Jan 23

Your user knows where they live

Category: web

Lately I’ve come across this curious trend of web sites that try to second guess where I live. As someone who has moved into a new unit in a new suburb I get interesting suggestions to say the least.

I’ve noticed many Australian based sites are starting to second guess your postal address. This leads to some interesting situations arising. First we’ll look at my mum.

Until recently my mum who lives in a rural area didn’t have a unique rural property number for her new house. As such she used the one for the old house and the post man knew which one to deliver too. At one point she got a new number and I was trying to send her something. Curiously all of the systems attempted to autocorrect me to the wrong address – a now vacant house. In some cases (Queensland Motorways) I had to fight the system to let me have the address I knew to be correct.

My present situation is more interesting. I have two problems: I live in a new suburb and I live in a new unit complex. Some systems will complain that the suburb I’m in doesn’t exist and will flat out refuse to let me have it as a valid address. I find this a joke, I mean you’re saying that because you don’t know where I live you won’t let me set that as the address and would rather I set the “wrong” suburb just to suffice validation? In other situations they will let me have the suburb (yay!) but then refuse to acknowledge I live in a unit. In these cases the unit qualifier is dropped or suggested to be wrong.

The depressing thing is that my experiences ranges from three different levels:

  • They suggest I have the wrong address but let me keep it as one of their suggestions.
  • They suggest I have the wrong address and make me go through multiple levels of confirmation before they let me keep it.
  • They don’t let me enter my correct address and refuse it.

What worries me is that this happens all together. The user entered their address and while having an AJAX powered suggestion box would be good as insulting your users by suggesting they don’t know their own address doesn’t help very much. I could see value in suggesting a better suburb match however in my case when universally the application is broken until it next gets an update from whoever it is that hands out addresses – straight out suggesting I can’t enter my address is your failure not mine.


2 Comments so far

  1. Keith Casey January 24th, 2011 1:11 am

    Personally, I think the best approach would be to “fail” validation and show a message like:

    “We tried to validate your postal address and had a problem finding it. This could be a variety of things:
    * You mistyped it; or
    * Our records are incomplete and we should have it; or
    * Your postal area is new and we haven’t updated yet.

    If you’ve mistyped, please correct it. If you’re sure you want to keep your postal information as is, please check this box.”

    That should catch your situation and still protect against typos which are probably 1000x more common.

  2. pasamio January 24th, 2011 9:51 am

    Indeed, that’s the first option “We couldn’t find it, here is a list of addresses we think are more accurate” and in one case at the top of the list I saw a “No my address of

    is correct” or similar. This is the first one and I can live with that. It’s the other two options (“are you really really sure?” and “this address doesn’t exist, try again”) that particularly peeve me.

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