Have you ever been filling out a form online, or checking out in an ecommerce shopping cart, and bypassed Address Line 1, entering your info in Address Line 2 instead?
Did you wonder whether that would cause a problem? Better yet, did you wonder “What is that line actually for anyway?”
Address Line 1 vs Address Line 2 is an issue everyone has run into, but few are doing anything about. It’s a seemingly small issue that can have big consequences.
Errors and confusion around it can lead to validation failures and user frustration. These Line 2 problems violate a cardinal rule of smart user experience design: Always seek to remove friction; never to create it.
The little amount of time and effort your team will need to invest is minimal. Your adjustment will pay for itself many times over.
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What does “Address Line 2” mean?
Address Line 2 isn’t a mystery or a problem to ecommerce managers and online super-shoppers. That may be the primary reason why optimizing the field is seldom considered.
Why fix it if it isn’t broken?
Like the fish in water, it’s tough to see something that’s right in front of your face. If I instinctively know exactly what to do and when to do it, shouldn’t you know too?
Many of your ecommerce website visitors, though, struggle when two separate address lines show up, asking:
- “Do I need to fill in the second address line?”
- “Can I still check out if I leave the second address line blank?”
- “What should go in ‘Address Line 2’ anyway?”
Confused visitors have a tendency to freeze, and that can push your shopping cart abandonment stats through the roof. And while this second address line is probably never the sole reason shoppers leave before buying, the friction contributed by confusion there can certainly be a factor in the decision.
Often times, the people who design the forms aren’t even sure what it is about. They include it, since “everyone else does,” but they’re as confused as the rest of us about why it’s there and the kind of information it should contain.
Here are examples of the types of information the Address Line 2 field is typically meant to hold:
- Apartment numbers
- Suite numbers
- Floor numbers
- Room numbers
- PO Box numbers
Simple enough, right? If you live in a house at 623 Elm Street, you probably don’t need Address Line 2 at all.
If you’re at 623 Elm Street (Line 1), Apartment 2 (Line 2), you do need the extra field.
In common practice, though, many other things end up in Address Line 2:
- Secondary addresses
- Attention designations
- C/O (in care of) addresses
- Special instructions
Not only that, but there are times when Address Line 1 is the logical place to put other information. For example, let’s say you want merchandise delivered to you at your workplace. In that case, your address may best be rendered like this:
Your name and title
The name of your company
The mailing address of your company
Unless the form has fields for (and most don’t) company information, your mailing address would be pushed to Address Line 2!
Do you see where confusion can enter the picture?
Here’s something else: some shippers or shipping software are finicky about Address Line 2. They don’t like it when your customers try to slip in something like “Leave on the porch around back.”
You can’t cover every possible scenario, but you can make sure your customers and vendors are well-served by your Address Line 2 requirements and instructions.
That is, if you decide to keep using Address Line 2 at all.
The proper use of Address Line 2 fields on forms
When configuring the address entry part of an online form, we’ve found it wise to refer back to the UX design rule quoted earlier: Always seek to remove friction; never to create it.
Typical advice for your address info is to look at your customer base and determine the information most of your shoppers need to enter, then focus on optimizing your forms for those users.
If 80 percent of the people you sell to don’t require Address Line 2, does that mean you should do your best to drive away the other 20 percent?
At The Good, our team believes all customers should be served at a high level. While your decisions should certainly be informed by your particular audience, you’ll want to make your forms easy to use for all of your prospects, not just some of them.
We’ve studied best practices for the Address Line 2 field from every angle. When the smoke clears, your choices are really only two plus a hybrid:
- Use special descriptive copy to guide the visitor through the form
- Hide Address Line 2 initially
- Use a combination of the above two methods
The worst thing you can do is include a field for Address Line 2 and expect the visitor will figure it out alone.
Standard best practices for Address Line 2
First, we’ll cover the advice normally given for Address Line 2. Then, we’ll suggest a better way.
We’ve already mentioned the first, but we’ll list it again and amplify a bit:
- Look carefully at your current mailing list. What fields does your audience most need? What would the optimum form for your best prospects look like? Use this data to inform your chosen layout, but not to dictate it.
- Consider hiding Address Line 2, but providing a way for it to expand when needed. The user could click a “more space needed” button, or only expand the field when it’s detected that their address likely requires further details (apartment number, building, floor, etc).
- Make sure your visitors understand Address Line 2 is optional. One good way to do that is to put an obvious notice there “This field is OPTIONAL.”
- Include instructions on the form. It’s helpful to provide examples of the information that should go in each field.
- Never label the Address fields as “Address 1” and “Address 2.” That’s a confusion trap. Including “Line” in the term (Address Line 2) is a minimum requirement. Leave no doubt about what should go in each field.
The best way to prevent Address Line 2 confusion, though, may be to stop using the term altogether.
Here’s a two-fold tactic you can implement and test:
- Include a separate field for each piece of information your audience will most likely need, based on the fields your customers have historically used.
- Rather than naming the spillover field “Address Line 2,” try “Additional Shipping Info,” or “Additional Address Information.” The main thing is that you provide accurate, clear, and appropriate labeling to explain exactly what should go in each field.
Let’s look at some examples.
How to effectively use the Address Line 2 field
Notice (below) that Amazon opted to drop Address Line 2 designation altogether. The field is still there, but only the descriptive labeling is shown. This is an excellent way to lay out the form.
Here’s another example, this one from L.L. Bean.
Bolt has a great solution for clearing up any Address Line 2 issues you may be experiencing in your checkout process. First, they opted to label the Address Line 2 field as “Apartment, building, floor (optional)” which immediately lets the user know what that field is meant for.
Second, they added the ability to detect when a customer is likely missing an apartment number through an address verification service. If it’s detected that the customer will likely be required to provide an apartment number, the field is expanded and asks the customer to verify that there isn’t an apartment number associated with their address.
We’ll forego embarrassing anyone needlessly and not display any bad examples of Address Line 2 deployment. Having read this article, you’ll notice examples – both good and bad – more often, and you can use them to learn more about the possibilities.
What do your address form fields look like?
Have you taken a look at your form fields lately? Have you included certain fields just because everyone else does? Do your visitors understand which information to include?
While we don’t have the final answer for everyone, it’s important to take a closer look at your Address Line 2 and other form fields with an eye toward greater usability.
Are you removing friction?
Have more questions about address forms or other form usability? Leave us a comment!
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About the Author
Jon MacDonald is founder and President of The Good, a conversion rate optimization firm that has achieved results for some of the largest online brands including Adobe, Nike, Xerox, Verizon, Intel and more. Jon regularly contributes content on conversion optimization to publications like Entrepreneur and Inc. He knows how to get visitors to take action.