I have a text messaging web application in which users can upload multiple phone numbers through Excel or CSV sheet. However, I need the phone numbers to be in specific format (i.e. E.164 - the international format) for my application to work.

Now I can format these numbers programmatically but, I need to know the specific country to which they belong or else I might parse them wrong.

For Example :

A client once tried to upload a list of contacts that had numbers like this in their excel sheet :


Now this is a valid number for Egypt, however upon adding the dialing code for US (+1), it becomes a valid US number too.

My client intended this number to be of US, but my application parsed it to be of Egypt thus he was charged on the basis of texting rates of Egypt.

Now this doesn't happen that often, however once in a while I have to face this issue.

So I was wondering what the solution might be without increasing the complexity of uploading contacts (many clients have very little technical knowledge and some of them don't even know how to format number in international format)

This is how my upload screen looks like right now :

enter image description here

The contact list they upload can consist of :

  • Multiple contacts belonging to single country
  • Multiple contacts belonging to multiple countries

Phone numbers might be in international format or not.

I was thinking of adding a checkbox below file upload control that says "Format Numbers" or something like that, and upon checking that checkbox, I show a drop-down list of countries, from which they can select a country of which the phone numbers belong to. But in this case, they will be limited to upload list of one country only which is not that desirable solution at all.

Or maybe, add two different tabs - one for single country list and the other for multiple countries list.

What do you guys suggest? What would be better in terms of user experience?

  • 1
    Isn't this more UX than graphic design? Commented Sep 29, 2015 at 7:29
  • 1
    Yeah sorry my bad. Is it possible to migrate my question to UX ?
    – NewbieProgrammer
    Commented Sep 29, 2015 at 7:35
  • 2
    This isn't even really a UX question. The issue is that there is no format for a phone number. Validating phone numbers is nearly impossible unless you can narrow it down to something very specific (like a specific country, no extensions, etc.) The best user experience is to simply let people input phone numbers as they see fit...keep it a plain text field.
    – DA01
    Commented Sep 29, 2015 at 8:30
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    That's a problem, but not solvable easily via the UI. The point is simply that there is no easy way to do this. Either you have to trust the data, or you need to have a rather laborious entry method to ensure every possible scenario is handled.
    – DA01
    Commented Sep 29, 2015 at 9:14
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    Considering you are asking the users for a very specific formatting of the CSV table already (three columns, with specific headers), chances are that these tables are already generated at least semi-manually by the user. In this case, I honestly see no point in not asking for well-formatted phone numbers as well.
    – MrLemon
    Commented Oct 29, 2015 at 11:29

1 Answer 1


A country select is a very good idea.

I'm an international person. I live and work abroad, lots of my friends and colleagues comes from different countries, international phone numbers are totally normal for me.

A few years ago I remember an exchange with my father. He is absolutely not an international person. He has only been abroad a few times in his life and never bothered with phones whilst he was there. I told him my phone number which was from the country where I live, it confused him to no end how it could be a valid phone number yet have a "+" as part of it. To his mind phone numbers can only be numbers. This is only one man, I've not studied it in depth. But I do believe it could be fairly standard with older people.

Even myself, despite having to do such things a lot- I often have trouble remembering international dialling codes and how to translate a phone number into an international format.

So, what I would suggest you do is have a nice (optional) country selector for the user to say where abouts this phone number(s) comes from. Implimentations of this I've seen in the past usually include the nation's dialing code alongside the name/initials and flag of the country.

Let them know clearly that they're welcome to try without selecting a country but that for best and most accurate results, unless the numbers are in a proper international format already, they should pick the country.

There is also the possibility that the excel could have numbers from multiple countries. In that case...from the user perspective it seems to be a rather useless file unless they are already formatted right or at the least have the country mentioned by the number. To parse this would be more a programming issue than UX however.

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