QR Code Scanning Problems: 9 reasons Why Your QR Code is Not Working (It’s not what you think)

QR Code usage is now on the rise more than ever. With contactless solutions being leveraged for most operations, QR Codes are being used for contactless payment, contactless delivery, and even contactless retail.

Smartphones today have the capability to scan even damaged QR Codes, but there are possibilities a QR Code might not scan. 

Buick, Goldman Sachs, and Investec Bank have all had their fair share of QR Code fails. So if your QR Code is not working, just know you’re not alone. 

There are mainly 6 reasons why a QR Code does not work: 

  1. Bad quality
  2. Inverted colors
  3. Small size
  4. Poor contrast ratio
  5. Wrong Placement
  6. Overcrowded QR Code
Reasons why your QR Code is not working

Table of Contents

  1. 6 reasons why your QR Code is not working + Troubleshooting tips
  2. 3 other QR Code scanning problems + Tips to fix them
  3. Test the QR Code
  4. Frequently Asked Questions

It’s interesting to note that most QR Code readers today – native or through apps are able to easily scan QR Codes that have any of these 6 issues present. 

With the latest iOS 13 update, all iOS devices can scan wounded or bad quality QR Codes Smartphones running on Android 9 and above such as Pixel, Samsung S10+ can also scan these “unscannable” QR Codes.

But, if your target audience do not have the latest smartphones, here is how you can fix those wounded codes:

6 reasons why your QR Code is not working + Troubleshooting tips

1. Quality of the QR Code

Quality of the QR Code

There is a good reason why quality always takes the front seat. When images are not of good quality, or in other words, distorted, it negates the entire purpose. Thus, quality is paramount. 

Besides, a QR Code in a poor quality image format will not give the desired effect and retract its scanning ability. 

A QR Code must always be printed with a clear and sharp display for better scannability and usability. For magazines and newspapers, the QR Code can be downloaded in JPG or PNG formats. For larger displays or billboards, use SVG or EPS formats, without compromising its quality. 

While a pixelated or blurry QR Code might still scan on some devices such as iPhones (iOS 11 and higher) and the latest Android smartphones, it might fail on many others. Always test out the printed QR Code and replace it with a higher quality QR Code, if the process of scanning isn’t smooth. 

Pro Tip: Download your QR Code in a high resolution, preferably in SVG or PNG formats for better quality QR Codes. 

2. Inverting colors is a strict no-no

Do not invert colors on the QR Code

This is one of the most popular mistakes people make whilst creating a QR Code. 

Don’t choose style and design over efficiency and productivity. The codes might look good, but they won’t work. 

A classic QR Code has a white background and a black foreground. Inverting colors is literally swapping the color scheme, where the foreground is really light and the background is dark. 

Plenty of marketers and QR Code experts strictly advise against using an inverted QR Code. 

William Taylor, a Career Development Manager at VelvetJobs says, “I’ve seen people creating QR codes with a black or dark background and a white or lighter foreground. It may look great in some design scenarios, but they can’t be scanned with all QR Code scanner apps. 

A lot of apps for scanning your QR Code expect the code to have a darker contrast to the background, so if you scan a code with a white foreground it will not work for everyone.”

Pro Tip: Always make sure to use a light color background and a dark color foreground. 

3. Size of the QR Code

Size of the QR Code

The biggest worry for all QR Code experts is the appropriate size of the QR Code, for it to be readable. The size is vital for the QR Code to function properly. 

The minimum size of a QR Code should be, 

Size of the QR Code = Distance/10 or, 2 x 2 inches 

In June 2000, the QR Code size was standardized for international usage. 

The symbol size of any logo used on the QR Code must be 21 x 21 – 177 x 177 modules (size grows by 4 modules/side) and the structured appending must be a maximum of 16 symbols (printed in a narrow area). 

Apart from the scannability of the QR Code, the size also plays an important role in helping a customer locate it on the print media surface. Most users won’t notice if the QR Code is tiny and placed in a corner. 

Real Juice has tiny QR Codes on food packaging that often go unnoticed.

Tiny QR Code on Real Juice box packaging

Lastly, think about the mode of print advertisement. The size is always directly proportional to it. 

Pro Tip: Gauge the location of the QR Code and then decide the size of it. For instance, if you are placing a QR Code on a business card, its size cannot be less than 2 x 2 inches, else the QR Code won’t scan.

If placing on a bigger surface, modify the size according to the formula above.

4. Be mindful of the contrast of the QR Code

Be careful of the contrast of the QR Code

In an attempt to match with a certain style’s theme and color, many of them change the color. 

Do not get us wrong, it is a genius idea but it is wise to stick to a contrasting foreground and lighter background. 

Changing colors is more than alright, but always do it right. Go for bold colors – sometimes they might not match the theme but it will stand out. If your colors match the contrast, it can get difficult for QR Code readers to scan the QR Code easily in all light conditions. 

Tim Uittenbroek, the founder of VPNMash.com says that he has witnessed a wounded QR Code not working well many times. ManyQR Code scanners cannot scan QR Codes with a lot of color schemes. The QR Code must look sharp on different screens and in print format. 

Ergo, by the rule of thumb, keep the foreground 40% darker than the background while creating a QR Code. 

Apart from this, dull colors with no contrast displayed on a billboard or a window might go unnoticed. This negates the purpose of using a QR Code. 

Pro Tip: Keep the foreground 40% darker than the background even while using contrasting colors. 

Create custom QR Codes – How to create + 9 design tips and examples

5. Placement of the QR Code

Placement of the QR Code is important

The placement of a QR Code is more often than not, overlooked. 

Placing the QR Code in the right location will garner a high conversion rate. 

Place it in the wrong location and no one will even notice it like the one that was placed on the walls of the New York subway. 

So, why exactly must one pay attention to the placement?

According to several QR Code experts and marketers, it is all about the speed of scanning and location of the QR Code. Overall, it shouldn’t take less than a couple of seconds to scan a QR Code successfully.

Make sure the code is at eye-level. If the QR Code is too low or within 20 inches from the ground, no one will notice it. Even if they do, no one is going to scan it.

Always make sure that the QR Code is large enough to not just be noticeable, but also be able to scan without any errors. 

Pro Tip: If you are using QR Codes on smaller areas such as business cards, brochures, or flyers, make sure you place them front and center. When placing QR Codes on bigger displays like billboards, make sure they are at eye-level so that users can scan them easily. 

Read how to use QR Codes for print media to leverage it for better user journeys

6. Overcrowding the QR Code

Overcrowed QR Code

Overcrowding the QR Code with too much content ruins its entire purpose. 

Look at the QR Codes above. The one on the left is neat and crisp, which means it can be scanned faster. The one on the right appears busy and crowded. This simply means that the one with more pixels carries more content and it takes longer to scan.

Having too much content can cause multiple problems in various circumstances. For instance, adding a lot of content can reduce the size of the quiet space and the corners. A lot of scanners are dependent on those corners, and thus they may not be able to function properly. 

If you must add more content, leverage dynamic QR Codes. You can also upload the content on a mobile-optimized URL and link the Static QR Code to it

Pro tip: Use a dynamic QR Code instead of a static QR Code if you want to include content like a PDF or Terms and Conditions, or even various offers and discounts. 

3 other QR Code scanning problems + Tips to fix them

Now, if most of your customers use the latest smartphone, the above issues will not be a problem. 

But, let’s say your QR Code is still not working. 

Here are 3 possible reasons why and how you can troubleshoot these wounded codes:

1. Expired QR Code

Expired QR Code

Using a poor-quality free QR Code generator can lead to expired QR Codes without you knowing or receiving any intimation. Some generators also have a cap on the number of scans that can render your QR Code unscannable after it hits the limit.

Pro Tip: Always test your QR Code periodically to make sure it is working and use a high-quality free QR Code generator like Beaconstac that allows you to create Static QR Codes that have unlimited scans and is free forever.

2. Broken link

Broken link directed with a QR Code

A broken link usually implies that a website has been linked that no longer exists or, maybe a mistyped URL.

A broken link is not just a technical problem, but it also ends up leaving a bitter experience for the users to come back.

You may find several kinds of automated messages in case of a broken link – HTTP error codes, 410 gone, 404 not found, 500 internal server error, and 503 services unavailable.

Pro Tip:  Always keep an eye out to the working functionality of the webpage and update it regularly using a dynamic QR Code.

3. Over customization of the QR Code

Over customization of the QR Code

Customization adds a personalized touch to any element, including QR Codes. Although customization is required to make your brand stand out, serve the purpose of the campaign, and increase the ROI, over customizing a QR Code is never recommended.

Simple customization includes adding a logo, changing the colors of the QR Code, and adding an image.

Over customization implies that the QR Code is beyond unrecognizable perhaps by adding an over-the-top background image, changing the data pattern extensively, using colors of the same spectrum or, even adding a long and unreadable URL.

Pro Tip: Do not add elements to the QR Code which you may deem as unnecessary. If you do want to add a lot of elements, use dynamic QR Codes instead and include all the details directed to a dedicated landing webpage. 

Test the QR Code 

Test the QR Code

Before printing the QR Code on the final outlet, always test it. 

QR Code testing is key. 

There are a myriad of examples of bad QR Codes that went live without prior testing. 

Test the QR Code on other operating devices, open the URL, and other content linked to it. 

Even a tiny error, including a typo, can render it unscannable.

Some tips:

  • Use a quality QR Code generator like Beaconstac to create the QR Code
  • Test the QR Code with multiple scanners
  • Deploy link shorteners to develop clean codes or use dynamic QR Codes
  • Examine the QR Code for any broken links or redirect error

Easy step-wise guide to scan QR Codes on iPhones, iPad, Android phones, and desktop

Good reads

  1. 50 QR Code statistics you should know
  2. Multi-lingual QR Codes – redirect based on the smartphone’s language settings
  3. 5 ways of using dynamic QR Codes to run successful marketing campaigns
  4. QR Codes and email marketing: Building an email list to make emails more engaging
  5. Best QR Code generator 2020: Find the best one (+ 6 must-have features to look for)

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Why is my QR Code not working?

Test the QR Code by performing a basic sanity check of the working functionality of the QR Code – quality, over customization, broken link, the contrast of the QR Code colors, inverted QR Code, expired QR Code, placement of the QR Code, overcrowding, and using an appropriate media surface. 

If the QR Code is still not working, then try scanning it via an external QR Code scanner or try updating your operating system to the latest version.

2. Why is my QR Code not displaying?

Check the format of the downloaded QR Code and see if there are any errors while downloading it. Test the QR Code by scanning it with a compatible smartphone QR Code reader/app. If the QR Code is still not being detected, then try refreshing the screen. 

If none of these work, then download the QR Code again in any of these formats – JPG, PNG, SVG or EPS and try again.  

3. Why is my QR Code scanner not working?

Sometimes the QR Code scanner may not work if the camera is tilted to an angle, exposed to poor lighting conditions or if the operating system is old. Try updating the operating system to the latest version, clean the lens of the camera if needed and hold the camera straight and scan the QR Code with a considerable amount of distance, with extra lighting, if required. 

If your QR Code is still not scanning, try downloading third-party QR Code scanning app(s).

4. Will my QR Code stop working?

No. QR Codes do not have a lifespan. A QR Code can be scanned any number of times and they do not expire. Having said that, other QR Code generators offer unlimited use for only a limited number of days. But with Beaconstac’s free QR Codes, the static QR Codes are free with unlimited scans.  

Use dynamic QR Codes to edit, analyze, and add data to update the webpage on a regular basis. Dynamic QR Codes on Beaconstac costs as low as $5/month. 

5. Why is my QR Code not working when printed?

There might be a few reasons why your QR Code is not working when printed – 

  1. Check the size of the printed QR Code. The minimum size of the QR Code should be 2 x 2 inches. This size increases depending on the print material such as billboards, walls, brochures, or flyers. 
  2. Check the placement of the QR Code. If the QR Code is printed in between the folds of a card, brochure, or flyer, there is a high probability of it not scanning. If the QR Code is pointed away from the user’s reach, the QR Code reader won’t be able to scan it. 
  3. Scan the QR Code with a distance to check its functionality. 
  4. Check for broken links and 404s, and fix it, if it is indeed, broken. 

6. Why is my QR Code not showing in email?

If a QR Code is not showing in your email, then try clearing the cache. Another way of troubleshooting this problem is by changing the option in Settings and opt for Display Images. Sometimes, this hidden feature may not allow mails to display QR Codes. 

7. Why is my QR Code not working on the iPhone?

The latest iOS 13 is capable of scanning all kinds of QR Codes. If your iPhone is still unable to scan QR Codes, then try these steps – 

  1. Add the QR Code reader to your Control Center by launching Settings and then select Control Center. Choose Customize Controls and swipe down to the More Controls and reposition the QR Code scanner by pressing and holding on the three horizontal lines and dragging to your desired position. 
  2. Launch the QR Code scanner on the Control Center or via the camera and try scanning the QR Code. 

8. Why is my WhatsApp QR Code not showing on WhatsApp?

Usually, if a WhatsApp QR Code is not working on the WhatsApp web, the issue pertains to your Internet connectivity. Here are some of the reasons why – 

  1. If you are using your smartphone’s hotspot and sharing it with your computer
  2. The internet connection is weak
  3. WhatsApp service may be down
  4. Your phone is not connected to the internet or might be slow

If these are the problems, then consider switching the computer’s internet connection to a separate one and check the status of the WhatsApp service on Downdetector.  Now, open WhatsApp on your phone to scan the WhatsApp QR Code. 

9. The QR Code campaign has been disabled for some reason. Why?

A QR Code campaign might be disabled for a number of reasons – failed conversion rates, a decrease in engagement, or even wrongful usage. In such cases, QR Codes won’t scan. A reliable QR Code generator, however, alerts the user of the message when the QR Code campaign has been disabled. 

10. How can I check if a QR Code is valid?

Scan the QR Code by opening the smartphone’s camera and facing it. Once the camera aligns itself to the QR Code, the encoded address or action intended is accessed immediately. If not, use a different QR Code scanner to check its scannability. 

If the QR Code does not display the intended action, the QR Code is not valid. 

Want to create QR Codes for your marketing campaigns that have no scanning problems? Use Beaconstac’s QR Code solution or get in touch with an expert to get started. 

QR Code Scanning Problems: 9 reasons Why Your QR Code is Not Working (It’s not what you think)