How to Make a QR Code in 5 Steps: Guide for Beginners

What is QR Code?

QR codes, short for “quick response” codes, are two-dimensional barcodes that can be scanned by smartphones and other mobile devices. They were originally created in 1994 by a Japanese company called Denso Wave to track vehicle parts in manufacturing plants. However, QR codes have become widely used in marketing and advertising because of their fast readability and large storage capacity compared to standard barcodes.

QR codes work by encoding data such as website URLs, text, contact information, calendar events or SMS messages into an image. This encoded image can then be scanned by a smartphone camera using a QR code reader app which will decode the data and perform an action like opening a website or dialing a phone number. The main purpose of QR codes is to provide an easy way to access additional information quickly by bridging the offline and online worlds.

Benefits of Using QR Codes

There are many benefits to using QR codes as part of your marketing and advertising strategy:

  • Convenience – QR codes allow users to instantly access a website or information without having to manually type in a URL.
  • Trackable – You can use QR code analytics to see how many people are scanning your codes and where they are located.
  • Cost-effective – Creating and using QR codes is free and easy.
  • Versatile – QR codes can store all types of data like URLs, text, images, PDFs, contact info, etc.
  • Engaging – QR codes encourage user participation and interactivity.

Difference between QR Codes and Barcodes

While QR codes may look similar to barcodes at first glance, there are some key differences:

  • Capacity – QR codes can hold much more data than standard barcodes. Up to 7,089 numeric characters compared to only 20 digits for barcodes.
  • Information – QR codes store information both horizontally and vertically whereas barcodes are one dimensional.
  • Readability – QR codes can be scanned omni-directionally (360 degrees) but barcodes can only be scanned in one direction.
  • Use – QR codes link the physical and digital world. Barcodes are mainly used for tracking products in a supply chain.

How QR Codes Work

QR codes work using these five steps:

  1. Data is encoded into a QR code using one of various standards such as numeric, alphanumeric, binary, Kanji, etc.
  2. Error correction coding is applied to allow for damaged or dirty codes to still scan correctly.
  3. The encoded data is converted into pixel patterns using a Reed-Solomon error correction algorithm.
  4. The pixel pattern becomes the black and white squares that make up the visual QR code.
  5. A QR reader app on a smartphone scans the code, decodes the data and performs the encoded action.

QR codes leverage something called Reed-Solomon error correction to restore up to 30% of the information if the code is partially damaged. This is why QR codes can still function even if they are dirty, scratched or have some pixels missing.

Common Uses for QR Codes

Some of the most popular uses of QR codes include:

  • Website URLs – Send traffic to your website by encoding a URL into a code.
  • Contact info – Share your phone, email, address, social profiles.
  • Menus – Restaurants can provide digital menus accessible via QR codes.
  • Product information – Provide additional details about products and services.
  • Coupons/discounts – Offer special promotions, deals and vouchers.
  • WiFi login – Give access to your WiFi network by encoding the password.
  • Event details – Share event dates, venues, ticket purchasing.
  • Payments – Accept payments by encoding payment request links.

Step 1: Choosing a QR Code Generator

There are many free online QR code generator websites that allow you to easily create QR codes. Some popular options include:

  • QR Code Generator – Simple and easy to use generator.
  • Kaywa QR Code Generator – Customizable codes with logo and color options.
  • QR Code Monkey – Track scans and customize designs.
  • Beaconstac – No registration required and bulk code creation.

Considerations when Selecting a QR Maker

Here are some factors to consider when choosing a QR code creator:

  • Features – Look for customization options like images, logos, colors.
  • Data capacity – Make sure it can encode all the data you need.
  • File export – Ability to download image files like PNG, SVG, EPS.
  • Bulk code creation – For making multiple codes at once.
  • Ease of use – Clean, simple interface without too many steps.
  • Reliability – Choose an established generator with a good reputation.

Step 2: Generating Your QR Code

Once you’ve selected a QR code generator, the next step is inputting the data you want encoded. This depends on your intended use but could include:

  • Website URL
  • Text
  • Contact details like phone number, email, address
  • SMS text message
  • Calendar event/appointment
  • Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn profile
  • YouTube video
  • PDF document
  • WiFi login details
  • Payment request or voucher code

Make sure not to exceed the data capacity limits of standard QR codes (up to 7,089 numeric characters) when inputting information. For larger amounts of data, multi-part QR codes may be required.

Customizing Your QR Code

Most QR code generators allow you to customize the look and feel of your codes including:

  • Size – Smaller or larger pixel dimensions.
  • Color – Black/white, or add color for branding.
  • Shape – Square, circle, teardrop, rounded corners.
  • Image overlay – Brand logo, icon or image.
  • Background – Transparent or colored.
  • File type – PNG, JPEG, SVG, EPS.

Customizing your QR codes can help make them more visually appealing, on-brand, and integrated with your design aesthetic.

Step 3: Downloading the QR Code Image

Once you’ve input the data and customized the appearance, simply click generate on your chosen QR platform to create the scannable code. Most generators allow you to download the QR code image files or save them to your camera roll. Make sure to download your QR code images at the highest resolution possible for optimal scanning.

Step 4: Testing Your QR Code

Before using your QR codes “in the wild”, it’s important to test them thoroughly first. You’ll want to verify:

  • Scannability – Test scanning from different angles and distances.
  • Data integrity – Ensure the right data/info is encoded.
  • Error correction – Check if it scans when partially covered.
  • Action works – Confirm the desired action occurs when scanned.

Fix any issues with data input or code generation before distribution.

Scanning the QR Code

To scan the code during testing, simply open your smartphone camera and point it at the QR code. Many phones automatically recognize and scan QR codes. Alternatively, you can download standalone QR reader apps like QR Code Reader, Scan, QR Scanner, etc.

Ensuring Proper Redirects or Actions

When your QR code is scanned, it should perform the intended action seamlessly and quickly. For website URLs, ensure it redirects properly to the right page. If the code contains contact info, check that it adds to contacts properly when scanned. Verify any SMS, emails, calls, payments etc. work as expected.

Step 5: Use Your QR Code for Marketing and Promotion

Placing the QR Code in the Desired Location

Once tested, it’s time to put your QR code out into the world! Consider placing it:

  • On business cards and flyers
  • On product packaging or labels
  • At events, trade shows, conferences
  • On restaurant tables and menus
  • In store windows and displays
  • In social media posts

Put your QR code anywhere you want to drive traffic, engagement, or conversions!

Tracking and Analyzing QR Code Performance

Many QR code generators provide analytics and metrics about scans. Use this data to:

  • See total scan numbers and trends
  • Identify high versus low performing locations
  • Monitor scans by geographic location
  • Track scan sources like social media, email, etc.
  • Gain customer demographic insights
  • Refine your QR code strategy over time

Analyzing QR code performance allows you to maximize the return on these efforts.


With the right QR code generator, a bit of creativity, and proper promotion, QR codes can be an invaluable addition to your marketing, advertising and customer engagement. They provide a seamless way to bridge the gap between offline and online environments.

Done right, QR codes allow businesses to share information quickly, boost brand awareness, drive traffic, increase customer loyalty and much more. The opportunities are endless, limited only by your imagination. So go ahead, get scanning and put the power of QR to work for your business!