Quiet Remorse Codes

As many of you who got my out-of-office already knew, I was off in New York City last week meeting the internet and being a fanny-pack wearing tourist. I ate pizza, saw an army of rats, managed not to get too lost on the subway and saw a ton of QR Codes. They were everywhere in their boxy three-eyed black and white glory. I saw them fifty feet high in Times Square, five centimeters high on price tags, and even saw a tattoo parlor that specialized in QR Codes and I got my Twitter link inked (okay not actually true). But the most pervasive place I saw QR Codes was at the “Talk to Me: Design and the Communication between People and Objects” exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art.

After spending some time reflecting on some amazing paintings by Picasso, Dali and Matisse, then wondering about the artistic merits of “Completely Black Canvas #25” and “Oblong White Paint Splotch On The Floor,” we headed into the very overwhelming Design and Communication display. It was a cross between a traditional glass case collection and an 80’s arcade with beeps, boops and flashing lights around every corner and on every wall. While it was challenging to take it all in, the Museum had done something very interesting with the collection. With each piece’s description, there was a QR Code for further information and a hashtag to use for Twitter, and for one brief moment, I thought I was in geek nirvana.

That joyous feeling quickly faded as I whipped out my trusty Blackberry and hit up my QR Code app. Rather than seamlessly providing me with additional information, the code just failed to load. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if my phone is still loading that first QR Code link. While my Blackberry may be a touch underpowered for web browsing, it should still easily load a page dedicated to a QR Code. Sensing my disappointment, a friend offered me her iPhone. I quickly downloaded a reader and snapped the first code again. The page loaded, after a while, to the tiniest photos ever. Seeing as I had forgotten my monocle in my other pants, I could not really tell what was on my screen. Clearly the website had not been optimized for use with mobile devices, which is disappointing because nowhere in the collection was there a Baby Bjorn for desktop computers with an add-on power supply. It’s a real shame that all the time spent designing the QR Codes and making the additional website content was wasted because it wasn’t set up for use on a mobile device. I tried to load the QR Code for Bat Billboard, and, as you can see, on the desktop it’s a confusing design and would be virtually impossible to manage on a phone.

It’s ironic, and not in the Alanis Morissette sense, that an exhibit designed to illustrate the impact of design on how people interact with communication devices failed to take into account the communication device being used to talk about the exhibit. That’s a mouthful of a sentence but an important lesson. When designing QR Codes the links they lead to can’t be splashy and fancy-pants, instead they need to be simple and effective. I don’t want to wait ninety seconds or more for a forty-five second video to load. At that point, I’m gone and won’t be back. If you are using QR Codes remember the QR stands for Quick Response and not quiet remorse. Your customers, donors or other interested parties don’t expect them to be a hassle. They want information now and they want it to be pertinent.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go hunting for a tattoo removal specialist.


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