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We are working on cleaning up our system and identifying phone numbers so they will be detected and show up as links for mobile users.

The question I have is should we make them show up as links for desktop users as well? I can't really think of any cons that would come from making them clickable on desktop. Only positives, such as users who might use Skype or any other kind of app on their desktop to make calls.

Am I missing something. Are there any cons to showing phone numbers as links for desktop users?

For a Desktop User Which is best? :

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    If there is a functionality (Skype, contact card...etc) then yes. If there is not then not.
    – Mo'ath
    Apr 8, 2019 at 20:43
  • Once the users clicks the link on desktop it will prompt them with a modal depending on their browser. But in general the modal will say the standard "Select application to open." Where the user will then select what they want to open it in.
    – L. Lemmer
    Apr 8, 2019 at 20:56
  • It's a while since I used skype, but it had an optional browser option that auto-highlighted (basically hijacked) what looked like phone numbers and made them skype links. I think other tools did this too. Searching for that feature now seems to find a decade's worth of people asking how to disable it. May be worth exploring why...? Apr 9, 2019 at 8:48

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I think it would be best to keep the design consistent across devices and make the phone numbers links in the desktop application as well.

Making phone numbers links in the desktop version, as you mentioned, would be beneficial because it would allow users to immediately place a call using Skype, Google Hangouts, etc without having to copy the number to the clipboard and navigating to another app manually. As long as the links work as intended, I don't believe that you'd run into any usability issues by implementing this feature.

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The biggest con for showing phone numbers as links for desktop users are simply confusing them. Almost everybody by default clicks if its a link. And if you have a lot of phone numbers on the same page it would make it messy with so many links.

However, I would say if your app has pages each consisting of a lot of phone numbers try not to make them as links. But if there are pages showing a single phone number keep them as links. So it completely depends on the type of your product.

P.S.: There is usually some tradeoff between UX and administrative information. I am somewhat biased and in my opinion, UX should be the priority.

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I would use two separate designs for each device.

Phone

I would use a little phone icon next to the left of the number or a thin grey line (like 25% of your gray). Both option will launchs the call option. I will bet for the icon one.

Desktop

I see two options:

  1. Use the same icon that I mention on phone, but in this case, show it when on hover. That's not an intrusive way to show the call option without harming the user flow or damaging the UI.

  2. Not as good as the first one, but the users don't use the call option as freqnetly on desktop (very rarely), but, since I don't know your software, if you can interact with this row in multiple ways, I will put the icon at the end of the row, hiding it in a dropdown (if you have more options), or next to the options of the row.

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The con I see on desktop and mobile is that it is actually harder to copy&paste the number.

On Desktop you can't click into the number to mark it, because you're dragging the link now. Not sure if all not so versed people know the trick to start marking slightly off the numbers. On some sites even that can be hard.

On Mobile it depends on your device, but I remember that I slightly freaked out once when I tried to copy a linked number out of a website. Now my phone gets it better. As well as non linked numbers when I long press them.

Another con, for me as a web designer at least, is that it is a source for stupid errors. Just recently I "cloned" a restaurant site, edited the numbers but forgot to edit the link. People called the wrong restaurant for a week. Plus I usually have to "reset" the color of that link to match the surrounding text.

The pros of having that link on Desktop is saving one copy&paste operation for people using a phone app, plus a tiny nugget SEO juice.

I have seen on many "bigger budget" sites, that they don't link numbers. That's how I came across this question actually.

I think it's debatable. I don't want to have separate designs on mobile/desktop/tablets/foldables/watches, that's for sure.

Having a clickable icon and a non clickable number sounds good to me. Will do it like that in future.

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Use the official tel: phone URL on all web pages, irrespective of platform.

It would look like this...

<p>A phone number: <a href="tel:1-408-555-5555">1-408-555-5555</a></p>

If there is something it will work with, it will work. Skype, native phone, it doesn't matter, as it's totally platform and application agnostic. And if there is nothing that can handle it, then it's not hurting anything.

One added benefit: if you have numbers that might be mistaken for phone numbers, this helps you differentiate them. That is, if it's a phone number it's a tel: link. If it's not a phone number, then it's not a link.

It's like using a "mailto:" link. You don't know if the user has an email program to open it, but you use it anyway.

See https://www.rfc-editor.org/rfc/rfc3966 for reference

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