Without question, QR codes play an important role in the current advertising and marketing environment. In fact, a recent smartphone user study conducted by Baltimore’s MGH uncovered several interesting QR code statistics. Among those statistics, we learned that 72% of smartphone users are more likely to recall an advertisement with a QR code. This tells us that QR codes, at least for now, get the attention of consumers and get a lot of use.

If so many consumers recognize and use QR codes, it is time to employ standard practices for QR codes. Generators may use several different methods to encode, or store data in a QR code. Some of these encoding methods are more standardized than others. We researched Google’s standard format suggestions and have provided a simplified version of that list in this post. We arranged the list by data type (i.e. URL, email address, telephone number, contact information, SMS, MMS, location data and more).

If you’re attaching the following data type to a QR code, you should encode the data using the corresponding data format:

Data Type Data Format
Website URL http://www.websitename.com (include the “http://” so it recognizes the data as a website URL)
Pre-populated email address mailto:name@email.com (include “mailto” so it recognizes the data as an email address)
Pre-Populated Telephone Number +16365553344 (URI should include the country code to support users outside the country of origin)
Contact Information LastName,FirstName;ADR:(insert address), (second address line), City, ST (Insert 5-digit zip code);TEL:+16365553344;EMAIL:name@email.com;;DO NOT use parenthesis or line breaks in code.

*For QR Codes, the MECARD standard format shown above is more standard than vCard standard format

Pre-populated SMS Message smsto:number:message
Pre-populated MMS Message mms:number:subject
Map or Location Coordinates latitude, longitude, altitude in meters (a minus sign denotes a South latitude and a West longitude)code for Google offices: 40.71872,-73.98905, 100
Android Market URI for Android Devices For a QR code you must replace all punctuation with code. For example,market://search?q=pub:”Search Query” becomes:


YouTube Video youtube://ID (may work on iPhone, untested, unreleased, not standardized)
iCal Appointment BEGIN:VEVENT
SUMMARY:Test Meeting
(untested, unreleased, not standardized)

Users respond more favorably to QR codes that scan allowing a preview of the final destination. For example, the user views the URL before going directly to the website. Or the telephone URI code prompts the user to hit dial instead of automatically dialing for them. If you select a generator, develop a generator or develop a bar code scanner, incorporate these standard usability features.

Check out a few comprehensive QR code generator lists:
708media list
2d-code list

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6 Responses

  1. Matt on 25 Feb 2013

    Is there any official standard for all those? Or is it more like some social deal, that we treat all “http://” starting strings as links, “mailto:” as mails, etc.?

  2. tni_adm on 12 Dec 2012

    Thank you for informing us! We’ve updated the blog post to reflect the change. Thank you for reading!

  3. Lewis on 12 Dec 2012


    I was making a PHP QR code generator for my website http://www.blueflamemedia.co.uk and came across this post. I was trying to send an SMS format.

    After looking at your information the SMS format didn’t work for me. After looking around I discovered the correct format is as follows: SMSTO:NUMBER:MESSAGE

    Just to let you know! Good information though.

  4. Randy Smith on 10 Feb 2012

    For SMS, it makes ALL the difference in the world to use “SMSTO” instead of just “SMS”. “SMS” format will NOT work on QR Droid, for example, but “SMSTO” will.

  5. Liz Maritz
    Liz Maritz on 13 Jul 2011

    Thanks so much for the update! We’ll add that to our chart! Appreciate it.

  6. eQRoeil on 13 Jul 2011

    I use events on my generator http://qr-code-generator.iwwwit.com

    format :


    It works with BarcodeScanner, QRdroid, i-nigma on android

    may work with qrafter on iphone

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