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I am creating a form that contains, among its different search criteria fields, a textbox where users can specify none, one or more phone numbers. Initially users could only specify one or no phone numbers, so the use of a standard textfield was acceptable.

As the option to add more phone numbers has been added, I am unsure on how to proceed. I was thinking to add a 'Add multiple numbers' button next to the textfield, which would prompt the application to display a dialog with a textarea and a 'Add' button where users could copy and paste a large chunk of numbers separated by commas. Upon clicking the 'Add' button in this dialog, the numbers would be displayed in the form in a combobox. There are however some small pitfalls, some of which are the following:

  • If the number of phone numbers is very large, the combobox items would not be visible within the screen.
  • If the user decides to edit this large chunk of numbers, he can't, unless the 'Add multiple numbers' button changes to 'Edit numbers' and he/she repeats the same procedure.
  • If the 'Add multiple numbers' button is indeed changed to 'Edit numbers' following a multiple entry, everytime the user wants to replace existing numbers with new ones, he/she needs to click always the 'Edit numbers' button, which is not very efficient from a UI perspective.

Has anyone faced such issue in the past and which approach has he/she used?

Thanks in advance for the help!

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From my experience, my opinion, with using a textarea for a user to input their additional phone numbers, is that it would make things visually cluttered, and be hard to organize efficiently, going off of some of the pitfalls you've already pointed out.

For my suggested solution, I would consider the location of your users, taking into account if you are dealing with one type of phone numbers (such as US-only numbers), or multiple, so you can finalize a format, then poll how many phone numbers generally your users have or you expect to have, as well as how many phone numbers you expect a user would have at maximum. If you don't have your own data to reference, I would look to research the type of users you are expecting to fill out the form.

Then with the form, I would initially only display the main phone number field, assuming most people will only have one, or if generally your users have more than 3 for example, show 3 fields at first, and then have a link underneath to add an additional phone number, which will display a new field where they can enter another phone number, and they can continue to stack number fields until they have entered all the numbers they desire until at some point enforcing a limit on how many they can enter, and the link will become disabled and greyed-out.

This will overcome some of the pitfalls you are having with the textfield, when it comes to editing the numbers, and displaying, as well as generally organizing the data.

Hope this helps with your issue.

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