Decoding QR Codes: How To Format Data for QR Code Generators

by Liz Maritz

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Review Unidev QR Code imageWithout question, QR codes play an important role in the current advertising and marketing environment. In fact, a recent smartphone user study conducted by Baltimore’s MGH uncovered several interesting QR code statistics. Among those statistics, we learned that 72% of smartphone users are more likely to recall an advertisement with a QR code. This tells us that QR codes, at least for now, get the attention of consumers and get a lot of use.

If so many consumers recognize and use QR codes, it is time to employ standard practices for QR codes. Generators may use several different methods to encode, or store data in a QR code. Some of these encoding methods are more standardized than others. We researched Google’s standard format suggestions and have provided a simplified version of that list in this post. We arranged the list by data type (i.e. URL, email address, telephone number, contact information, SMS, MMS, location data and more).

If you’re attaching the following data type to a QR code, you should encode the data using the corresponding data format:

Data Type Data Format
Website URL http://www.websitename.com (include the “http://” so it recognizes the data as a website URL)
 Pre-populated email address mailto:name@email.com (include “mailto” so it recognizes the data as an email address)
Pre-Populated Telephone Number +16365553344 (URI should include the country code to support users outside the country of origin)
Contact Information LastName,FirstName;ADR:(insert address), (second address line), City, ST (Insert 5-digit zip code);TEL:+16365553344;EMAIL:name@email.com;;DO NOT use parenthesis or line breaks in code.

*For QR Codes, the MECARD standard format shown above is more standard than vCard standard format
Pre-populated SMS Message smsto:number:message
Pre-populated MMS Message mms:number:subject
Map or Location Coordinates latitude, longitude, altitude in meters (a minus sign denotes a South latitude and a West longitude)code for Google offices: 40.71872,-73.98905, 100
Android Market URI for Android Devices For a QR code you must replace all punctuation with code. For example,market://search?q=pub:”Search Query” becomes:
YouTube Video  youtube://ID (may work on iPhone, untested, unreleased, not standardized)
iCal Appointment BEGIN:VEVENT
SUMMARY:Test Meeting
DTSTART:20110713T190000Z
DTEND:20110713T200000Z
END:VEVENT
(untested, unreleased, not standardized)

Users respond more favorably to QR codes that scan allowing a preview of the final destination. For example, the user views the URL before going directly to the website. Or the telephone URI code prompts the user to hit dial instead of automatically dialing for them. If you select a generator, develop a generator or develop a bar code scanner, incorporate these standard usability features.

Check out a few comprehensive QR code generator lists:
2d-code list