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I'm under the belief that if a phone number is in an appropriate place (website header, footer, or even contact page) that any user looking for the phone number will surely find it. I have a coworker, an "SEO Officer", who believes that if a phone number isn't in the user's face (24px+ font size) then it won't convert, it is bad usability. I personally find comically large phone numbers to be unnecessary and hideous (I design websites, not infomercials).

My internet usage is a few standard deviations above the mean so perhaps my opinion isn't representative of the norm so I'm looking for answers that are backed by sources and ideally usability testing results.

To further define the scenario, these are websites for companies that want people to call. Obviously sites like Stack Exchange and Amazon don't put out a phone number because they don't want phone calls.

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I don't have testing to back it up, but i think that position, layout and color is much more important then simple size –  solomongaby Mar 2 '11 at 16:08
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Is the phone number the most important item on the page? The only one? Oh, and don't fall for this trap: xkcd.com/570 –  peterchen Mar 2 '11 at 17:00
    
The question was meant to be general so you can assume the website has a typical header with 3-7 navigation elements, a logo, maybe a slogan. Since the phone number is going in the header or footer, it better not be the most important part of the page. –  DingoEatingFuzz Mar 2 '11 at 17:12
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Bigger question for the client is why the emphasis of converting a web site user to a phone user? –  DA01 Mar 3 '11 at 20:18
    
@DA01 - This is another thing that I guess isn't true for me, but the idea is it is easier to sell stuff over the phone than through email. I have heard this multiple times ranging from clients who sell mattresses to clients who sell instructor led training. –  DingoEatingFuzz Mar 3 '11 at 20:50
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3 Answers 3

It's not really possible to find a study that'd prove irrefutably that [insert font size here] is ideal or not ideal, because it depends so much on other parts of the design... as well as your target market, business model, etc. I would use different data in my response, but I'd also put it in the context of concepts they're already familiar with and give them a way to have some control without agreeing to use a huge ugly font.

I'd probably say something like this: "Some companies use 'black hat' SEO strategies to get their website to the first page of google results. Techniques like that can work to some extent, but in the long run they can have more drawbacks than advantages. Search engines constantly update their ranking strategies to prevent those tactics, and if your site is viewed as suspicious, they may end up removing you entirely. SEO is important, but part of good SEO is presenting content in such a way that it doesn't look spammy and marketing speak-y to the point that users begin to be skeptical about the quality of the product.

Similarly, if you put a phone number in an enormous font, it will draw the eye. However, the goal isn't just to get people to notice the existence of the phone number. Ultimately, we want visitors to dial the number. If we present our number in a way that's really different from our competitors, potential customers might consider it unattractive and unprofessional. For example, [more successful competitor]'s phone number is in a size 8 font. I think you're right that we should make ours bigger than theirs, but I want to make sure our customers will have a good reaction to the design. Size 10 or 12 seems like a good way to make ours bigger than [competitor] while continuing to ensure that our design looks better than theirs too."

Then I'd talk about the factors that you already know about - ones that do help people notice phone numbers (or any information, really) more than other parts of the website.

For example, http://www.useit.com/alertbox/scrolling-attention.html discusses the importance of putting information that you want people to see in full view rather than requiring them to scroll down because some users will never scroll down. http://www.useit.com/alertbox/horizontal-attention.html talks about where people tend to look first in terms of orientation (left, if they're in a country which reads left to right).

Many people don't like criticism, even if the extent of their research is "But I LIKE hot pink and I LIKE things that flash repeatedly!" Sometimes it's easier to dissuade people by proving that a different concept has data to back up its validity rather than trying to convince them that their own idea is not a good one. It often helps to refute them, present data backing up your position, and then quickly segue into something like "I'm glad you had the idea to make it bigger... I agree, and I'll enlarge it today to size 12. That reminds me, I've been meaning to ask you... how are other sites presenting phone numbers to get better search results? Should I be using parentheses or just dashes?" ;)

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Also, if you run into any problems with this approach, you can always play him this lovely metal-influenced song about graphic design called "Make The Logo Bigger"... spicybanana.wordpress.com/2011/03/14/… –  Kimberley Dietemann Nov 5 '11 at 3:30
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'42'

I think the size should be 42.

Or does it completely depend on other parts of the page? And, as said, on more than just size?

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  • Television adverts do the phone numbers big and they say the numbers several times and they pay for nice numbers. Cards for taxis and pizzas do the numbers big and have memorable numbers.

  • Recruitment companies have ordinary non memorable numbers and whilst not hiding contact details write the numbers in a normal font size. They know the serious candidates will find the number.

Use that as your criterion. If the company has paid for a memorable number then use it big, and if you can also have a video on the site with the number shown and said, do so too. If the company just has an ordinary number, rely on the content itself to pull people in. If your coworker has a background in normal advertising, the pizza / recruitment analogy may sway him.

You can still do A/B testing for modest increases in the size of number up from what you think it should be and changes in its color and positioning - just in case you are wrong. From the sounds of it other factors, such as other images on the page, will be more important.

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