Systems supporting faster and more accurate registration of addresses are becoming more and more common along with that they are becoming better and better.
I have noticed a structured and an unstructured approach to rapid addressing – and hybrids of course.
The general concept is that you target in on the address like this:
- First you choose a country from a country list (unless it’s always the same country).
- Then you select a state or province if a state or province is a mandatory part of an address in that country like it is in the United States, Canada, Australia and India
- Then you type a postal code if the country has a postal code system. It may be suggested as you write.
- Then you type a street if the country has thoroughfare based addressing. It may be suggested as you write. For some countries, like the United Kingdom, or part of a country the street is unique by the postal code.
- Then you type a building number. May be suggested if present in reference data.
- Then you type a unit or other section of building where applicable. May be suggested if present in reference data.
You type in the sequence in a single string as it suites you and the system figures out along the way what matches and makes suggestions.
This approach may better fit the way the address is known to you, but does on the other hand sometimes require you to start again and thereby the rapidness disappears a bit.
A common hybrid solution as that you select the country before going unstructured. That cures the worst system glitches.
What’s Your Approach?
What are your experiences as a user? Maybe you are developing rapid addressing and have had your considerations. Where do you stand?
Another great article Henrik. For me it has to be unstructured or a hybrid. Structured seems like a long-winded, convoluted way of validating an address. You are also relying on the user to know every part of the address and postcode, which obviously isn’t always the case. When it comes to form validation, it’s hard to have a versatile solution that works with every form or addressing format. The best option by far is to offer some of ‘unstructured’ or real time inline validation where the user can type any part of the address they choose.
We use a hybrid approach: our rapid address verification/entry software starts with the user selecting country (it defaults to last used country or a set default, according to preference). Then the address entry method depends on the country:
For US, the user typically enters Zip then starts typing the street part of the address e.g. entering a Zip of 10536 then 51 bedf will be enough to generate 51 Bedford Rd, Katonah NY 10536 – but the software will prompt for the suite number in this building.
For UK, the user can enter postcode then enter or select house name/number e.g. enter kt228bx and select helpIT systems ltd, Swan House, 24 Bridge St. Or they can enter it all in one string e.g. swan house, kt228bx will generate helpIT systems ltd, Swan House, 24 Bridge St, Leatherhead, Surrey KT22 8BX.
For other countries, it depends on the level of data available on the postal address files for that country. For Canada for example, entering 200 deeridge, n2p2k5 will generate 200 Deer Ridge Dr, Kitchener ON N2P 2K5.
However, some users prefer to enter the full address “longhand” and have it verified and corrected rather than get used to different standards for different countries and different methods from what they’re used to. As long as the address ends up postally correct and deliverable, whatever the user wants to do will be good.
Thanks Natalie and Steve for adding in and thanks Elena for the pingback to a good piece (in Russian) on the subject.