While ‘Address Line 2’ may seem like an insignificant aspect of an e-commerce design or overall form design, we have observed this form field to be the cause of bewilderment and uncertainty for users during both our checkout usability and mobile e-commerce research studies.
Now, it should be noted that ‘Address line 2’ was never observed to be the direct cause of checkout abandonments during any test sessions. Poor ‘Address line 2’ designs did however contribute to a sub-par form filling experience during both studies, as the test subjects spent excessive time filling out forms or typed correct input in a wrong field, resulting in needless validation errors and warnings.
Given how easy it is to design a user-friendly and unambiguous ‘Address line 2’ field, it’s worth taking a moment to fix it – it really is one of those low-hanging fruits in checkout and form design. In this article we’ll therefore go over 5 tips to get the ‘Address line 2’ right.
1) Understand Current Usage
The first step is to query your order history and figure out how much the ‘Address Line 2’ field is currently being used, who is using it, and the type of information they are filling into the field. Understanding the field’s current usage and utilization rate will be important when we turn to the field design options later on (tip #3).
Figuring out how much the field is currently being used should be fairly a straight-forward matter of querying your database and can therefore be determined with little manual effort. Understanding who is using the field and the type of information these users are entering into it, on the other hand, requires some data analysis. Things to look for are specific user types, customer demographics, and order types (business address deliveries, international orders, metropolitan areas, etc).
All of this can prove valuable insights when it comes to optimizing the field context (tip #2) with precise labelling and useful instructions and placeholder text. It may also help you better predict any edge use-cases (and by virtue thereof, better support those).
2) ‘What Goes Where?’
The most commonly observed issue with the ‘Address Line 2’ field during our usability test sessions are field ambiguity, with users often wondering “should I enter company name, PO box, military address, or a C/O address in line 1 or 2?”
Even something as common as an apartment address, where it’s clear that street name and number should go in the first address field, we time and again see test subjects turn doubtful as they have to type a floor level or room number.
While one could argue that users are free to type this information in whatever field they prefer, we have repeatedly observed how users will go to great lengths to try and preempt validation errors during the checkout process. Most users feel very uncomfortable when presented with validation errors during checkout as they are entering highly sensitive information (their identity, often home address, and credit card details), and they therefore strongly prefer to follow a “safe example” and proceed successfully the first time around rather than guess by trial and error.
Thus to avoid making the user at unease during checkout, it’s a good idea to give them examples that are “safe to follow” (since they otherwise have no idea if you require a special sequence or formatting).
The “best practice” implementation of this is to provide an additional label description and input examples either in direct conjunction with the field label or below the “Address Line 2” field itself. Typically in a secondary smaller and greyed out font, specifying that this is the place for “Apartment no., C/O addresses, floor level, Att., PO box, etc”. Meanwhile the placeholder text can be used to provide actual input examples (e.g. “Chestnut Street 2125”).
(Note that this advice isn’t exclusive to the ‘Address’ fields but goes for most form fields during the checkout process – form fields almost always benefit from additional label descriptions and examples.)
3) Labelling: Avoid ‘Address 2’
‘Address 1’ and ‘Address 2’ is open to being misinterpreted as two different addresses – in fact, being strict it wouldn’t even be a misinterpretation as that labelling actually suggest two different addresses if read out of context (commonly observed on mobile checkouts).
While misinterpreting the two fields as two separate addresses is not the most frequently observed issue, it does happen. Mostly for users who’ve been perplexed earlier in the checkout experience, and especially when testing users not native in english, or on sites which by their nature often require multiple addresses (e.g. gift and flower sites which often have both a ‘giver’ and a ‘receiver’, or orders with different billing and shipping addresses).
So while this sub-issue of misinterpreting the address fields as two different addresses is low in frequency, the severity of it when it does occur is very high. Indeed, we’ve observed it to result in completely shattered checkout experiences and lead to orders being completed with invalid shipping data.
Therefore to avoid this potential ambiguity, be sure to label the fields ‘Address Line 1’ and ‘Address Line 2’ respectively. (This once again underscores the importance of microcopy).
4) Explicitly Denote ‘Line 2’ As Optional
During our usability research studies we continue to observe just how singularly focused users can be. This is particularly true of form fields where users often focus only on the field they are currently filling out, largely ignoring the other fields in the form.
It’s therefore important to good form usability that each field can be understood in isolation, and for this exact reason it’s insufficient to simply mark all required fields with an asterisk. Any optional fields should be explicitly denoted as such too, so that users can read the field label and understand its context and conditions without having to infer them from surrounding fields.
Thus the proviso for both address fields should be explicitly denoted: the ‘Address line 1’ field must be marked as required and ‘Address line 2’ as optional. It may seem like a small detail, but it’s actually especially important to get right for the address fields because they are related, and some users may therefore assume that if ‘line 1’ is required then ‘line 2’ is as well.
(See all our test findings on explicitly marking both required and optional fields)
5) Consider Merging or Hiding ‘Line 2’
If you’ve found there’s a low utilization rate for the ‘Address Line 2’ field, you can consider removing or hiding it entirely. There are two dominant approaches.
If you don’t need to distinguish what data belongs to each address line, the most simple solution is to consider just having a single ‘address’ field. Depending on address standards and the postal service companies available where you operate, it may not be necessary to distinguish between address line 1 and 2.
Alternatively, the address field could also be made into a multi-line field, allowing the user to enter multiple lines while keeping the form design to a single (slightly larger) ‘Address’ field.
If you do need to be able to distinguish between address line 1 and 2 – whether the reason be for address validation mechanisms, shipping partners, or something entirely else – yet don’t want to put too much attention on the field, you may consider a dynamic approach where the user adds the second address line themselves. This way the edge case users who are looking for the feature will be able to provide their address in multiple lines whereas the average users only has to deal with a single ‘Address’ field. (That said, some users won’t notice this feature and simply fill all information in address line 1, so be prepared to handle those cases gracefully.)
Getting ‘Address Line 2’ Right
The ‘Address Line 2’ field certainly isn’t that one single thing that will make or break your entire checkout experience. It is, however, one of those 10-20 smaller improvements that it takes to lift a checkout experience from good to great.
You should of course always start by getting the basics right. But once you’ve got that solid foundation in place, it’s time to focus on the details. The ‘Address Line 2’ is one of those details. So make sure you:
- Understand the field’s current usage: which customer types are using it and what are they entering into the field?
- Use additional label descriptions and examples to clarify what data goes into address line 1 and 2 respectively.
- Clearly label the fields ‘Address Line 1’ and ‘Address Line 2’ (rather than the potentially ambiguous ‘Address 1’ and ‘Address 2’).
- Explicitly mark ‘Address Line 1’ as required and denote ‘Address Line 2’ as optional.
- Consider merging the two fields or hiding ‘Address Line 2’ if the distinction is only necessary in a few edge cases.
Tip: If you want to browse 49 different address forms from top retailers, you can do so in our Checkout Usability Benchmark sorted by Checkout Step Type.