Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Web Order Forms and Address Databases

tags:  address elements, address formats, web forms

I bought something online this week – not an unusual event.  The unusual part was the five – yes, five (5) – attempts to give them my delivery address.  After the second attempt, I was a bit frustrated but after the third I was curious.  If this was not something that interested me professionally, that would have been an abandoned order. 

First attempt:  I spelled out all the words in my address.  There was a drop-down menu for the state, so I selected “Maryland” and then entered my 5-digit ZIP code.   Rejected with the message that this address was not deliverable according to their database, so would I please correct it and click continue? 

Second attempt:  I abbreviated East to E. and Street to St. and again selected Maryland.  Rejected, same message. 

Third attempt:  I dropped the punctuation, so East was E and Street was St and again selected Maryland and entered my 5-digit ZIP code.  Rejected, same message. 

Fourth attempt:  I entered East was E and Street was St and again selected Maryland.  I entered my 5-digit ZIP code and the +4, which I looked up on the USPS site.  Rejected, same message. 

Fifth attempt:  Same as the fourth but I put NA for apartment number.  (NA stood for not applicable since I live in a house without apartments.)  Accepted!!

All the addresses I entered are deliverable – and domestic addresses for both me and the company where I placed the order.  Imagine if this were an international transaction!  However, in the U.S., not all of those addresses are eligible for postal discounts on large quantities of mail.  Was the company trying to save money on cleaning their list?  How many abandoned order forms do they get?  Are they really saving money? 

Oh, and that last address with the NA apartment is an incorrect address, in my opinion.  I also do not believe that the company was comparing the address I entered to a database of deliverable addresses. 

Lesson 1:  Be careful what is a required field and make it as easy as possible to order.  One possibility here would have been to let me know what was wrong with the address.   

Lesson 2:  Customers should not be responsible for your data quality. 

Lesson 3:  Do not make up something that sounds good but does not sound true.