What Is a QR Code?

QR codes were developed in 1994 as products of necessity. Since then, however, QR codes have been used for much more than logistical operations and have generally become a pivotal part of most small and large businesses. 

So, what is a QR code? In this guide, we explore what types of QR codes you can create, how you can incorporate them within your business, and what benefits you can reap as a result of doing so.

QR Code Meaning

The “QR” in “QR code” originates from “quick response.” This code was named like this because its fundamental purpose when it was developed was to be able to read and translate high amounts of information within a few seconds. 

According to Denso Wave, the creator company of the QR code, “quick response” is merely the origin of the QR code’s name, with its official name being “QR code.”

The Different Types of QR Code

In order to help you understand “what is a QR code,” it may be beneficial to take a look at what the different types of QR codes are. 

Since a QR code is basically an encoded form of a URL link or a file document, there are an endless number of options available. Having said that, we have included the most commonly used ones. These include:

URL QR Codes

A URL QR code is one of the most common QR code types. Once scanned, it directs users towards a specific URL. This can be a business website, a store within a website, or a different online platform. 

URL QR codes are a great way to direct online and offline traffic towards your money-making websites.

Contact QR Codes

Contact QR codes facilitate customer service and improve your users’ experiences. Instead of having to independently look up your contact details and manually type them in, your audience will be able to quickly scan a QR code and have your contact details already typed in for them. 

This means that you do not have to worry about your customers sending feedback to an incorrect email or being unable to find your business phone number.

Plain Text QR Codes

You can use plain text QR codes if you want to “highlight” any sort of information for your consumers. 

These can be used in several different ways, including:

  • In printed advertising (e.g., brochures, flyers, billboards, etc.)
  • In digital advertising (e.g., website, social media, etc.)
  • On product packaging

SMS QR Codes

SMS QR codes provide very similar benefits to contact QR codes, but they are generally used as a way of facilitating SMS marketing rather than as a way of ensuring that your customers can always get in contact with you quickly. 

After they are scanned, users will automatically be directed towards an already-written text message with a filled-in number, meaning all they need to do to sign up to receive regular SMS notifications and updates is click “send.”

Location QR Codes

Location QR codes can be used to direct users towards a specific location on their device’s map app (e.g., Google Maps, Apple Maps, etc.). 

If you need your customers to find your store (i.e., if you are not entirely remote), this type of QR code can be great because it is very simple and easy to use, and generally provides for a very user-friendly experience.

Social Media QR Codes

You can use a QR code generator to create QR codes that take your audience towards your social media profiles. These include:

  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Instagram

This can ensure that your audience finds your actual profiles online and does not accidentally follow any duplicate or fake accounts. At the same time, building your social media following is pivotal in increasing your user engagement and building your brand image.

Recommended: Struggling with social media as a small business? See our guide on social media marketing.

WiFi QR Codes

Whether you want to include WiFi QR codes or not will really depend on what type of business you are running, as well as how many workers you employ. 

Since WiFi QR codes can be used to connect users to your WiFi network without them needing to know or input any password automatically, they provide two main benefits:

  1. Increased security
  2. Improved convenience

Image QR Codes

Image QR codes are QR codes that, when scanned, direct users towards a gallery of online images. 

These are commonly used by artists but can also be a powerful tool for any business when used in association with other marketing tools. 

For example, image QR codes can be included within product packaging, business websites, and offline advertising platforms.

PDF QR Codes

A PDF QR code is a QR code that directs users towards a specific PDF document. Once again, whether you want to use this type of QR code or not will likely depend on the nature of your business and/or its products.

For example, PDF QR codes can come in handy if your products are ones of a novel nature because an in-depth document may allow your users to understand how it works. 

Similarly, businesses within the hospitality sector (e.g., restaurants, hotels, etc.) can use PDF QR codes as an alternative to traditional documents that would have to be changed seasonally (e.g., menus, catalogs, etc.).

Difference Between a Static and Dynamic QR Code

The difference between a static and a dynamic QR code is that — in a static QR code — all of the information is stored within the actual barcode. 

This means that static QR codes cannot be changed after they have been created and/or printed and that they do not have the necessary technology to facilitate several of the benefits of dynamic QR codes (e.g., scan tracking, analytics, etc.). 

On the other hand, a dynamic code stores all of its required information in an online dynamic QR code. After it is scanned, a short URL link within the dynamic QR code takes users towards content hosted by the QR code generator. Therefore, dynamic QR codes remain fully editable even after being printed. 

That being said, dynamic QR codes come with a few disadvantages, including the fact that they are generally much more expensive and almost always come with scanning limitations. 

For more detail, check out our guide on the difference between static and dynamic QR codes.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I make a QR code without a business logo?

You can, but it is not recommended because including your business logo within your QR codes will make them more “trustworthy.” This will likely lead to more scans and increase their effectiveness. 

If you do not have a business logo, check out our free logo generator.

How many QR codes can I make for free?

This will depend on the QR code generator that you use. Some QR codes limit the number and type of QR codes the user can make for free, while others allow unlimited use of certain QR code types. 

Our free QR code generator allows users to create a limitless amount of static QR codes for free.

Can a static QR code expire?

No. Even if you want a static QR code to expire, it does not have the technology to facilitate a “termination” mechanism. 

In practice, the only way for a static QR code to “expire” is for it tangibly “wear down” to the point that it is no longer scannable.

How can I check how many users scanned my QR codes?

You can track user scan data if you’re using dynamic QR codes. Static QR codes do not have this functionality.