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How do you handle worldwide addresses?
too much information




msg:378598
 2:58 pm on May 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

I am in the US and I am starting to get quite a bit of traffic from the UK, Canada and Australia but I'm not sure if my address portion of my form is going to be sufficient.

Right now I ask for:
Street Address
City
State
Zip

I am about to add Country to the list, but should I modify any of the prompts in the form to fit what my visitors might expect to see?

I honestly didn't expect to get this kind of traffic so soon, but I think it's pretty cool!

The issue it's causing is that I have a directory of members that lists their info by State so I will need to break that down by country as well, but is there a way to find standard abbreviations so that I can substitiute the full name of the State or Providence? (Not for US states, but abbreviations for UK, Canada and Australia)

 

pageoneresults




msg:378599
 3:22 pm on May 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

This list states the country names (official short names in English) in alphabetical order as given in ISO 3166-1 and the corresponding ISO 3166-1-alpha-2 code elements.

English Country Names and Code Elements
[iso.org...]

I work with hundreds of forms that are designed for International use. Here's a basic format that I utilize. Asterisks indicate required fields.

* Company Name 
* Contact First Name:
* Contact Last Name:
Contact Title
* Address 1:
Address 2:
* City/Town/Province:
* State: (Dropdown)
State Outside US:
* Zip/Postal Code:
* Country: (Dropdown)
* Telephone: (Include Country Code)
* Email:
Website:
* How did you hear about us?
Search Term Used:
Find Other:

The State and Country fields are dropdown menus. The State dropdown is for the U.S. and they are listed alphabetically, spelled out, with the two letter code being passed as a value to the database.

The Country dropdown is prepopulated with the entire list of countries. We've listed the top ten countries at the top of the list (based on client statistics) and then the rest are alphabetically ordered.

Both State and Country dropdowns are required and the first choice (Choose One) is disallowed which forces them to make a selection from both.

The U.S. State dropdown's second option after Choose One is "Outside U.S.". for those outside the U.S.

I also spell out the state and country names whenever possible. We then use the two letter codes when passing values.

pageoneresults




msg:378600
 3:33 pm on May 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

P.S. Not only do you have to worry about address formats, dates are very important too. Years ago I settled on one date format...

2006/05/11

Numeric Representation of Dates and Time
[iso.org...]

P.S.S. When dealing with stuff like this, the ISO (International Organization for Standardization) is your friend. ;)

too much information




msg:378601
 5:35 pm on May 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

Awesome links, thanks for the help!

I guess my form is about to get much more complicated, but that's ok.

john_k




msg:378602
 5:45 pm on May 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

I have found this page to be very useful for handling addresses from various countries:
[bitboost.com...]

I don't know if it will help to design a form for capturing information. But it sure helps when you have to ship something. As long as you provide a means for your customer to give you the information, you can manually rearrange it on the shipping label if need be.

Some countries include a county (or similar geographic region) in their addresses along with the city and province/state.

mattglet




msg:378603
 7:06 pm on May 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

Just make sure you don't put restrictions on your Postal code field regarding length. Dublin, Ireland uses 1 digit postal codes.

stef25




msg:378604
 7:12 pm on May 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

i had to design a form and apply form validation for an exam recently. i came to the conclusion that its almost impossible to validate the fields since they can vary so much, especially internationally

one thing - as a european i find it frustrating that the "state" field is mandatory. here in belgium there is no such thing as a state

we have

name surname
street number
postal code town

thats it

BPeru




msg:378605
 7:55 pm on May 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

keep in mind often less is more
Don't allienate users who wouldn't mind filling in 4 or 5 fields but would shy away from 10 or more

pageoneresults




msg:378606
 8:03 pm on May 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

Don't allienate users who wouldn't mind filling in 4 or 5 fields but would shy away from 10 or more.

That's a good point!

The ultimate scenario would be a dynamic form that changed based on a country selection from the user.

podman




msg:378607
 8:31 pm on May 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

I hate sites that provide a dropdown in STATE for Canadian provinces, and then ask me to also enter the country and type in the province again in a text box. Redundant.

Even worse are the ones that let you enter everything, and then after Canada is entered, displays a new blank form (in Canadian format) which forces me to enter everything all over again.

gomer




msg:378608
 8:40 pm on May 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

Somewhat of a related question I hope.

I would like a list of cities for English speaking countries.

Anyone know where you can get city lists for countries?

OnTopic




msg:378609
 8:41 pm on May 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

Here in France an address can be even simpler than in Belgium.

My 'street' is the name of our hamlet (lieu-dit). There are three families living in this hamlet but we don't have 'street numbers'. I always enter 3 because I came last :-)

Regards,
Gerard

vincevincevince




msg:378610
 3:13 am on May 12, 2006 (gmt 0)


* City/Town/Province:
* State: (Dropdown)
State Outside US:

I have no city, no town, no province, and no state.

You have, however, neglected to ask for my village or my county!

I always find forms which leave it open to me to fill in the best. I know how my address is best written - so provide me with 4 lines for my address, 1 line for zip/postal code, and one drop-down for my country!

lbft




msg:378611
 3:19 am on May 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

I know how my address is best written - so provide me with 4 lines for my address, 1 line for zip/postal code, and one drop-down for my country!

The problem then becomes how to parse that address field automatically.

abacuss




msg:378612
 5:28 am on May 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

In order to get too much of information dont try to force the user to fill in lots of details, A better idea would be to keep options for the fields which you think is not so important.Otherwise the detrimental effect would be that the user would shy away even without providing any information.Provide asterix for necessary ones and the others as optional.

too much information




msg:378613
 5:29 am on May 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

Wow, you guys are giving me some awesome feedback. For a temporary fix I've added the country to my form. It's a sign up form for the site so the information isn't required, but it gets you a better listing in my directory and there are other useful things that need your address as well.

So I guess the best idea would be to have the country selection first, then dynamically change the form depending on the choice. Then drop all of the data into the database.

What about printing the data later? If I store my data in the fields 'street' 'city' 'state' 'zip' 'country' regardless of what country you choose but just because that's how my fields are already set up, could anyone see an issue if I were to create a standard output formatted like:

street
city, state zip
country

Of course the fields would have a NULL value if they were not used and I could kill the comma if it isn't needed. But isn't that the basic format for all mailing addresses? Is anyone different?

davespain




msg:378614
 6:54 am on May 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

Hi, in Spain the format for display (printing) would be:

Name (don't forget to allow for two surnames)
Street, Number in street (could be complex, for example 29, 3º, izda which means street number 29, 3rd floor, door on the left (izquierda))
Postcode, City
Province

an example:
María Martínez Velázquez
Calle Quintana, 29, 3º izda
01001 Pueblo Pequeño
Málaga

too much information




msg:378615
 7:08 am on May 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

Ok, my form is going to be incredible. I just found TONS of data that I am importing into my database now including IP ranges for each country so I can adjust the form before you even know what is going on.

This is pretty cool, I'm so glad I asked this question. So please give me more address examples for your country so I can put this all together. Once I finish I'll do my best to find a way to share!

jezzer300




msg:378616
 10:05 am on May 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

No!

The IP ranges aren't 100% acurate, 95%+ I'd say.

Some of my UK customers have US IP address, but they really are in the UK. You could default based on the IP, but allow the customer to change the country!

stef25




msg:378617
 10:57 am on May 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

i may be on holiday in australia and order a book from amazon to be delivered to my adress in europe. not sure if i'd use IP detection ...

for good tips on form validation have a look at the quirksmode website

swa66




msg:378618
 11:15 am on May 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

Visitors wanting something delivered do know best how to write the address so the local postal services actually deliver the stuff to them appropriately.

Filling out a US centric form that only has an added country is always a pain. And the order that locals expect their address to be written in should not be determined by the website.
Eg. should the ZIP code be before or after the city?
Should the street number be before or after the street?
Is there a street name?
Should ZIP codes be numeric only?
Should street numbers be numeric only?
Are ZIP code 5 characters long?
Should the country be prefixed to the zip code?
Should a state/province (even if it exists) be part of an address label?

Note: it all depends is the answer.

To make things easy: just provide some lines of freeform and store and print it that way, at the very least for countries you're not familiar with all the quirks they might need.

If you do wan tto parse the information to process later on, fine ask it more structured, but for sending stuff: use the address as provided by the customer.

too much information




msg:378619
 3:18 pm on May 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

Well, in my case it's not taking an address for delivery of goods. It is a cart system but it's the seller end of the cart system that I'm building the sign up form for.

I was definately thinking along the lines of defaulting to the country that matches the IP and allowing a change. My thoughts were, what if I'm at something like PubCon and find out about the site? Then I go to my hotel and try to sign up and it only gave me address fields for the current country I was in, that wouldn't be good.

It will definately be a default for the form. I'm also building a 'popularity' field into my countrys, so for each person that signs up from a given country that country gets one point. Then in the drop down for country, the ones with the highest 5 scores will be at the top and everything else will be alphebetical below. I'll have to see how that works before I can decide if I love the idea.

pageoneresults




msg:378620
 3:21 pm on May 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

I was definately thinking along the lines of defaulting to the country that matches the IP and allowing a change.

Keep it simple. Just present the user with the Country dropdown before the form. Once they select their country, the form dynamically populates below.

I'm also building a 'popularity' field into my countrys, so for each person that signs up from a given country that country gets one point. Then in the drop down for country, the ones with the highest 5 scores will be at the top and everything else will be alphebetical below. I'll have to see how that works before I can decide if I love the idea.

Well, I can't wait for you to decide. I've already decided - it's a great idea! I'm going to go one step further and put the top ten and then alpha.

Our method now is to review the statistics and pick the top ten referring countries (live visitors) and populate on that order.

[edited by: pageoneresults at 3:22 pm (utc) on May 12, 2006]

too much information




msg:378621
 3:22 pm on May 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

Thanks swa66, that's what I'm leaning towards.

Right now they are pure text fields with no filtering (Except the usual filters for SQL injections) which is why I started asking this question. I am getting people from other countries that are making the form work, but I want to make the form work for them as well. (if that makes any sense)

the_nerd




msg:378622
 8:07 pm on May 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

Visitors wanting something delivered do know best how to write the address so the local postal services actually deliver the stuff to them appropriately.

Some do.

Some need guidance. But a dropdown list containing ONLY US state names or any other nonsense validation will cost you.

Example: Germany uses 5 digit post codes, Switzerland only 4. At least 5 tinmes when ordering something from Germany I had to prepend a leading Zero just to pass the "test".

Another one: when I was on vacation in italy I needed help with my mobile phone. Believe it or not, they wanted me to provide an Italian social security number. (took me 15 minutes to read their javascript and make up such a number ...)

nerd.

born2drv




msg:378623
 7:30 am on May 13, 2006 (gmt 0)

I have a seperate form for US/Canada orders VS. the rest of the world.

Reason #1 I don't let international customers have seperate billing/shipping addresses. Getting the billing address verified can often be challenging enough and there's less fraud this way.

Reason #2 Less fields and confusions for my main customers (US/Canada) = higher conversions.

I have my check out set up like this...

PAGE 1
Please answer the following quick survery (optional, just 3 questions) and select your country.

....

PAGE 2-A (US/Canada)
Enter shipping info

PAGE 3-A (US/Canada)
Enter billing info

PAGE 4-A (US/Canada)
Confirm and Submit

....

PAGE 2-B (International)
Enter billing address (also shipping)

PAGE 3-B (International)
Confirm and Submit

rightmove




msg:378624
 10:33 am on May 15, 2006 (gmt 0)

Free text with no mandatory fields is the only way to go.

For example, Ireland doesn't have postal codes, so if you have a mandatory ZIP/post code field, you won't have any Irish customers.

UK addresses don't officially have any state/county, just a post town, so you can't require people from the UK to enter both a town and a county -- people get very tired of entering Town: London, county: London.

jalarie




msg:378625
 2:36 pm on May 15, 2006 (gmt 0)

I use [usps.com...] , [canadapost.ca...] and [bts.gov...] as sources for my US, Canadian, and Mexican "State" codes. When working with US codes, don't forget:

AA;Armed Forces - Americas
AE;Armed Forces - Europe
AP;Armed Forces - Pacific
AS;American Samoa
DC;District of Columbia
FM;Federated States of Micronesia
GU;Guam
MH;Marshall Islands
MP;Northern Mariana Islands
PW;Palau
PR;Puerto Rico
VI;Virgin Islands - U.S.

Just for your convenience, I'll list the Canadian ones:

AB;Alberta
BC;British Columbia
MB;Manitoba
NB;New Brunswick
NL;Newfoundland and Labrador
NS;Nova Scotia
NT;Northwest Territories
NU;Nunavut
ON;Ontario
PE;Prince Edward Island
QC;Quebec
SK;Saskatchewan
YT;Yukon

Sorry, I don't have Australia.

You mentioned putting the top few countries at the top of the list and the the rest alphabetically. I do that, but also include the top ones a second time within the alpha list just in case the user jumps down without noticing them at the top.

aeclark




msg:378626
 10:06 pm on May 16, 2006 (gmt 0)

Australia:
ACT - Australian Capital Territory
NSW - New South Wales
Vic - Victoria
QLD - Queensland
Tas - Tasmania
SA - South Australia
WA - Western Australia
NT - Northern Territory

In the format:
PERSONAL NAME
POSITION HELD IN BUSINESS (optional line)
BUSINESS NAME (optional line)
STREET NUMBER/STREET (OR POST OFFICE BOX NUMBER)
SUBURB (not CITY/TOWN), STATE ABBREVIATION
POSTCODE (FOUR DIGIT NUMBER) - goes on the lower right-hand corner of the envelope, rather than directly under the suburb, for hand written envelopes; for typed envelopes put the Postcode beside the state abbreviation.
External territories (islands) usually have their names written in full in place of the suburb and state.

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