I'm working on the onboarding steps a user has to go through to access a service. I cannot say much about that service. Let's say that it gives them access to some kind of high-end customised services.

It's a responsive website so it will be used both on a mobile and desktop.

After choosing a number of options, we ask the user for a home address and a phone number. Both are compulsory.

For the phone number, they have to pick a country prefix (+44...) which is pre-filled based on location. Then there is a field for the actual number.

My client now wants us to ask whether it's a mobile or a landline and if it's a personal or professional phone.

We really just need 1 number but because of the back office in place, they need to have that level of detail. Otherwise they don't know in what field to store that number.

What is the best way to collect that info according to you?

  • Is it a single drop-down menu with 4 options (Personal mobile, personal landline, professional mobile, professional landline)
  • Is it to have 2 separate drop-downs?
  • Or 2 sets of radio buttons?

I really cannot think of an elegant solution

Thanks in advance

  • Can you not autodetect if the number entered is a land-line or a mobile number? Because that would be the most elegant solution.
    – JonW
    Commented Mar 18, 2016 at 14:45
  • Totally agree but apparently it's too complex. Plus it's an international project which makes things a bit trickier. Commented Mar 18, 2016 at 14:54
  • 1
    Please keep in mind that drop downs are not a mobile friendly pattern: lukew.com/ff/entry.asp?1950
    – UXerUIer
    Commented Mar 18, 2016 at 16:26

2 Answers 2


Limiting the entry would be best, meaning - avoid two separate drop-downs. If you must ask which type, try more natural language options - how do your users actually refer to the numbers?

  • Home
  • Mobile
  • Work
  • Work Mobile

The above are a little more natural (from a U.S. English language point of view). The differences in the labels are also more easily recognized. Take the examples you provided:

  • Personal Mobile
  • Personal Landline
  • Profesional Mobile
  • Profesional Landline

A more focused effort must be made to parse those values. 2 options start with "Personal", two others start with "Professional", so I have to figure out what the difference is between the two similarly labeled elements. Both groups also start with a 'P' and have similar entry patterns (as you start to read the word). Making it more difficult to see the differences without looking into the words more deeply.

Using the more natural language options (or items similar in flavor) makes each very distinct upon initial scan.

There's 2 issues (maybe more, but 2 I can think of off the top of my head) with the list I provide though:

  1. Internationalization - different areas very likely use different terms to refer to those.
  2. Cord Cutting - although landlines are still common (referencing U.S.A.), the practice of using a mobile as the only number is becoming more ubiquitous. While I would still consider "Home" to be a landline (especially if I see "Mobile" as an option) I don't have a landline anymore myself - so my "Home" and "Mobile" are the same.

Long answer to get to...

There isn't a better way other than asking them. Don't use two fields to ask a 4 option question, just use one. Try to use distinct entries that clearly indicate the option in the user's natural language.

  • Thanks a lot for this very clear answer. Your labels would make a lot more sense to the user. They wouldn't have to enter all of these so if they don't have a landline for instance, it won't be an issue. Commented Mar 18, 2016 at 16:16

It's sad they have this ridiculous requirement where people have to conform to their outdated system.

That being said, assumptions can be your friend.

Put two radio buttons (landline, mobile) after the phone field. If the target audience is elderly, put landline first and selected by default. If the audience is not elderly, put the mobile label first and select it by default. This way the majority of users will never have to deal with this information.

If your app is B2B, presume the number is professional and just dump them all there. The client is not going to do anything with that information anyway. If the app is consumer-facing, assume the number is personal and store them there.

  • Why are you making all these assumptions? I can imagine several different scenarios where the client's requirements are not only legit, but necessary. Whether you like their business plan or not based on absolutely no information is completely irrelevant to the question. Your suggestions are good, btw. IMHO, you should just skim all your guesses and remarks
    – Devin
    Commented Mar 19, 2016 at 6:03
  • The client requirements are that they need only one number. The categories, as I understood it, were requirements of an outdated system. I proposed a way to bridge the needs of the system and the user. If there's one number, will the client treat landlines differently from mobile? Highly unlikely. Commented Mar 20, 2016 at 15:52

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.