What is a QR Code? (and 4 other things you should know about them)

QR code ourchurch
Written by Paul Steinbrueck

QR code ourchurchHave you seen these odd looking black and white squares (like the one displayed here) in magazines, on signs, and online? They’re called QR codes, and they have the potential to do some remarkable things for your organization.

What is a QR code?

A QR Code is a two-dimensional barcode, which has encoded in it a URL (web address), text, or other information. It can be read by a QR code scanner, including QR scanner smartphone apps.

How can I read a QR code?

If you have a smartphone, go to the app store and search for a QR code reader. You’ll find several free apps. Run the app and then hold your phone’s camera over a QR code to read it. Most QR codes you’ll come across have a URL encoded, so chances are when you read the QR code it will take you to a web page.

What’s the point of QR codes?

QR codes link offline information to online content, effectively providing additional information and even multimedia to an offline experience. If you’ve created print material that included a URL for more information, a QR code for that URL could also be added to enable smartphone users to go directly to that web page without having to type in the web address.

Where are QR codes being used?

QR Code - Cracker Country, Florida State FairQR codes are already being used on product packaging, magazine articles and ads, ads on buses, museum exhibits, and business cards.

I was recently at the Florida State Fair and saw them using QR codes like the one shown in this picture, in “Cracker Country,” the area devoted to Florida History. The QR code links to a 2 minute audio file, which gives more information about the exhibit. (Below is a close-up view of the QR Code for the Kitchen Garden which you can scan if you want to try it out.)

How do I create a QR code?

QR Code - Cracker Country, Florida State FairQR code-generating sites include Kaywa, Qurify and Delivr. The Google URL Shortener will also create a QR code file from a shortened link — just click Details to see the image file.

Tomorrow, I’m going to post several ways churches can use QR codes to help people.

Where have you seen QR codes? Have you scanned QR codes with your phone? If so, have you found them useful?

Oh, and speaking of mobile apps, if you have already done so, please Take the Ultimate Church Mobile App Survey.

About the author

Paul Steinbrueck

Paul Steinbrueck is co-founder and CEO of OurChurch.Com, husband, father of 3, blogger. You can follow him on Twitter at @PaulSteinbrueck and add him to your circles at Google+ as +Paul Steinbrueck.


  • Personally, I haven't had the chance to use QR codes very much. The ONE time I did, it was out of curiosity. I can see using them in church bulletins or sermon/class handouts when you have much more stuff "you wish you could fit in."

    • Thanks Barry. Good ideas… those are the kinds of things that are going to be in tomorrow's post 🙂

  • That's awesome! You're already doing a lot of the things I was going to include in tomorrow's post. Maybe you should write it instead of me 🙂

  • Paul, nah – just nice to know I'm not on an island. I think one of the biggest things people who want to switch to this is that everyone doesn't need to make it. I have folks with 8 year old candybar phones and others who desire paper no matter what. We accomodate them, with the knowledge that our printing will become less and less over time and we gain nothing by pushing people over. It's the great thing about the digital/mobile revolution – we can pursue things via multiple avenues and STILL take less time doing the task the one way people used to do things.

  • im doing project on QR code,ma project topic is QR ocde recognition and decryption using mobile phone,but im not getting what are the techniques or algorithms used to decode information encoded into the QR code

    • I don't know anything about the decoding algorithm. I imagine you could Google "qr code decoding algorithm" and find it, though.

  • I'm not sold on QR codes just yet. I'm willing to test them out, but with only 28% of the mass people ever scanning one, it's not fully mainstream yet. Although I do see how semi-closed communities like churches may be successful in getting people to adopt them with repeated exposure, training, and usage.

    Your post inspired a blog post of my own on QR codes. Thanks!

    • Kenny, thanks for your comment & post. I don't think it matters if QR codes go mainstream or not. There's no cost or downside to them other than the little bit of time it takes to get them and the little bit of space they take up. If they can provide additional content to some people or bring some more people to a web page, why not?

      Less than 10% of adults in the US use Twitter, yet a lot of organizations find it worthwhile to use Twitter to connect with them.

  • You can also to try QR Code Generator with Tracking feature: http://qrcode.good-survey.com

    It allows you many advanced things such as:
    * Creating all sort of QR Codes (just choose the content type)
    * It allows you decoding existing QR Codes (so you get the content behind the code)
    * It creates QR Codes also in Vector formats (EPS, SVG, XAML…)
    * You can use also API to create QR Codes or Decode them from your applications directly
    * We have also Tracking feature so you can track how many times your codes were scanned

  • I'd been noticing QR codes in several of the quilting and sewing magazine that I get. I don't have a smart phone (or cell phone of any kind) but I can see the value in them. I found your site when searching out more information about them so I could use them in my on line business that I have selling sewing patterns. One of the difficulites with packing slips, etc. is they aren't clickable. Some one has to manually enter the url to find our store on line again. I think this is where the value of these codes will come to the surface in being able to input info into people's phones.

    I can certainly see where a church could use these to announce times and places of functions and with the QR codes those wanting to attend can also see maps of where the event is taking place. Especially good for when churches are having a combined service or get together of some sort in a location that is different.

  • Thank you for exploring the world of QR Codes in your blog. Letting people know about them I'd the first link to making them mainstream. Please visit my QRCode resource website for a free ecourse and QR Code generator, http:qrcodeinternetmobilemarketing.com


  • Don't forget about forms such as feedback forms, job application, health care screening forms, etc…) and surveys. You can use QR code for a survey (or form) you created online as well. Say you created an online survey that is easily accessible from a mobile device. Then you create the QR code for your survey's link. You can then print out the QR code and post it up anywhere. You customer's can easily scan your QR code w/ their mobile device and complete your survey in just a matter of seconds. You can put this idea to use now at http://www.mobosurvey.com. Similarly, you can create forms that can be accessible through QR code. Say you're hosting some type of event (say a concert) and you want feedback or information from the audience. All you have to do is pop a QR code on a screen somewhere and your audience can easily access your feedback form from a mobile device and complete the feedback form in just a matter of seconds.

  • Hi all,
    i would like to encode a small audio file into the qr code.
    my idea is : one application have to encode a audio file into text/symbol and then we can encode that data into the QR code. while decoding we can get the text/symbol data as a qr code decoder output then another application have to convert that into audio file.
    can i get any input from anyone…..


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