Two of the fields on our registration form are:

  • Email
  • Phone

The client has requested we indicate that we are after the user's preferred email address and the user's preferred phone number. Two field labeling approaches that have come up are:

Approach One

  • Email (preferred)
  • Phone (preferred)

Approach Two

  • Preferred email
  • Preferred phone

I would like to go with the labels in One, as it identifies the field first, and lists the qualifier second. However, it is also butt ugly. So,

Which of the two approaches would you go for? And is there another approach altogether?

Edit: Per Chris's question, these are the only email and phone addresses available. The rationale is to let the users know that they do not have to use their institutional or business email/phone info, they can provide personal info if they want.

8 Answers 8


Are there any other fields into which the user can enter e-mail addresses and phone numbers?

If not then either approach is not really necessary as these are the e-mail address and the phone number they want you to have.

However, if the client insists on having the word "preferred" in there, I'd go for option 2 - if only on a linguistic level. It also puts the words "email" and "phone" next to the input boxes.

  • 1
    That's a good question - and it's making me wonder if using "preferred" in any way is going to be adequate. I added an Edit to the question.
    – gef05
    Jun 17, 2011 at 19:41
  • @Gary - My answer still stands - go for option 2.
    – ChrisF
    Jun 17, 2011 at 19:45
  • 4
    +1. Anyone entering an e-mail and phone number is expecting to be contacted on them. Adding 'preferred' is only confusing. Jun 17, 2011 at 20:15
  • 2
    +1. Even people who have multiple email addresses know beforehand which one they'll be using for a particular website. They do not need/want to be prompted about that choice and seems redundant.
    – pepe
    Jun 21, 2011 at 0:02

Go for Option 1, it is much more easy to read.

In Option 2, both start with preferred, so your eyes automatically goes to the next word to find out exactly what is preferred.

Option 1 is also far more scannable.


I'm not a native speaker, so I may be wrong on this one, but to me, the first option isn't very clear. It makes me wonder whether it means "enter your preferred email" or "we (the website owners) prefer that you enter your email". The second option is very clear in that sense.

  • That's a timely comment about not being a native speaker. We are just about to open registration to a small number of countries outside the US, and not all speak English natively.
    – gef05
    Jun 17, 2011 at 20:29
  • I am a native speaker that it isn't very clear, as you describe.
    – Steve
    Jun 19, 2011 at 17:58
  • Also a native speaker and I read the first option as preferred by the website, also.
    – cdkMoose
    Nov 12, 2014 at 23:01

Don't clutter up the labels. Add some explanatory text. The text will be clearer if the users read it, and if they don't then it probably doesn't matter much anyway in this case.

example of preferred email and phone entry

  • Yep. I'm starting to think some inline help makes the most sense.
    – gef05
    Jun 20, 2011 at 13:11
  • Almost exactly what I was going to suggest - exception I'd put a heading above: "How should we contact you?" as well.
    – Bevan
    Jun 20, 2011 at 21:01
  • 1
    @Bevan If these details are to be used for contacting the user then it might be good to say that. We'd need to see the whole form to decide where the message should go relative to the fields. Jun 20, 2011 at 22:10

If it's strictly a question of approach 1 or 2, I favour approach one because it indicates the 'what' first, followed by the common 'preferred' qualifier part. Having said that I would actually try making the '(Preferred)' part a lighter colour, for example:

enter image description here

However - I am also of the opinion that you don't really need the word 'preferred' there at all. If you trying to spell out to the user the requirements on the basis of your edit in the original question, then rather than trying to squeeze that (possibly confusingly) into the single extra word, then my inclination would be to do that particular explanation properly and get the message across as clearly as possible.

And that is true especially in light of the fact that you may have non English speakers accessing the form, where the meaning may otherwise be lost. Much better to make the English clear and transparent - perhaps via a rollover help as below and thus allow for an equally clear appropriately translated string to be used in the help.

enter image description here


The general consensus seems to be that the language of option 1 is not clear and option 2 is not as easy to read. How about something different:

How would you prefer us to contact you?

  • Email
  • Phone

And allow the user to leave one of them blank.


Why would I enter a phone or email that I do NOT prefer you use? The whole 'preferred' label seems completely superflous and I'd suggest not using either of those labels.

  • No. Ordinarily I agree, but these users have at least three "official" addresses. They are used to being forced to select a particular address - but in this instance (as I described in the post) we don't care which one they provide. For the user it's an atypical situation.
    – gef05
    Jun 20, 2011 at 13:10
  • It still sounds like the form is requesting much more information than is truly needed. Granted, you may have no control over that, but that is a very typical problem and usually the core cause of smaller issues such as this one.
    – DA01
    Jun 20, 2011 at 14:11

Took me a few seconds to figure out if: a) you prefer me to enter an email/phone number b) which of my email/phone number I prefer

There are some contexts where a user could have a choice to enter a work contact or a non-primary contact.

I would go with "Which is the best email to contact you at?"

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