Quick Hit: Phone Number Field Awry

Recently, I decided to upgrade my server for The Usability Review and my other sites. I have been using www.1and1.com for a long time and have been quite satisfied with them. So, I ended up choosing a dynamic cloud server package from them and went through the sign up process. During that process, they offered to buy a domain for me and then they offered Norton virus protection. Finally, I got to the sign up page after choosing my country. There I encountered a strange field pictured below.

1and1.com sign up form field for phone number

Notice the phone # field is a bit strange.

If you take a look specifically at the phone field, it looks like this:

Now, the odd part about this form field starts with the “/” character separating the first half of the field from the second half. I have never seen a slash character used to separate a phone number. If you remember, I mentioned that on the page prior, I had selected my country from the following field:

This made me wonder if the phone number field was some sort of international code. I had no idea what the international code for the US was. The second thing that threw me off was how wide the first field was. It couldn’t be a field for the first 3 digits I thought.

So, my conclusion was to enter my full phone number with area code in the field on the right. Of course, this was wrong. This was just a standard field where they wanted you to put the area code in the first field and the rest of the number in the second field. It was baffling to me how much thought I had to put into something as simple as entering my phone number.

This form field is clearly a violation of the basic premise of the book “Don’t Make Me Think.” It is also a great example of how context is incredibly important. If I hadn’t just come from selecting my country in the step prior, I probably wouldn’t have even thought of country code and would have filled the field out correctly.

About Scott

Scott Barnard is the founder of The Usability Review and RememberStuff.com. After earning 2 degrees from MIT, he transplanted to the San Francisco Bay Area where he had a front row seat to the dot com boom and bust and the subsequent growth in importance of web, mobile and desktop application designs to the everyday activities of businesses and consumers alike. Get in touch with Scott if you'd like to hire him to consult on web, mobile app, or desktop application design at sbarnard@theusabilityreview.com.
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