Post-validation, pre-validation… or no validation?

Last month we looked at how important it was to include some kind of address-checking technology into your website when processing payments online. But one issue was also clear: dealing with address formats from other countries makes the task considerably more difficult.

Each international territory has a different history: different languages, address formats, and customs, and they’re all reflected in the way an address is written.

People from different countries have different address management conventions. They may not even use a postal code system; certainly, the familiar “type your postcode and pick an address” method citizens in the UK use to rapidly enter contact details would be a completely alien concept to someone from another country. Even in the US, which has a mature ZIP code system, post-verification technology is preferred over more time-saving auto-fill-on-entry methods.


Take this example from Amazon.com:

After completing the entire address by hand, when we click “Save & Continue”, we’re presented with this screen:

Not only does the example above require the user to fill out all of their address details by hand, it then flashes a red error message across the screen… and still offers users the opportunity to revert to the original non-validated address.

Addressing problems too late

Further to this, no reason is given for why the suggested address format has been proposed, or why using it would be advantageous. When entering one of the most critical and personal pieces of information – their postal address – we have a confusing process which is not only liable to encourage registration drop-outs, but does not go far enough to standardise data.

So why have even countries with relatively mature address systems been slow to adopt address capture technology – preferring post-entry verification instead?

One reason lies in the data, and  adoption of new systems. While most Americans know their ZIP code, they don’t know their ZIP+4.  The standard US ZIP code only returns the city and state – meaning that it’s a dual or tri-stage process to get to a US address using more “traditional” UK-style capture systems.

Next month we’ll take a look at the alternative: pre-entry, or concurrent-entry validation. What are your views on sign-up procedures? Let us know below.