Doctor Who QR Codes

by @edent | , , , , | 2 comments | Read ~1,413 times.

Mobile QR codes are fantastic. They're real-life hyperlinks. Snap them with your phone and go direct to a website. What could be better?

The BBC, however, need a few lessons in how to optimise the experience.
As part of their Prisoner Zero page - the BBC have an awesome "Wanted Poster". Here's the teaser image.

Prisoner Zero - QR Code

Prisoner Zero - QR Code

Let's take a look at the full QR code. This is about the size it would be if the poster were printed on A4.

QR Code

QR Code

There are three problems with this QR code which reduce its functionality and usability.

Firstly, the contents of the QR are

MECARD:N:Doctor Who;URL:;;

Aside from the fact the character is named "The Doctor", this is a rather large string to place in a QR code.  The longer the string, the more complex the code, the harder it is for a phone to decode it.

Secondly, QR codes are primarily used on mobile phones.  This is reinforced by the use of "MECARD" - a method to add someone to your address book.  Yet the URL the BBC point to isn't suitable for mobile!

This is crazy. There's a wonderful mobile friendly version of the Doctor Who site - - why not point to that? People will be scanning this code on their mobile and then being directed to the BBC's desktop site. Madness!

Finally, the colouring.  While QR codes can work in any colour, they're easier to scan if the contrast is high.  That usually means black squares on a white background.  It's not so important if you've got a multi-megapixel camera with auto-focus and all sorts of other technology.  However, the primary audience for Doctor Who is children and teenagers. Not the sort of demographic to have awesome camera phones.

Fixing The QR Code

Using my QR Code generator, I've created a faster, simpler, and more useful QR Code.

Have a scan - it takes you directly to the mobile site.

I'm a big fan of QR Codes, but they have to be used sensibly.  Remember to keep your URLs short and point them at mobile friendly sites.

2 thoughts on “Doctor Who QR Codes

  1. I checked out your version of the QR code using Mobiletag on an iPhone and it's spot on. Well done. The is perfect for this exercise! I hope somebody at the Beeb pays attention!

    Later this year my book comes out with a QR code on the back cover. It hasn't made it to the printers yet. Today, I'm going to change the QR code so that it points to a "mobile" optimised page on the book's web site.

    Thanks Terence - just in time!

  2. Geoff says:

    Heh! I made this poster. I had originally placed that QR code in there as a placeholder expecting to have a conversation with my producer about where it could point, or maybe we could put a secret word in there or something. That conversation never happened though - despite these things usually taking AGES to sign off, everyone was very happy with the poster and it went live without any modifications. As far as I recall, that's the only time that ever happened.

    I'm glad you think it was otherwise 'awesome'. 🙂

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