We’ve offered QR code surveys as part of our survey software for a while now, and while they provide a novel way to get respondents to take a survey, we’re often seeing people use them without a lot of success. For those in the U.S., QR codes have long been the “next big thing” – so why haven’t they taken off like they have in the rest of the world?

One reason may simply be adoption. When you see your friends doing something, you may eventually try it yourself. But as most marketers know, people aren’t seeing a lot of their friends scanning QR codes.

It’s our thought that the reason QR codes have caught on more slowly in the U.S. comes down to usability. QR codes are a specific tool, and they need to be used in specific ways – otherwise, the cautious U.S. smartphone user won’t trust you enough to scan your code.

If you follow the best practices below, you can reach more mobile users by making QR codes an essential part of your survey campaigns, instead of just an afterthought.

QR Code Survey Best Practices

1. Include context.

This is perhaps the biggest rule when using QR codes: you have to tell people what to expect when they scan it.

Because QR codes aren’t readable by humans, a potential respondent can’t know what to expect just by looking at one. “Will it take me to a website?” “Will it send an email?” Will it somehow take over my phone & start calling all my friends?” (Yes, I’ve heard that one before). This is in direct contrast to a URL, which is often readable enough to understand where it should take you.

By telling your respondents, “Snap this QR code to take a quick survey and enter to win a year of free bacon!” you give them a reason to snap the code, as well as an expectation as to what will happen when they do. It’s all about communication.

2. Include a link.

A lot of people get a little too amped up over QR codes. Yes, they’re cool technology, but as I mentioned above, just because your circle of friends uses them all the time doesn’t mean everyone is that QR-code-literate.

Additionally, not everyone has smartphones (and those who do might not have the correct software) – so if someone doesn’t want to click on a QR code, don’t make them! By showing them an alternate way to get to your survey, you’ll encourage them to participate even if they’re not into QR codes.

(Also – use a short URL for this. You don’t want people to have to type a long URL by hand into their phone.)

3. Direct users to a mobile survey.

If someone’s scanning a QR code, it’s almost certain that they’re using a mobile device to scan it, right? So why would you then direct them to a survey that’s built for a full-size monitor?

Our new Survey Preview feature lets you attach different types of surveys to different links – so you can send all QR code traffic to an iPhone survey template, for instance.

By directing QR codes to a mobile survey, you’ll get a much better response rate from your QR code respondents.

4. Don’t mess with the code.

Seriously. Don’t be tempted to change the code too much. If you do, you may break it.

It’s best to keep your QR code bigger than 1.25 inches x 1.25 inches. Also, be sure to keep the white borders around the outside – they’re an important part of the code as well.

5. Test. & Test often.

Just like any survey link or campaign, you should test it to be sure it works. If it doesn’t work from your smartphone, chances are it might not work from someone else’s.

(Of course, if you follow Step 2 above and include a link, your respondents will be able to reach you, even without scanning your code.)

By following the above best practices, you’ll be able to improve the success rate of your QR code surveys and reach more users. If you’re sending out a mobile survey, it can only help.