One of the more interesting fields on the Web Page Advisor report asks whether a phone number is visible or not. Now each country formats telephone numbers differently. Here we are talking about U.S. phone numbers.
While creating a recent Web Page Advisor report (links to a sample report), I found that not only was the phone number not on the home page, not in the header or footer of every page, but also not on the Contact page.
Another report revealed that the phone number was formatted in such a way that the iPhone would not allow me to call the number by tapping on the number. Such a simple thing to be done correctly.
Here are three common formats for presenting telephone numbers in the United States.
- (123) 456-7890
Believe it or not there are international standards organizations (links to a PDF) that provide in depth documentation on how to notate a phone number. One such body informs us that the use of () (parenthesis) is to indicate numbers that are not always dialed. Think of county codes when you are in country. The + (plus) sign indicates the international prefix.
In this case the area code is definitely required to dial the number, placing parentheses around the area could would not be according to this standard.
Typing the parenthesis is harder than simply typing a hyphen. And typing the hyphen is more prone to mistakes according to some librarians.
The period separator provides much less space between the numerals, making it harder to read.
For these three reasons I prefer the hyphen when notating a phone number.
Please keep all other characters away from your phone number if you want the number to be “dialable” from an iPhone. Some sites scrunch up the characters to save space. Don’t do that. Also, don’t add a hyphen (for example -123-456-7890) to set the number apart.
Don’t present your phone number as an image or flash, else you can count on less phone calls, especially from mobile site visitors.
From an SEO perspective a local telephone number is a location indicator. People and search engines can recognize and identify an area code. As Google places more emphasis on local search you may find an advantage in providing local information, such as your local phone number, as compared to competitors who do not.
As mobile web browsing increases, be sure that your phone number on your website is highly visible and accessible.
What kind of phone number issues have you seen on websites? What are your best practices?