All they want is your phone number

This is how to drive your user or customer away from your site. I was eagerly filling out an online form one day, when I suddenly came to a screeching halt at the phone number.
Check it out and see if you can spot what’s wrong with this.
phone number format

Notice that it breaks the phone number into its three parts: area code, 3-digit prefix, 4-digit suffix?
Notice that it automatically assumes you want parenthesis around the area code? Unseen in this screen shot is the system limitation the designer built in: the three fields are limited in characters, the standard U.S. 3+3+4.
Also the fields only allow numeric entries, no letters or characters. Nice, helpful design work by the form designer, right?

Wrong!

Take a closer look.

The format doesn’t let you enter phone numbers whose format exceeds the 3+3+4 length (Where would you enter 800-123-4567, extension 89).

It’s also inefficient. You have to scroll down to another comments field at the end of the form to supply the other phone number information such as the extension.

The numeric format doesn’t let you enter alphanumeric characters (1-800-EYE-SEE-U).

The visual format is archaic. Have you noticed how several companies (including ours) have started displaying their phone numbers with other characters, 1.800.123.4567 for example?

So, unless your input form demands this level of detail, lighten up on the user and give them a free-form field that allows them to enter the number the way they see fit.

This is not to say the specific numeric formatting isn’t necessary. If this online form is meant to capture user input to be automatically entered into a database that drives a system that does have such formatting limitations, then go ahead and put constraints on the user input field. (I can’t believe I just wrote that.)

I’ve ranted enough about this phone number entry. At least the form designer used the brief prompt “phone” and didn’t waste time and space by spelling out “telephone number.” But that’s another blog entry.

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