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I have a form that asks for the customer's phone number number. The customer's are international and not limited to the U.S. and Canada.

Does anyone have any best practices on how to layout (and label) the form fields?

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Can you give an example. For instance are you needing the customer to supply you with country code, and main number including State code? Let's say a certain person has the number in the US: 202-456-1414 - or in Canada 613-941-6900 - are you wanting to collect the country as well as the number? –  Roger Attrill Jun 25 '11 at 15:49
    
It's just that as far as I can see the area codes do not overlap so you can determine country from area code ( areacodelocations.info/areacodelist.html ) –  Roger Attrill Jun 25 '11 at 15:57
    
I didn't phrase the question as clearly as I should have. The customers are not limited to US and Canada is the issue so I have to ask them for their country code somehow. –  JamesEggers Jun 25 '11 at 16:36
    
hah! - For other's reading this, the edited change was from 'and limited' to 'and NOT limited'! –  Roger Attrill Jun 25 '11 at 17:30
    
For those that are wondering - the solution that was implemented and fit the context of my task was a drop down list of countries followed by a single textbox for the phone number (and another for extension in the case of businesses). Validation-wise was pretty much digits, hyphens, and spaces with an open format. –  JamesEggers Jun 27 '11 at 16:43

4 Answers 4

up vote 1 down vote accepted

I'm afraid this question is a bit unclear to me.

Are you just asking for the customer's international phone code, not the number itself (a 'phone number number')?

It would probably make more sense just to ask which country the customer resided in. That way, your customer doesn't have to remember which code relates to which nation.

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The scenario I have is allowing customers to add and update their phone number. International phone numbers are an option so having a way to change the country from U.S. is important. I really like your suggestion of asking for country instead of the code. It's a very clear field at that point. –  JamesEggers Jun 25 '11 at 16:03
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Actually, most people know their own country's telephone code, especially when they are used to dealing with other countries... –  Marjan Venema Jun 26 '11 at 8:14

While I agree with @jbreckmckye to ask for the country, not the country's telephone number as that can be inferred from the country, I do think that most people know the telephone number of their country and can spit it out at will.

That said, I would not split the telephone number in separate fields at all.

I would ask for the for the country in a separate field like @jbreckmckye because the country also dictates how an address should be laid out (some countries have the postal code before the city, others have it after the city or even completely separate).

I would allow the telephone number to be entered in a free format. It may restrict what you can do with it "automatically" (or require a very good parser to enable automatic processing). More importantly though, it will allow users to enter their phone number in the way they are used to entering phone numbers instead of forcing them to conform to a format they may not be familiar with.

As a suggestion you could give an example of an international phone number adjacent to the telephone number field.

+31 (0)30 1234567

This example also shows the way international phone numbers are/should be formatted to take care of the dropped zero @PhillipW mentions.

In general terms the international format for a telephone number actually is

+<country> [(0)]<area> <subscriber>

Where

  • + signifies the international exit code which differs per country;
  • the (0) is optional (indicated by the square brackets) and signifies the zero of the area code which you need to drop when dialing from outside of the country (indicated by the brackets) but need to dial if you are in the country.
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So in other words: just ask them for their country, and ask them for their phone number, and ignore the first zero if they enter one. It may confuse users if you show an example of an international phone number, since you're not asking them to enter one. –  Bennett McElwee Jun 27 '11 at 0:42
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Good thinking about needing the country to layout / label address! –  Jimmy Breck-McKye Jul 4 '11 at 18:26

Splitting a phone number field into multiple parts is navigating a course for future pain. Here are two reasons.

In some countries, there isn't one format, but many.

A New Zealand illustration. Early mobile phone subscribers got 6 digit subscriber numbers ...

  • 021 123 456
  • 025 123 456

This was at a time when land lines got 7 digit subscriber numbers

  • 03 123 4567
  • 09 123 4567

But now, mobile phone subscribers get 7 digit subscriber numbers - and to encourage old subscribers to move, some got to keep their 6 digit subscriber number

  • 021 123 4567
  • 027 123 4567
  • 0274 123 456

Phone number formats change

If there's one thing that's constant in the ICT industry, it's change.

In addition to the examples above, consider the changes experienced by my fathers retail business - each in turn, these were his business number format:

  • 03 44 1234
  • 03 484 1234
  • 03 348 41234

While these changes were all in the 1980's, this sort of change still happens - phone numbers in Australia changed from 7 to 8 digits in 1998.

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Be aware that you're going to run into fun and games with the 'dropped' first zero issue.

Eg the correct format for London England is +44 20 X XXX XXXX

However if you just ask for the country and the number you'll get people completing it as England, 020 X XXX XXXX

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Good to know. Thanks! –  JamesEggers Jun 25 '11 at 22:59

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