Business cards have limited real estate. The tendency is to make the QR code as small as possible.
Two Key Issues
- Size of QR code on card
- Amount of information in the QR code itself
These are directly related to each other and can only be determined after the QR code is physically present.
Ability to scan is KEY. The absolute minimum size must be such that a smart-phone must be able to fill 60% of the view finder with the QR code image and still be able to focus.
Volume is KEY. The more information in a QR code the more 'modules' it need to encode and show. This also has an effect on readability and in cases with 'heavy data' QR codes, you may need more real estate.
Example Same QR code, just at different sizes, which can you scan best?
There are two common formats for exchanging contact information that are suitable for use with QR codes.
Mecard Provided by Japanese mobile provider DOCOMO was created to quickly exchange basic contact information only. Most mobile and smartphone QR code readers interpret this format correctly.
Due to the limit instructions it can contain, the Mecard format generally creates smaller module QR codes ideal for using on business cards.
vCard with two formats (2.0 and 3.0), is an elaborate contact information exchange format dating back to late 90's. Version 3.0 supports social media links, video and audio and many more rich features.
It was developed and used to exchange contact information via email attachments, but the abuse and rise of spam saw it generally abandoned.
Because of the diversity and potential complexity of the vCard protocol in combination with the fact that while for email exchange systems vCard protocol is well understood, smart-phones have completely ignored it and we see each type and model with it's own version of an address book.
vCard QR codes stand and fall by the ability of the QR code reader. Most free QR code readers do not contain the required intelligence to map vCard information into the appropriate address book fields. A sign of poor quality and advice to try another application.
Direct QR codes interact directly with smart-phones and need no other support services like networks, 3G nor Internet. These QR codes contain all the information for the smart-phone to undertake and complete the task at hand.
Indirect QR codes require access to external sources to get their information for the smart-phone.
Pros and Cons. If all you want is to get your name and your telephone number into the contact list of a device as effectively as possible, then a direct Mecard QR code is the best choice for you. It will produce a small code foot print ideal for business cards.
Down side is that once out on the streets, you don't know who and how often it is scanned and if your phone number changes, they become useless.
For business use, the company name is mandatory. Mecard does not understand this, thus vCard is the way to go. Wait..we want more.. department, function, fax and home phone numbers are all to common requirements. Result is a massive QR code not fit for business cards
Indirect QR codes point to the location of a resource on a network. Behind this resource can be a wealth of information including images and video, but network access is mandatory.
An example of such a service is the 'vCard+' form QR4. With updateable contact information as well as statistics and reporting.
If your requirement is small size QR codes printed as small as possible on business cards, then keep it simple, use the Mecard format with only the bare essential information.
If for business you require the company name, fax number etc. Then the vCard format is best suited, however beware that many low quality 'free' QR code reader apps may blunder and mix up or not use specific information from your QR code (this is either by design or caused by programmer incompetence)
The proof of the QR code pudding is in the eating
To get some practical hands on experience on dealing with QR codes on business cards, QR4 have put a QR Code business card generator online
A choice between three trivial business card templates allows you select direct or indirect codes. You can also choose between Mecard or vCard format and see how the size of the QR codes change as you fill in the form for the business card. This generator also provides PDF business cards so you can print and test then from paper and not just off a screen.
Online QR Code Business Card Generator