Presenting Phone Numbers


Phone Keypad

The other day I was chatting away with a potential client, I asked for their phone number, as you do. They replied with 1800 GETT AWEB (no that’s not real) . I asked what that was a real number, there was silence for a moment, then “I have no idea,” was the honest reply.

It’s not that phone names are anything new, but it did get me thinking.

The use of the phrase (name) as a number was all well and good if I wanted to remember the number. It’s well know that people remember words and phrases better in general than they do strings or numbers.  Clearly why phone number names are so popular.

However in this situation I just wanted the contact details so I could transcribe them into my client contact record. So a string of numbers would have been fine.

Phrase verses Numbers

Instead, getting the phone number as a phrase meant I had to translate this back into the real number. Which involved finding a phone with an alpha-numeric keypad. Not a really hard call in our geeky household. Then you have to stare at the phone and  letter by letter translate the name. Laborious at best.

Sure I could leave the number as is and just do the translation each time I dialed it. Again it’s really just a pain when all I want to do is plug in the phone number and ring the person.

I have done a little  biased unscientific research on twitter on this topic, to reveal that most people feel the same.

A phone name is great to remember when you are at a set of traffic lights, reading the side of a bus,  billboard or if you are just trying to recall the phone number.

However it’s a real frustration if you have to dial the number off the phone name alone.

Presenting the Contact Details

It just  comes down to the presentation of contact phone number or phone name.

Sure presenting a call to action phone number as a phone name will help the users remember the number. But this will fail if they are visiting the web site in order to ring you. Remember people are often just looking up websites now for contact details as well now.

The solution is simple, present both formats, together.  Most savvy web sites do this, but a lot don’t.

Having the real number on another page or somewhere else on the page – that is not near the phone name, is also a bad idea.  It is  just as likely to result in the user going elsewhere, if they can’t find the real number quickly enough.   Yes, as a user, we are all lazy, we don’t want to have to translate your phone name.

It’s a simple thing, just remember a user experience is a contextual thing; mainly relating to the environment and context in which the experience is presented.  And that people are lazy.

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