the Difference Between a Static and Dynamic QR Code?

The largest difference between static vs. dynamic QR codes is that dynamic QR codes can be edited even after they have been created and/or printed. 

Dynamic QR codes are effectively scanning an encoded URL link that directs them to an online QR code generator where information is stored. This is contrary to static QR codes, where information is stored directly within the patterns of the actual code. 

In this guide, we take a look at the main differences between static and dynamic QR codes, examine how they are most commonly used, and determine which option is best for small businesses.


Static vs. Dynamic QR Code

Static

A static QR code is a type of QR code that cannot be changed after it has been created. This is because all of a static QR code’s information is stored within the QR code itself. 

QR codes are made up of a white background and black modules. These are aligned in separate ways and together contain the information that is included within static QR codes. 

This inevitably means the larger or more complex the information that is stored on a static QR code, the larger that QR code has to be. On rare occasions, this can make static QR codes load up slowly or even not load up at all. 

Since any information scanned is included within the patterns within the QR code, static QR codes cannot be changed after they have been created or printed because the actual design of the QR code would need to change as well.

When Should I Use Static QR Codes?

Static QR codes are the most common form of QR code for small businesses. This is because they are generally free, easy to make, and effective.

Of course, this will depend on the QR code generator that you use. 

Static QR codes can be exceptionally useful when it comes to:

  • One-time-use QR codes: If you are planning to use QR codes for a very short period of time, you will likely benefit from using static QR codes because they are entirely free (e.g., a special event in a restaurant or hotel). 
  • Personal information: Personal information QR codes (e.g., email addresses, business phone numbers, LinkedIn profiles, etc.) are generally static because they seldom change. 
  • Information that you do not want to be editable: Static QR codes can be very convenient for sensitive information that you do not want changed (e.g., employee numbers, access codes, contract PDFs, etc.). 

Static vs. Dynamic QR Codes: Do Static QR Codes Ever Expire?

No, static QR codes cannot expire even if you want them to. This is because the information within a static QR code is stored within the pattern of the code itself. 

In order for a QR code to “expire,” it would need to be physically damaged to the point where QR codes can no longer read it adequately.

Dynamic

A dynamic QR code is a type of QR code that can be edited after it has been created and even after it has been printed. 

The information users attempt to scan when using a dynamic QR code isn’t found in the patterns of the code itself. Contrarily, a short URL link is found within the pattern, which redirects users to the information stored in an online QR code generator. 

This makes it very easy to edit the information on a dynamic QR code after it has been created and shared because all you are essentially doing is changing where a specific link is directing consumers — the pattern of the QR code stays the exact same.

In most cases, dynamic QR codes are not free and are also not limitless when it comes to the number of times that they can be scanned. If you want to use dynamic QR codes for your business, you will need to be prepared to sign up with an online QR code provider and choose your preferred monthly plan. 

When Should I Use Dynamic QR Codes?

Dynamic QR codes generally shine when it comes to printed advertising. This is because they offer a way for businesses to operate in a much “safer” way. 

If a printing mistake is made, or if they realize that they need to direct users to a different source, they retain the option of fixing this at any time, even after they have printed and shared their QR codes. 

Dynamic QR codes can also be used for:

  • Menu QR codes: In restaurants, cafes, or bars, dynamic QR codes are ideal because the content of the menus can change multiple times a year. Instead of printing multiple sets of menus, these types of businesses can actually save money by operating more efficiently. 
  • Contactless payments: Any QR code that allows users to make contactless payments is a dynamic QR code. This is because conventional QR codes lack the space needed to store the massive degree of information needed for such a feature. 
  • Tracking marketing metrics: Dynamic QR codes allow businesses to determine exactly when, where, and how often each code was scanned. This can be pivotal from a marketing standpoint, as it effectively enables marketers to quickly determine what works and what needs to change (e.g., dynamic QR codes with certain colors or calls to action may receive more scans).

Static vs. Dynamic QR Codes: Do Dynamic QR Codes Ever Expire?

Yes, but this will depend on the online QR code generator that you use. Most providers offer limited dynamic QR code options, meaning that they manually “expire” them after a preset amount of scans. 

For more information on finding the right QR code generator, see our in-depth analysis of the best QR code generators for 2022.

Tip: Generally, you should always consider why you want to use QR codes. This will help you decide whether the extra cost of dynamic QR codes is “worth it.”

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I use a dynamic or static QR code?

When you are comparing static vs. dynamic QR codes, you should keep in mind that the best option for you will depend on the ways that you plan to use QR codes in your business.

If you are marketing your products and/or services primarily through printed advertising methods, you would likely benefit from using dynamic QR codes since they can be edited post-print. 

Having said that, dynamic QR codes are usually quite expensive, and their benefits may be unnecessary for the vast majority of small businesses who may just want simple and effective QR codes for free.

Are dynamic QR codes free?

They can be, but they are generally not. 

Most QR code generators require users to be registered to one of their paid plans in order to access dynamic QR codes. Moreover, QR codes are usually limited (e.g., fixed amount of dynamic QR codes, number of scans, etc.).

What are the best QR code generators?

Our top QR code generators include:

  1. QR Creator: Best Overall Option 
  2. TRUiC QR Code Generator: Ideal for Small Businesses
  3. QR Code Generator: Best for Targeting Broad Audiences
  4. QRTiger: Good Scalability
  5. Wix: Great for Privacy
  6. Shopify: Fastest Creation Process
  7. Visualead: Great for Owners of Multiple Businesses

We made this list by comparing the following criteria:

  • Ease of use
  • Number of features
  • Use experience
  • Price
  • Privacy

Can I edit a QR code?

Yes, but only if it is a dynamic QR code. This is because the information on static QR codes is stored directly within the patterns of the actual code, meaning it cannot be changed after it has been created and/or printed.