A QR (“quick response”) code is a two-dimensional barcode that allows information such as web page URLs and email addresses to be extracted quickly and accurately from printed documents without the hassle of having to type them in with a keyboard or telephone keypad. Most mobile phones on sale today are capable of running QR code reader applications.
QR codes are particularly common in Japan, where they were invented by a Toyota subsidiary called Denso-Wave in 1994. Their website contains a more detailed description of these codes (in somewhat broken English).
Do I need one on my business card?
Not necessarily. According to the results of a 2007 survey by internet.com and goo research in Japan, less than 3% of people own a personal or company business card with a QR code printed on it (Japanese article; English auto-translation is available).
As a rule, I wouldn’t recommend adding a QR code unless you’re expecting to deal with people that are quite knowledgeable about internet technology.
Keep it simple
It’s possible to create a QR code containing all sorts of information such as your name, address and phone number. The problem with this approach is that the more information you add to a QR code, the larger it gets. Smaller codes stand a better chance of being readable on mobile phones with low-resolution cameras, so keep the information content down to a minimum.
You can do this by encoding just a single item of information, such as your email address or the URL of a web page containing your contact information (perhaps containing a link to a downloadable vCard). URL shortening services like tinyurl.com, bit.ly and goo.gl may come in useful here. If you provide a URL, you can edit your details at any time without having to change the QR code. Make sure the page you’re linking to is compatible with mobile phone browsers. Ideally, you should link to a Japanese-language page so your clients can find their way around.