What is the best and most usable format to capture address information from a universal user base? I was thinking to have the system detect the country by IP address and have that selected by default, and then state/province droplist would be populated accordingly. But the issue is some countries have states and provinces and some do not. Some have postal codes and some do not. Is there a universal standard to capture complete address info to ensure efficiency for most users?

FYI: I did research on here and while there are some questions that are close, none are about this exact same question (unless I missed something)

  • 1
    Use a single field and verify the input.
    – Matt
    Commented Oct 22, 2013 at 21:16
  • Don't rely on autodetecting the country only. It will be wrong for some users (because of VPN and whatnot), and they will be very annoyed if they can't give you the real country. So use such a check as a suggestion, not to replace input.
    – Rumi P.
    Commented Oct 30, 2013 at 9:24

1 Answer 1


It depends on whether or not you need to verify the address.

When validation matters

If you need to verify the input you need a database of validation rules. But even then, it will be hard to keep track of all possible valid formats and keep in mind that these things are not set in stone and may change at any time.

You could think about offering an option for the user to submit non-validating data which you can then get checked by a person. This prevents excluding valid addresses and it's also a great way to improve your validation ruleset.

When validation doesn't matter

One wild idea, in case validation doesn't matter at all, is to display an envelope and ask the user to enter her address directly on the envelope as if she received an letter (textarea supporting multi-line input). That's probably the most natural way for a user to enter an address and doesn't force her to enter the address in an (to her) uncommon flow of fields.

Further reading: international names

A related problem is how to accept international name input. The W3C has a done a very thorough article on this topic: http://www.w3.org/International/questions/qa-personal-names.

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