QR Codes - is there any reason for them in an online-only document?

I’m asking because I know we have designers in the group, and I’m curious.

If you’re designing a PDF to be emailed or downloaded from a website, is there any good reason to embed a QR code for a social media link?

To me it creates extra work, as a phone with the code on screen can’t usually scan it without jumping through hoops. And if it’s on a desktop screen, you can theoretically scan it with your phone - but I’m not sure why you would.

Yet I see people doing it.

Oh great MPU hive mind, is there something I’m missing?

Depends on what the PDF would be used for. If there is a chance it will be printed out, it obviously can be a positive.

In this case, a campaign flyer to be distributed exclusively electronically, directly to the people voting, for a nonprofit’s online election. I’m not sure who would print it.

Yeah that seems weird!

3rd party Qcode scanner apps can read a QCode on a document (at least if you take a screenshot photo of the page with the QCode).


I’ve been known to scan a code from a friend’s screen, so its inclusion has the potential to spread the message.

Some important question that needed to be answered in order to check if the social media link needs a QR code:

  1. Does people find it hard to find your social media handle because there are others like it or with similar handle?

  2. The nonprofit group is building their audience in social media and needs a boost?

  3. The online election is going to be held in that social media link?

If the answer is yes to all 3 then it doesn’t hurt to have a QR code in the online flyer.


If its not the most important aspect of your online flyer or the actionable item then I’d suggest not to use QR for social media link. Adding a QR code that is easy to scan needs a bigger space in your flyer. Adding the icon of the social media page and a text of the social media handle will work even better and will not divert their attention.

Only use QR code as another aspect of accessibility.

Links should still be there and clickable accompanied by QR code. Some people find it much easier to fire their scanner or camera than type.

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I can see some utility to using QR codes in flyers, but they might be mostly corner cases. In the current example with the social media links, you might possibly want to scan the Instagram handle from your Mac screen, but yeah… People are fast enough with their soft keyboards these days.

For other types of QR codes, there could be more of a reason to include them. For instance the “Location” type that could start your navigation, an “Event” type that could be added to your calendar or the “Contact” card.

If you can avoid them, it will be an improvement from a visual point of view. QR codes are amazing and machine readable, but oh-so ugly.

It’s a shortened Bit.ly link, and in the PDF (again, only digital!) it would be clickable. Which the QR code isn’t.

It’s an audience for a single candidate’s very specific campaign page for an elected office, not the whole nonprofit.

Whole separate link for that, which this flyer won’t be promoting in any way. That’ll be delivered by email per protocol requirements.

My thoughts too - the URL should be there and clickable in any case.

And I would suggest that a QR code can never be faster than a clickable link if the document is being viewed on-device.

I really like those ideas. For anything that’s being viewed off-screen that would be error-prone to type (like locations / contact info), they make a lot of sense to me. :slight_smile:

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younger generations expect them.

For documents that are going to be exclusively viewed on a computer / smart device?

not everything in computer land makes sense.

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Is there a chance someone receives the flyer e.g. on his or her work email, would like to visit the social media page but would prefer to use his or her phone for that task, because social media might be restricted at work, because the reader might not want to “expose” the social media login credentials on the work computer, or for some other reason? Then, the QR code might make sense, but only in addition to a clickable link.

That’s a possibility. Although I’m glad that the possibilities being listed are mostly edge cases - that confirms that I’m not too crazy wondering “why”. :slight_smile:

Tracking? In online instruction in higher ed QR codes are sometimes used to collect student data about who is taking the test, for instance (i.e. you scan the code with your phone, you can prove that it was you, is the logic; it’s not great logic, but that’s the rationale. Admin decision are often made without consulting technical staff).

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While there might be good reasons to implement a QR-Code, I‘ve never understood, why it is not possible to add a simple clickable link to it!