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What Is Address Line 2 (and Other Usability Questions)

By Jon MacDonald
7 minute read | Last Updated: July 21, 2017

While Address Line 2 is never the sole reason shoppers leave before buying, the friction it creates can certainly be a factor in the decision.

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 Address Line 2 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 Address Line 2 can lead to validation failures and user frustration. Line 2 problems violate a cardinal rule of smart user experience design: Always seek to remove friction; never to create it.

Always seek to remove friction; never to create it. Click To Tweet

The good news is that small changes in your data-collection forms can help keep your visitors smiling, make sure they complete the order, and leave them with a better opinion of your brand.

The little amount of time and effort your team will need to invest is minimal. Your Address Line 2 adjustment will pay for itself many times over.

Ready to find out how?

Keep reading…

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 Address Line 1 and Address Line 2 show up, asking:

  • “Do I need to fill in Address Line 2?”
  • “Can I still checkout if I leave Address Line 2 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 Address Line 2 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 Address Line 2 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
Your department
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.

address line 2

Examples (see screenshot above) of questions being asked about Address Line 2 at Quora.com.

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 Address Line 2 strategy 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.

We disagree.

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 Address Line 2 from every angle. When the smoke clears, your choices are really only two plus a hybrid:

  1. Use special descriptive copy to guide the visitor through the form
  2. Hide Address Line 2 initially
  3. 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.
  • 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 labelling to explain exactly what should go in each field.

Let’s look at some examples.

Comparison of Two Address Line 2 Methods

Notice (below) that Amazon opted to drop Address Line 2 designation altogether. The field is still there, but only the descriptive labelling is shown. This is an excellent way to lay out the form.

address line 2

Amazon doesn’t designate the spillover field as “Address Line 2.” Note the inside field instructions to help prevent confusion. Source: Amazon.com

Here’s another example, this one from L.L. Bean.

address line 2

L.L. Bean opts to use Address Line 2 with the “optional” designation. The descriptive copy above the Address field is helpful, but do you see how this type of layout gives more room for confusion than does the Amazon method? Source: L.L. Bean

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!

Resources:

About the author: Jon MacDonald is Founder and President of The Good, conversion rate experts who deliver more revenues, customers, and leads. Jon and the team at The Good have made a practice of advising brands on how to see online revenue double through their conversion rate optimization services. Connect with Jon on Twitter.

1 Comment

  1. Hi,

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