Choosing a URL for your QR Code

When you create a QR code which contains a URL, it is vital that the code is not only as small as possible, but also as user friendly as possible.

I'm not a massive fan of short URL services like - but for shrinking the text you want to fit in a QR code, they are invaluable.

I want to take a look at a particularly interesting example from Nat West Bank.

The Poster

Despite having the QR too close to the ground (more of that in a later blog post) this seems like quite a good campaign.

The QR code is large and clear, it's not too dense, and the copy shows the app is available on Android, iOS, and BlackBerry. A single scan on any device should redirect the user to the correct destination.
Nat West QR Poster

The Scan

This is where things start to fall apart.
Nat West QR Scan


I know some of the guys behind ScanBuy. It's a good service, but I don't think it's suited to this usage.

  1. No "https". Users are being trained not to trust banking URLs unless they go via SSL. I wonder if people will notice on QR codes?
  2. It's not a Nat West domain. How does a user know that this goes to the real app and not some mobile-malware?
  3. Nonsensical path. At the very least, ScanBuy should let this be customised to or similar. That way, people looking through their history will know what the URL is meant to go to. (See scanning while underground).

That said, the code does successfully redirect users to the correct app store to download the app.

What I Would Do

I would use a url like

It's the same length as the previous, is human readable, and is secure. If Nat West can't run the redirection and analytics service themselves, it could easily redirect to ScanBuy to do the heavy lifting.

The Good

One thing to say, if a non-compatible device scans the code, they get taken to Nat West's mobile friendly site.

One thought on “Choosing a URL for your QR Code

  1. Dave Marutiak says:

    Some thoughts - Scanbuy does offer an enterprise the ability to customize the short code that they use for the service, it just wasn't implemented in this case. Of course, wouldn't be a short code as much as a full URL. Something like would be the traditiona 3.2 format. While the https protocol is useful for m-commerce, it's not normally used in app downloads so it might be just as confusing to the user. However, in many barcode clients the actual URL isn't even visible - the scan goes to the action automatically. The phones security system should prompt the user as to whether to complete an installation action. Overall, it's a solid campaign and a great demonstration of more advanced code actions like handset/OS based routing.

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