Common QR Code Scanning Problems and How to Fix Them

Even though technology exists to make our lives easier, technical difficulties will occasionally upend even the best-laid plans. 

QR Codes are no exception and may sometimes present issues like blurred images or broken links. The good news is that most of these problems are relatively quick and easy fixes. 

In this guide, we’ll cover the most common QR Code problems and how you can troubleshoot them. 

#1) There’s not enough space around the border

qr code on an advertisement with thin borders disrupting the quiet zone

Problem: The quiet zone that distinguishes the QR Code from its surroundings is too small or nonexistent, so the person’s device can’t read the QR Code. In the photo above, note that the QR Code pixels, as well as the color of the background image and frame, are blue. 

Because the design has left out the quiet zone, the scanner can’t differentiate between the graphic and the QR Code.

qr code on advertisement with proper borders to allow space for quiet zone
Example of a QR Code with the appropriate quiet zone width

Solution: Make sure to always leave enough space for the quiet zone. The ideal size would be if the quiet zone is, at minimum, four times larger than the width of your QR Code modules. 

The modules are the black pixels that make up the QR Code—but they can also appear in color on customized QR Codes. The more data you add to a QR Code, the smaller those pixels become. Nevertheless, this isn’t a reason to reduce the quiet zone perimeter to compensate.

#2) The QR Code doesn’t have the right background color

qr code on red advertisement without color contrast from the background
Example of a QR Code with no color contrast from the background

Problem: The background material color is the same as the QR Code, so the QR Code fades into the design. This makes it difficult for a scanner to differentiate where the design stops and the QR Code begins.

qr code on red advertisement with proper color contrast from the background
Example of a well-designed QR Code with good color contrast

Solution: Design QR Codes to match the background colors, but not in a manner that the QR Code gets lost in the design. 

Maintain the quiet zone and make sure that the pixels stand out against the background or any surrounding color designs. 

In the example above, the design looks better when the QR Code’s colors contrast with the background yet still match the overall design. This brings us to another common problem with QR Code scanning: color contrast issues.

faded qr code on glass that lacks color contrast from its background material
Example of a QR Code that lacks color contrast from the background material

Problem: Color contrast problems can also occur from background materials. 

This QR Code—displayed on a shop front window—uses a transparent color contrast. The transparent pixels blend in with the background making the QR Code unscannable and difficult for passersby to notice.

qr code on glass with proper color contrast from background material
Example of a QR Code with color contrast from the background material.

Solution: All QR Codes should be printed with the quiet zone clearly separating the QR Code from its design, as well as using colors that stand out from the background material. 

The QR Code in the example above matches the shop front design and is distinctly visible to anyone who walks by.

#3) The QR Code is too blurry

blurry qr code on a food advertisement
Example of a blurry QR Code

Problem: This QR Code may not have had a high enough resolution during the design phase. So, when it’s blown up, it appears blurry and unscannable as a result. Not only does this detract from the collateral’s design (which can affect the public’s perception of your brand), but it also makes the code useless for your campaign, as no customers can scan it.

high quality qr code on a food advertisement
Example of a cleanly printed QR Code

Solution: For small-scale printing, QR Codes work in JPG and PNG formats. But if you’re looking for high-quality graphics that can scale up or down infinitely, opt for EPS or SVG vector files that are scalable without losing print quality.

#4) The QR Code is too small or too big

Problem: Either your QR Code is so small that no one can see it, or it’s so big that it takes over the design. If your code isn’t the right size, you may find that it affects the number of scans you receive—which could render your campaign less effective.

small qr code on a travel brochure
Example of a QR Code on a brochure that is too small

Solution: If your print material is small or medium-sized (such as business cards or flyers), QR Codes should be, at minimum, 2 cm x 2 cm (about 1 in x 1 in). If your print material is larger, you need to scale the QR Code with the size of the design. 

When in doubt, opt for a bigger QR Code size and perform test prints. This way you can ensure you use the best fit for your use case, and can always scale down if needed.

Problem: A 404 error code pops up after someone scans the QR Code, signaling that the link is missing or incorrect. Broken links negatively affect a consumer’s experience and may be a turn-off for valuable customers.

phone displaying error link and a qr code on product packaging
The error that appears when there is a missing or incorrect link from a QR Code

Solution: Make sure your link is up to date for any marketing campaigns. Test your short URLs yourself before promoting them to customers. 

If you need to update or edit your link, even as a possibility in the future, create a Dynamic QR Code version so that you can change it at any time. 

You can also adjust the type of QR Code solution (such as a Video QR Code to an Image QR Code), all without disturbing the original QR Code’s appearance.

#6) Overloaded content with too much data

qr code with too much data
Example of too much QR Code data

Problem: The QR Code is overloaded with too much data. This makes it take much longer to scan, which can deter customers and result in a loss of potential sales.

qr code with proper amount of data
Example of a QR Code with an appropriate amount of data

Solution: Instead of linking tons of information to one QR Code, consider which elements might be relevant for each campaign. 

Use the QR Code for one specific type of information instead of several at once. Remember: The purpose of QR Codes is not to hold as much information as possible. Rather, the point is to connect the consumer with the appropriate information quickly and conveniently.

#7) Not using a square shape

for sale sign with a stretched rectangular qr code
Example of a QR Code that isn’t a square

Problem: QR Codes are square-shaped because it allows them to hold more data and enables scanners to read them quickly. Without keeping that structure intact, the QR Code simply won’t work as efficiently.

for sale sign with a proper square qr code
QR Codes should always be square

Solution: QR Codes that maintain their square shape link to their connected information efficiently and quickly—which is exactly what makes them so convenient for customers. 

All QR Codes made with QR Code Generator are square-shaped specifically for this purpose.

The importance of running a test scan

One of the best ways to prevent QR Code scanning malfunctions is to run a test scan. Below, we’ll cover some of the top reasons why you should conduct a test scan before publishing your QR Codes. 

Helps ensure the QR Codes are scannable

QR Codes may be corrupted or generated incorrectly, which can affect their scannability. Testing the code before using it will help identify any problems so that they can be fixed before the code is deployed.

Verifies the codes point to the correct destination

You can use QR Codes to link to a variety of destinations, such as websites, social media pages, or even map locations. Testing the code will ensure that it takes customers to the intended destination and can help catch potential typos and URL errors in the case of Static QR Codes (which can’t be edited once they’re created).

Identifies any compatibility issues

Different QR Code scanners may use different technologies, so it’s important to test the code with a variety of different scanners to ensure that it’s compatible with all devices. This way, you find critical compatibility issues and publish high-quality QR Codes. 

Helps avoid costly mistakes

If a QR Code doesn’t work, it can be costly to fix, especially if the code has already been deployed on marketing materials or products. Testing the code before using it can help to avoid these types of mistakes.

For example, if you’re using QR Codes for inventory management, testing them beforehand can prevent your team from running into logistical errors in the future. 

Mastering QR Code challenges with QR Code Generator PRO

QR Codes are fantastic tools for marketers and businesses of all sizes. However, like any great technology, you may need to troubleshoot them from time to time. Luckily, fixing QR Code scanning issues doesn’t have to take long or be difficult—especially if you perform a test before publishing. 

Ultimately, using a high-quality QR Code generator can help you avoid these issues and publish client-ready materials. 

If you’re ready to create impactful QR Codes that drive engagement, look no further than QR Code Generator PRO. Create an account to get started with a free trial.

Tobias Funke

Tobias Funke is Bitly’s Vice President of Product. With a background in software engineering, he has a decade of combined experience in product development and the QR Code space. Tobias leads a team that developed one of the most successful and popular QR Code generators available. His entrepreneurial and growth mindset helps build products that continuously disrupt the market. You can connect with Tobias on LinkedIn.

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