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Do you create products or organize events for UX professionals or manage a UX team that’s hiring? As enablers of online conversations between businesses and customers, Web forms are often responsible for gathering critical information—email addresses for continued communications, mailing addresses for product shipments, and billing information for payment processing to name just a few.
But before we get into the nuances of address variations, it’s worth pointing out that addresses have a commonly understood structure.
This is an important point to consider when laying out the input fields that make up an address. Luckily there is a fair amount of commonality between the elements that make up an address across the world. International variations in address fields start with the most specific destination—the person to whom an address belongs.
Though names and street addresses can have many variations, a single input field for each of them that provides an adequate amount of room for longer answers is usually all that’s necessary. In addition to a city name and postal code, the city line can also include a state, region, province, or county.
To account for these international variations, Web form designers have taken a number of approaches: specific formats, changing formats, and generic formats. The specific format approach works best when you know or can confidently infer a customer’s country. If you know a customer’s country with a high degree of certainty, the specific formats approach can provide a familiar address structure that supports quick comprehension and, thereby, fast form completion times. As with the specific format approach, a design that utilizes the changing format approach provides country-specific address blocks. The generic international address format offers an alternative to maintaining multiple address block variations to support country-specific solutions.
While this kind of generic format can provide a flexible set of input fields for international addresses, error checking may be harder, because several fields can have many valid formats.
I’ve covered considerations for several international address field design solutions, but there may be other options or issues out there. This also disrupts the flow of data entry—if you spend time trying to figure out how to game the state field, only to have that field change once you change the country.
It is a real pain to scroll through a list of the US states, wondering if they have an item for Other or Non-US or International and guessing whether the list is in alphabetical order or if you’re going to have to scroll down to the bottom of the list to find it. What are your thoughts about using a single textarea to encompass everything except the country? The Specific Format form seems the ideal way to go and determining the user’s country via a set of cascading rules that includes IP address detection seems reasonable. So is there a good way with high usability to allow users to select their country before filling out any of the form?
On the same kind of topic, it would be great to list very soon in any ordering process where you deliver. I think the most Google-esque thing to do would be a textarea with a crazy amount of parsing on the backend to separate it all out into fields.
The biggest problem I would have with the examples shown is when the City field is made compulsory. Be aware that enforcing adherence to US state name lists, ZIP code lists, and telephone number input masks will disenfranchise and frustrate the 95% of the world’s population to whom this information does not apply. It’s probably worth reading all the comments, but I can summarize that the main problem with a single box is that you may need parts of the address to go into different fields in a database, different parts of the organization, and so on. Strange Pants: I think you are right, because the main reason is to make forms as easy as possible. Fahed: The reason you separate the address is because you might use it in the future in mailing to your customer, so you will automate a printing job using mail merge or whatever program so you can print your letters easily. I guess it should be mentioned that it is a good idea first to decide if a separation of fields is necessary at all.
Your generic format example, on the other side, doesn’t separate between family-name and the other potential parts of a name. As a number of people pointed out, getting the right default country can come from IP address sniffing, but it is not 100% reliable. As an Australian living in a rural town, filling in forms on global Web sites is a pain point for me. Inability to select a state, province, or region when you’ve selected a country other than the US.
Insistence on City when people in your country refer to only really large metro area as city. Not telling me up front whether they take international orders and ship to international addresses. Allowing me to enter all my details before telling me that only people with a US street address can purchase.
Canada has provinces and territories, a fact it seems impossible to explain to Americans, even Americans who claim expertise in internationalization. Joe, I want to follow up on your statement that this mailing address format is incorrect for Canada. We haven’t encountered this being a point of confusion for users when we supply this list in the menu. In fact, a completely qualified postal address here consists of postal code plus street number.
Don’t ask me for first name, middle initial, and last name when the name I use is my middle name.
Love ya, Luke, but I think I learned more from the comments on this article than the article itself! Who better to speak up on the nuances of international addresses than people across the world?
Good luck trying to avoid drop-down menus for US states, if the majority of your visitors are in the US like for my site. 10.2 Until user agents support explicit associations between labels and form controls, for all form controls with implicitly associated labels, ensure that the label is properly positioned. In conclusion, as long as you properly mark up your labels so they are explicitly or implicitly associated with the form controls they relate to, how they are visually positioned relative to each other doesn’t really matter. I would love to see some sort of plug-in that we could all use that first requests the country name, then bases the fields upon that selection, but instead we all have to come up with a hodge podge of solutions. Has anyone encountered any information, discussions, or conclusions regarding combining Address Line 1 and Address Line 2 into a single text area? If a single text area were used for this portion of the overall address, it scales to all these cases.

In terms of server-side parsing, this design doesni??t present more problems than separate Address Line 1, Address Line 2, Address 3, and so on, text fields, except, perhaps, for the handling of newline and carriage return characters.
Generally speaking, Ii??m not a fan of text areas, except for free-form text such as notes and comments, but I think they might have a reasonable use here. If I live somewhere and order something online that needs to be shipped, why doesn’t the Web site trust me that I know what my address looks like?
Maybe I want to add a proximity thing, as some countries don’t really have addresses? The potential issues I see with the generic layout are errors typing in the data and thus being grouped improperly. Does anybody know of a reliable service that we could perhaps subscribe to that lists all countries, states, provinces, regions, territories, and so on? Just as Australia has states and territories and Canada has provinces and territories, the United States has states, districts, commonwealths, and territories. We all agree that each country has its unique address structure, a solution in the uasability would be to choose your country, then based on the selection, be asked the right questions to get vaild addresses.
I was trying to get more light on the database design for such a solution, when I came across a link to an article on Experts Exchange: Database Design for Contacts & Addresses. I wonder whether, for sites that have multilingual support, maybe the correct entry point for determining the address block format would be on the main page, where the user would select which language they would like to see the site displayed in. So, if I understand correctly, it is not common with a drop-down selection to present correct address fields? There has been a lot of talk about inputs here, but not so much about the end purpose and outputs. Including it might be nice for French users, or it might strike them as odd, because they don’t usually need to provide such info. And a bit of address geekery: in the UK, County is liked by many users, but is deprecated by the Post Office. This information, including form layouts by country, is all contained in The Global Sourcebook for Address Data Management—not free, but hey, I have to earn a crust somehow!
The following errors occurred with your submission Okay Your Username: Click here to log in Message: Options Quote message in reply? Through years of experience with mailing and postal systems, people have a pretty concrete idea of what constitutes an address block. Figure 1 shows how to lay out the fields commonly included in an address in the United States. In most countries, the destination, or recipient, in an address structure progresses from most to least specific—Russia and Iran are notable exceptions. Depending on the country, each of these can have different names, abbreviations, and locations in the address block. Using this approach, you custom tailor the address block structure for each specific country. Frank da Cruz’s Compulsive Guide to Postal Addresses is a fantastic online resource for learning about unique address structures across the World, so you can deliver country-specific address block layouts. The generic format lets you manage variations in name and street address by providing a single input field for each element of an address. Sensible use of IP address geolocation tools can help take the pain out of dealing with state and country fields. We used a generic form with Country at the top and with an Ajax-populating list of regions depending on country. Like a lot of other people, I don’t live in or near a city, so I leave that field blank, which then prevents me from submitting the form. It’s acceptable when that option is at the top, but when it’s included in the main A-Z list? It might be good from a data validation point of view, but it’s virtually impossible to validate the entire address data, so why bother with just state and country. He and other readers might be interested to know that there was an interesting post and resulting discussion on Jeff Atwood’s Coding Horror site, in 2007, about why not have just one box. This isn’t impossible with a single box, but it is considerably more difficult, as it relies on how well you can parse the address. In my experience, the most important thing is the possibility to search and sort by family-name later on.
It is often easier for people to input a 2-letter abbreviation than select from a list of 50+ items. Even though some drop-down lists have Other for country, often designers and developers forget to add something similar to the list of states.
I live in Western Australia, commonly abbreviated to WA, which is also the abbreviation for Washington state in the US. Here, we live in towns or suburbs and refer to a city only when we’re being generic, not specific, about our address.
See Table 4: Canadian Provinces and Territories Names and Abbreviations for a complete list. In the Netherlands, the country is the state, and while we do have provinces, they play no role at all in postal addressing. Don’t ask for first name and last name for a credit card when what I have on there is first initial, middle name, and last name. Since the vast majority of sites have these, people are used to them, and the last thing they want is to type it. It is important that each field has enough space to type in information made compulsory by any peculiarities of the address standards of individual countries. There is no separation of these elements in markup to achieve a left-aligned layout using tables or CSS. I have even read articles that subscribe to 3 address lines for localization purposes, because the claim was that some countries use 3 lines, at least in some cases. I believe these hints are helpful; however, if the customer had the need for all 3 of these, more lines makes sense. For example, I used to live at the house of the father of so and so, next to this and that mosque, around the corner of that well known hotel, in a certain quarter, in a town without a postal code. I’m designing Web software that is used to enter information from a lease or some other document. Does anyone have thoughts or suggestions on creating address entry forms for Latin versus non-Latin scripts?
In some countries, it might be multiple numbers separated by dashes or slashes or some dashes and some slashes. In some countries, the village name might be followed by a major city name, except when the village name really is already a major city.

You could set your defaults from that, then still allow the option to change via the country drop-down list in the address block.
I would think the most common output for address information is mailing addresses—that is, mail merges.
It asks for your address based on your country, then it lets you select the address details. The postal authority’s view of an address may not be the same as the address preferred by users. This common understanding is so definitive that eyetracking data suggests, once people begin filling in a set of input fields that make up an address, they often cease looking at their labels.
The alternative, a divided address structure in which each field appears on a separate line as shown in Figure 2, doesn’t offer the benefit of being understood as a set of related input fields. So when shipping to an individual at a corporation, the individual’s name would come first, then the corporation second. There is also a slew of postal code format variations across countries, including the use of spaces, numeric or alphabetic characters, and various lengths. The registration form on eBay, shown in Figure 6, is an example of a form that utilizes a changing format. To accommodate variations in the address block layout and city line, you can use a set of generic input fields. By distributing address elements across multiple lines, you can manage the ordering of postal codes, regions, and towns without implying any specific address structure.
Most countries just don’t have these codes, and if you make it mandatory, your visitor has to spend time guessing how many digits he has to stuff into the field to get past your validation routine. Do not wait for the user to pick a non-default country before deciding whether to offer a list of states.
Not sure if that holds true for regions or provinces where there are no short abbreviations and spelling mistakes could be present? If city is taken literally by users, I could see a lot of deliveries going astray—for example, to 1234 Main St, Perth, WA instead of 1234 Main St, Subiaco, Western Australia. You get an Invalid phone number or Invalid character message because you put in the plus sign. Try explaining to your non-IT bosses that they shouldn’t get what they want when 95% of sites have it, and you will be looking for another job soon!
User agents do properly associate labels with form elements—provided they are properly marked up, of course. Having labels above fields can, in fact, be excellent when several related fields are presented horizontally, because their corresponding data elements are normally written in a single line, and there is no accessibility penalty here at all.
In fact, I have seen people mistype their names and, once they receive their email confirmation, they realize it and email us back to spell their names correctly. Although I agree that one text area for the entire address presents a variety of potential problems, perhaps a single dwelling address text area makes sense, particularly if one is using the generic address format. In some countries, the ward name might be followed by the city name or the ward name might be followed by the prefecture name, because the city is null, depending on which prefecture and which ward. For example, users may know it helps to include extra information in the address for the delivery person. I want you to help me by giving me some information about the Yes bank address change form. If you have just moved to New York or have moved within the state, you must update your address with the New York Department NY Address Change Notifying the New York DMV of Your Address Change The Form MV-232 can be used for changes of address by mail for DMV records,Mail a completed Change Address (MV-232) form to Your address on your vehicle registration and your NYS Insurance ID Card (FS-20) must be the same.
The basic structure of an address is so familiar, people don’t need the guidance labels provide.
So people are more likely to consider each input field in relative isolation instead of looking at the address as a whole.
Following the destination is street address, city line, and lastly, the country line, as illustrated in Figure 3.
And without selecting a state, I cannot complete the form as they’ve made the state mandatory. They offered to take me to their partner sites in Australia, but these were just links to non-Adobe sites where I couldn’t find what I was looking for. Why can’t they throw it away themselves?) What format do you want for a phone number? I think the best solution really is to have just a single Full name field and split it on the back end when you must, and there actually is something to split. It’s not unusual for someone to get a digit wrong in the ZIP or to get the name of the town or state wrong. Most of the time, the information is entered by those in charge of the documents and is entered directly from the documents themselves, which usually have the native format for addresses. You’ve forgotten to consider that county is commonly used in England and, in countries like New Zealand, they use islands. Or users may have a strong political objection to the official name for part of the address. Perhaps, for English versions, just Address, although not precisely accurate, is sufficient, although iti??s no less accurate than Address Line X. If I want to add an apartment number or another specification such as Hinterhaus—German for house behind the house, sometimes found in large cities—maybe that is because I know from experience that, this way, the deliveryman will be able to find my place more easily? Perhaps a progressive disclosure mode would be better, where you have to select your country before you are allowed to enter your address. Jump to Changing Your Address with the New York DMV - If you change your address in New York, you must notify the New York DMV NY driver's license or ID card to license renewal and taking a Find details on changing your address or your name with the New York DMV . You’d fill in all the forms and even enter your credit card number before they told you that they couldn’t take your booking! If you know my country, do you also need the country number for the phone number or should I leave it off?
Positioning is not a part of these techniques—and techniques are informative, not normative. Currently our entry form looks American, but we are now expanding internationally, so it needs to be modified to handle any address.
After a few bad experiences with Expedia and an obfuscating response from them some years ago, I’ve never tried to use them again.

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