Contact/Telephone Numbers in Forms

25 Aug 2010 - 3:07am
6 years ago
4 replies
3134 reads

We are currently re-looking our Forms with regards to the way contact numbers are entered. Presently we have two text-boxes, one for area/country code, and then one for the number.

I'm trying to do some research on the best way to present this to users. Do any of you have any ideas and possibly a few sites that I can use to benchmark against?

Thanks in advance!


25 Aug 2010 - 4:59am
Caroline Jarrett

Jessica Enders of Formulate Information Design did some research on what people choose to enter as their phone number.

If you scroll down to the end of the article, you will see that she also discusses whether or not people choose to put in an area code or not.

Note that the context is Australian, so you'll need to decide whether this applies to your work or not.


Caroline Jarrett


25 Aug 2010 - 9:33am
Steven Chalmers

I have encountered this issue several times and have usually been able to convince the client that the phone number should be a single field.  We trust the user to enter their street address correctly, their street name, city and other fields correctly without any validation.  Why are we being so strict about phone numbers and the formatting?  Also, consider the consumer of the phone number.  If it is a human rather than a machine then that human will easily be able to decipher huge variations of formats.

Let them enter the phone number however they care to.

I cover this content in my podcast here:


Steven Chalmers

UI Insight, Inc.

25 Aug 2010 - 12:22pm
Ania Powers

The best way to present this box may depend on demographics of your users.

Since you mentioned 'area/country code', I am assuming the numbers may come from users from different countries and might be like 13 digits long (some country codes have 4 digits themself), just as a visual guide to avoid mistakes I would keep it in separate fields, but made sure their lenght is relevant to the number of digits people are expected to put there.Nothing more annoying then a long form you already filled and submitted and it returns an error "oops, your phone number doesn't look valid' and you need to fill this (and sometimes other) fields again.

I've also noticed (not in the U.S.A) that people living in capital cities tend to skip the area code (when they, let's say advertise something, not necessarily when using forms).


25 Aug 2010 - 1:42pm

I second Steven here.

Let them enter the phone number however they care to.

For any site (US or Global) it's much easy on the user if you provide a single text box to fill in. India, China, EU format of phone changes with size of city, type of connection and sometimes even the vendor.

The format of the number should really determined by who is consuming it at client's end. In most cases phone numbers are collected for shipping, record keeping etc.. and are used by humans if need arises. Even if the final user is a computer that requires strict format, it's efficient for a developer to code nightly scripts that keeps the database clean.

Tedious forms should be avoided at any cost. You may provide examples of formatting along side the form to encourage your desired format.

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