Web Design Pet Peeve: The renewed importance of a “clickable” phone #

Hi all,

I ran across an old, and somewhat surprising “pet peeve” the other day while attempting to pull up information about one of our favorite local vendors (in this case, a car wash).  Given that “the Web”, at least in somewhat common commercial use, has been around for 16+ years [depending on who you ask] – it kind of shocks me that this pearl of knowledge may have been lost amongst the ages (or perhaps, it’s just being ignored by hipster web designers of late), so I feel I must ask the following:

Why are web developers and/or web designers still creating web sites, and web pages, that do not have clickable phone numbers – and who insist on embedding that kind of critical information into a graphic?

While I understand that there are some very creative and pretty designs that can work important contact information – such as a phone number or e-mail address – into a graphic or Flash file, even years ago before Section 508 guidelines even existed, it always struck me as an idea of “just because you CAN do something, doesn’t mean you SHOULD…”.

To re-cap, there are MANY reasons why critical information, like a phone number, should ideally not be embedded in a graphic (or Flash) file.  For one, you can’t click on the phone number from a Smart Phone and call it.  Worse yet, you can’t even “copy and paste” it – because it is a graphic, rather than text.  Granted, there may be very specific instances where a designer has no choice to embed a phone number, URL, or other information into a graphical or text file – such as for Banner advertising etc. on another party’s web site – but that would seem to be the only exception that I could envision.

Section 508 fans, of course, will also be out of luck for extracting that type of critical information from such a web site, too – because typically audio screen readers or speech synthesis devices (such as those for the blind or visually-impaired), will not work on non-text content.  And given that a phone number (or phone call) would probably be pretty high up on the list of priorities for a visually-impaired person to try to get more information from a web site – well…  you see my point.
On the flip side of the Web “design versus practicality” debate,  I also still find it curious that many web sites still insist on publishing e-mail addresses on their pages.  Of course, doing so makes those addresses become a huge magnet for SPAM and other e-mail related abuse – however, I can understand that simpler web sites (as well as simpler web developers) may use such an approach to avoid the programming of a “Contact Form” with a CAPTCHA – which is what would seem to be a more modern best practice.  Incoming e-mail can get disrupted or clogged for many reasons – and it would seem that the “Contact Form” would be the way to go, particularly for any organizations of size.  However, I can better understand that there may be situations where the web site requestor (or perhaps, the company or agency who defined its requirements) may insist on having specific e-mail addresses published on the web site.  Perhaps they don’t want to deal with how to route or program a Contact Us page, as well – since it does potentially require having a person(s) monitor those messages, and then route them to whomever they should be handled by.

While having published e-mail addresses doesn’t help cut down on the amount of SPAM, it’s at least understandable as a design tradeoff.  And I suppose that anti-SPAM technologies have gotten a lot better over the years – although, with modern “studies” stating that around 70-90% of all e-mail messages tend to be SPAM in a hypothetical filterless-environment – it makes one wonder, any little things that a web site designer can do to help keep that down, is certainly appreciated.  😉

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Posted on October 9, 2012, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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