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Usability Tip: Postal Address Forms

Careful! This post is looking a little old and could be inaccurate in many, many ways

You’re shopping online and have chosen the product you want, continue to the checkout and the form requests your house number and postcode, but does not return your address. Then what?

I’ve come across this issue numerous times, over different addresses. In most cases I’ve been able to provide a similar address, accepted by the system and have the products arrive correctly. The issue arises because of poor usability from the inconsiderate implementation of advanced functionality.

In an attempt to improve the usability on their checkout forms, online businesses are using a postal database to retrieve a full address based on your postcode. This allows the user to enter less information and move through a form more quickly. But many of these implementations are assuming your address must exist within the database. In doing this they provide no alternative methods of entering an address.

This is a massive misjudgement by those developing the website, and what is infuriating is that such simply fixable issues exist on big brand websites such as IKEA and Littlewoods Direct. The answer to this usability problem is not to replace the postal database as it is a fantastic aide to usability but it should be used in conjunction with a standard address form to allow those users that cannot find their address to enter theirs in my hand.

When adding new functionality to a website is best to consider all your users and ensure such functionality works for everyone, otherwise provide an alternative.

What do you think? Have you had the same problem, or something similar?