Have you ever filled out a form and froze on the address field? A research study found that users come to a confusing stop when they encounter the “address line 2” field.
Not only that, but the second address field also caused them to split their input incorrectly in the address fields. This led to confusion and frustration among users.
Labeling the second address field “Apartment/Suite/Other” did not resolve the issue. Users still came to a confusing stop and wondered whether the field was relevant for them.
Having two address fields violates the principle of Familiarity that states the system should match the user’s real world expectations. When there’s a match, users can interpret the interface based on conventions they’re already familiar with.
The second address field forces the user to type their address in the system’s preferred format, not the user’s. In the real world, users think of addresses as a single entity. Two text fields causes them to perceive their address as separate entities. Users don’t expect to see this which is why they get confused.
Use a Text Area
By using a single text area instead of two text fields, you’ll help users fill out the address field quicker. This allows them to think about their address as a single entity instead of two separate entities when they see the field.
Text areas allow users to press ‘enter’ to skip to a new line so they can type their address in the real world format they’re used to seeing. Text areas also don’t limit addresses to two lines, allowing it to support international formats.
City, State and Zip Code
Use separate fields for city, state and zip code because these input need to be parsed to ensure a unique geographic location. There’s a tool called Parserator that allow you to parse an entire address from a text area, but it doesn’t have perfect accuracy and only works for U.S. addresses. It’s a novel solution worth trying and testing if you have the time.
Real World Expectations
It’s important to design your form based on the user’s real world expectations. If you force users to rethink conventions in order to match the system, you’ll confuse and frustrate them. Don’t force the user to follow the system, force the system to follow the user.