I'm trying to devise a way to represent a preferred method of contact from say; a list of phone numbers. There can also be e-mails as well or other means.

A user may have a cell phone, home phone etc.


(123) 456-789, (098) 765-4321

Would the best way to represent the preferred method by bolding the font?

(123) 456-789, (098) 765-4321

Currently, that is what we are doing but I'm looking to see if there are any possible alternatives.

UPDATE: This is meant to be the visual representation after the user has already input the data. We are now showing it to someone else.

  • 2
    First, bolder, bigger, brighter. – bloodyKnuckles Dec 1 '16 at 19:49
  • Is it absolutely necessary to include the non-preferred option? I dont see why you would have your users call you on a non-preferred number – JustAnotherPM Dec 7 '16 at 7:37

Just highlight the preferred number:

(098) 765-4321

(123) 456-789

You can do it in various ways depending on how much you want to emphasize on this number:

  • locate it on 1st place in the list
  • increase the font size
  • use bold font
  • give a background color to the number
  • use colors for font and/or background
  • make it flash (thats extreme don't do it)

I think there is no clear way to indicate this.

You can give emphasis on an element to differentiate it from others using the methods the other answers propose. But understanding that the emphasis is made to demonstrate the preferred way is not clear in my opinion.

The only proposal I have is either put it explicitly ("preferred") or include only the preferred one in the examples.


As you are probably noticing the way you are doing it could lead to issues. What if the user forgets or doesn't know how to bold a selected number? What if they only bold part of it? What if they bold more than one? On top of that it is pretty un-intuitve, I've never seen this as a standard so other users would likely be caught off guard too.

So I suggest three alternatives:

Split inputs:

enter image description here

By splitting the inputs and telling users exactly what you want them to put into the boxes it is less likely for them to get confused or mess it up.

Dropdown selection:

enter image description here

As the users enter numbers, split at the comma and dynamically fill a dropdown box. Then users can select which number they want to use as their preferred. You may have to toy with how/when to populate the dropdown to not have it be confusing and to deal with errors.


enter image description here

This method takes up the most room but is the most foolproof. All they have to do is fill in their details and check which is preferred. If they leave it blank then the value is null. You could replace the labels with Contact 1, Contact 2, etc. if that fits your need better. Also this way you don't have to deal with parsing comma seperated values which always finds a way to go wrong.

EDIT: After OP's edit I see I read the problem wrong. I'll leave this here in case it helps anyone else while I think of a new answer.


We did this with a system a few years ago & tested it. Bold doesn't work - we put (preferred) after


I'd love to know the context of the list. May be worth considering whether it's actually necessary to show alternative contact information if the user doesn't want others to use it.

Most of the usual visual stylings have been mentioned already, but have you considered putting the non-preferred contact methods in a collapsed list and only having the preferred method revealed? This may be effective depending on the number of alternative contact methods.

  • All methods of contact need to be displayed, but, the user can specify which one they would like to be the first or initial point of contact. – Bryce Snyder Dec 7 '16 at 17:29

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