Learn Measure Blog Live About

Address form best practices codelab

Updated

How can you design a form that works well for a variety of names and address formats? Minor form glitches irritate users and can cause them to leave your site or give up on completing a purchase or sign-up.

This codelab shows you how to build an easy-to-use, accessible form that works well for most users.

Step 1: Make the most of HTML elements and attributes

You'll start this part of the codelab with an empty form, just a heading and a button all on their own. Then you'll begin adding inputs. (CSS and a little bit of JavaScript are already included.)

  • Click Remix to Edit to make the project editable.
  • Add a name field to your <form> element with the following code:
<section>
<label for="name">Name</label>
<input id="name" name="name">
</section>

That may look complicated and repetitive for just one name field, but it already does a lot.

You associated the label with the input by matching the label's for attribute with the input's name or id. A tap or click on a label moves focus to its input, making a much bigger target than the input on its own—which is good for fingers, thumbs and mouse clicks! Screenreaders announce label text when the label or the label's input gets focus.

What about name="name"? This is the name (which happens to be 'name'!) associated with the data from this input which is sent to the server when the form is submitted. Including a name attribute also means that the data from this element can be accessed by the FormData API.

Step 2: Add attributes to help users enter data

What happens when you tap or click in the Name input in Chrome? You should see autofill suggestions that the browser has stored and guesses are appropriate for this input, given its name and id values.

Now add autocomplete="name" to your input code so it looks like this:

<section>
<label for="name">Name</label>
<input id="name" name="name" autocomplete="name">
</section>

Reload the page in Chrome and tap or click in the Name input. What differences do you see?

Ever wondered how to delete autofill suggestions in Chrome?

  • Windows: Shift + delete
  • Mac: Shift + fn + delete

You should notice a subtle change: with autocomplete="name", the suggestions are now specific values that were used previously in form inputs that also had autocomplete="name". The browser isn't just guessing what might be appropriate: you have control. You'll also see the Manage… option to view and edit the names and addresses stored by your browser.

Two screenshots of Chrome on an Android phone showing a form with a single input, with 
    and without an autocomplete value. One shows browser UI heuristicically suggestions values; the 
    other shows UI when there are stored autocomplete values.
UI for autofill with guessed values, versus autocomplete.

If an appropriate autocomplete value is available for an input, select or textarea, you should use it!

Now add constraint validation attributes maxlength, pattern and required so your input code looks like this:

<section>
<label for="name">Name</label>
<input id="name" name="name" autocomplete="name"
maxlength="100" pattern="[\p{L} \-\.]+" required>

</section>
  • maxlength="100" means the browser won't allow any input longer than 100 characters.

  • pattern="[\p{L} \-\.]+" uses a regular expression that allows Unicode letter characters, hyphens and periods (full stops). That means names such as Françoise or Jörg aren't classed as 'invalid'. That isn't the case if you use the value \w which [only allows characters from the Latin alphabet.

  • required means… required! The browser will not allow the form to be submitted without data for this field, and will warn and highlight the input if you attempt to submit it. No extra code required!

Caution: This codelab doesn't address (😜) localization or internationalization. Depending on where your users are located, you need to consider address formats as well as the different names used for address components, even within the same language: ZIP, postal code, Eircode or PIN? It may be necessary for your site to customize for multiple locales, but the address form in this codelab is designed for flexibility, and should work "well enough" for a range of addresses.

To test how the form works with and without these attributes, try entering data:

  • Try entering values that don't fit the pattern attribute.
  • Try submitting the form with an empty input. You'll see built-in browser functionality warning of the empty required field and setting focus on it.

Step 3: Add a flexible address field to your form

To add an address field, add the following code to your form:

<section>
<label for="address">Address</label>
<textarea id="address" name="address" autocomplete="address"
maxlength="300" required>
</textarea>
</section>

A textarea is the most flexible way for your users to enter their address, and it's great for cutting and pasting.

You should avoid splitting your address form into components such as street name and number unless you really need to. Don't force users to try to fit their address into fields that don't make sense.

Consider the way that address data from your form is being used. What's it for? Make sure to understand data requirements and who sets them.

Now add fields for ZIP or postal code, and Country or region. For simplicity, only the first five countries are included here. A full list is included in the completed address form.

<section>
<label for="postal-code">ZIP or postal code (optional)</label>
<input id="postal-code" name="postal-code"
autocomplete="postal-code" maxlength="20">

</section>

<section id="country-region">
<label for="">Country or region</label>
<select id="country" name="country" autocomplete="country"
required>

<option selected value="SPACER"> </option>
<option value="AF">Afghanistan</option>
<option value="AX">Åland Islands</option>
<option value="AL">Albania</option>
<option value="DZ">Algeria</option>
<option value="AS">American Samoa</option>
</select>
</section>

You'll see that Postal code is optional: that's because many countries don't use postal codes. (Global Sourcebook provides information about address formats for 194 different countries, including sample addresses.) The label Country or region is used instead of Country, because some options from the full list (such as the United Kingdom) are not single countries (despite the autocomplete value).

Step 4: Enable customers to easily enter shipping and billing addresses

You've built a highly functional address form, but what if your site requires more than one address, for shipping and billing, for example? Try updating your form to enable customers to enter shipping and billing addresses. How can you make data entry as quick and easy as possible, especially if the two addresses are the same? The article that goes with this codelab explains techniques for handling multiple addresses. Whatever you do, make sure to use the correct autocomplete values!

Step 5: Add a telephone number field

To add a telephone number input, add the following code to the form:

<section>
<label for="tel">Telephone</label>
<input id="tel" name="tel" autocomplete="tel" type="tel"
maxlength="30" pattern="[\d \-\+]+" enterkeyhint="done"
required>

</section>

For phone numbers use a single input: don't split the number into parts. That makes it easier for users to enter data or copy and paste, makes validation simpler, and enables browsers to autofill.

There are two attributes that can improve the user experience of entering a telephone number:

  • type="tel" ensures mobile users get the right keyboard.
  • enterkeyhint="done" sets the mobile keyboard enter key label to show that this is the last field and the form can now be submitted (the default is next).
Two screenshots of a form 
  on Android showing how the enterkeyhint input attribute changes the enter key button icon.
Use the enterkeyhint attribute to set the Enter button label: 'next' and 'done'.
Gotchas!

Using type="number" adds an up/down arrow to increment numbers, which makes no sense for data such as telephone, payment card, or account numbers. Instead, you should use type="tel" for telephone numbers. For other numbers, use type="text" (or leave off the attribute, since text is the default) and add inputmode="numeric" to get a numeric keyboard on mobile.

Can you see any problems with using a single input for telephone number? Do you store phone number parts (country and area code) separately? If so, why?

Your complete address form should now look like this:

  • Try out your form on different devices. What devices and browsers are you targeting? How could the form be improved?

There are several ways to test your form on different devices:

Before you start building forms, make sure to understand what data is required and if that data is strictly necessary. Don't ask for data you don't need! The simplest way to reduce form complexity and improve privacy is to remove unnecessary fields. Storing less data also reduces back-end data cost and liability.

Going further

  • Analytics and Real User Monitoring: enable the performance and usability of your form design to be tested and monitored for real users, and to check if changes are successful. You should monitor load performance and other Web Vitals, as well as page analytics (what proportion of users bounce from your address form without completing it? how long do users spend on your address form pages?) and interaction analytics (which page components do users interact with, or not?)

  • Where are your users located? How do they format their address? What names do they use for address components, such as ZIP or postal code? Frank's Compulsive Guide to Postal Addresses provides useful links and extensive guidance detailing address formats in over 200 countries.

  • Country selectors are notorious for poor usability. It's best to avoid select elements for a long list of items and the ISO 3166 country-code standard currently lists 249 countries! Instead of a <select> you may want to consider an alternative such as the Baymard Institute country selector.

    Can you design a better selector for lists with a lot of items? How would you ensure your design is accessible across a range of devices and platforms? (The <select> element doesn't work well for a large number of items, but at least it's usable on virtually all browsers and assistive devices!)

    The blog post <input type=”country” /> discusses the complexity of standardizing a country selector. Localization of country names can also be problematic. Countries Lists has a tool for downloading country codes and names in multiple languages, in multiple formats.