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We currently have a phone number on a page, set up so that users on smart devices can tap it and call the number from their devices should they want to get in touch.

My bosses have suggested that, in addition to the number in text format, we should also place a "Call Now" button underneath to make it more obvious to the end user that they can make the call straight from the device.

My gut feeling is that enough smartphone users will be aware that phone numbers are clickable to make this extra button unnecessary - but I can't find much information about this online.

What are people's opinions on this? Is your average smartphone user aware of telephone number hyperlinks? Is there any research available on people making calls direct from website hyperlinks?

Thanks.

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It depends on your visuals. Can you post a screen shot or mockup of the design? –  rk. May 23 '13 at 16:06
2  
My 2 cents: your bosses are completely right, a link is ambiguous and non-discoverable. A "Call Now" button adds appeal and, appropriately, calls to action. –  Deer Hunter May 23 '13 at 16:24
    
Thanks for your input - having mocked it up, I think this is likely to be the direction we take. I'm still curious as to whether or not there's been any research into how people "use" phone numbers on websites though. –  BiscuitBaker May 23 '13 at 16:51
    
Adding such a button would be a sound step towards the "Don't make me think" approach. –  John May 24 '13 at 5:47

2 Answers 2

up vote 4 down vote accepted

A call now button, or even a small icon, is definitely a good way to indicate to users that they can perform an action with the phone number.

It depends on your goals here:

If calling these numbers is central to your purpose/design, then you almost certainly want something that will call out the action that you can take with these numbers.

It is also possible that this is simply a listing of info about something, say a contact (or something more appropriate), where you are trying to give the user the number, not just to call, but for the sake of the information itself. In this case, it would make sense to have the number be clickable (indicated as a link, or some other designation). However, if you go this route, I would ensure that you or the system present a confirmation dialog to make sure that the user really wanted to call that number.

This is fairly standard behavior on smart devices - check out place/business listing applications that allow you to call a place/business as well as applications that help you manage contacts.

Also, if this is more centered around phone calls, such as in many phone apps (usually built into a phone), note that phone numbers there often take you directly to a phone call without any confirmation. This makes sense, as you are usually in a phone app to make a phone call, not because you were looking for some other information, such as an address, and found the phone number alongside it.

Since your application probably isn't a replacement for a phone app/dialer on a smart device, you would probably want a button, like your bosses say, to indicate to the user the action that they can take.

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WebKit browsers - Safari, Chrome, and Blackbery 6 - automatically tries to interpret phone numbers on pages in a web view and will display it as a link - which handles the visual indication to the user that you can interact with the text. An alert view will automatically appear asking to confirm that you wish to leave the app (browser) and switch to make the call.

Having said that, some devices may not support this "converting link" functionality. So, you may consider styling the text as a link, adding a background image/icon directly to the text via CSS, or even making a button. I would recommend avoiding the text of "call now" if possible for localization concerns and, if your demographic is tech savvy (ie., already aware) it could come off as demeaning in a way..."click here" on hyperlinks made sense when the web was new or your audience is new to the web, but is considered non-informative to the more aware.

If the phone number is part of a call to action, it might be better to remove the number entirely and just have the button. If it's part of the contact information in the footer...maybe not necessary.

Who is your audience? What do analytics results say about people clicking the text to make a call? What happens when you put both on the page? What happens if you use the "call now" button?

Data, data, data, and run experiments to see what users respond to - use the one that gets the results you want.

Hope that helps.

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