I've noticed an emerging pattern in web-based forms is to put the country field before city/state. This is contrary to how we would normally fill out an address on paper, but it allows us to have dynamic form labels and dropdowns.

What are your thoughts? Is this a pattern worth embracing?

enter image description here

  • 7
    Good question. Just a comment - In Ireland there is no 'ZIP / Postal Code'. I've been on many sites where 'ZIP / Postal Code' is a required field. Commented Apr 29, 2011 at 8:07
  • Wow, I didn't know that. I suppose conditionally required fields should be dynamic too. If you forget to enter your zip in the US, you won't be getting your package :)
    – Baa
    Commented Apr 29, 2011 at 22:57
  • 2
    Good idea - google wallet has a great example of this
    – just__matt
    Commented Mar 29, 2012 at 17:36
  • And some countries don't have states or alike. Commented Oct 30, 2014 at 17:57

4 Answers 4


Great idea - I love the notion of providing per-country address forms and save users from having to put up with a convention that does not apply to them.

I agree that it's somewhat uncommon to have the country field that early in an address form - but what about asking the user which country they're from before even starting the address form interaction, i.e. in a separate context? It doesn't need to be a separate page though, just make sure that this field comes before the actual form and is not perceived as part of the form.

One way that springs to mind would be to pose it as a friendly question - use it as an extra opportunity to bond with your customer :-)

BTW: bonus points for providing sensible default values which could be derived from a IP location service or other information from previous interactions, or simply have the five most used countries duplicated (!) to the top of the drop-down list. As a German presented with such a list, I often have to press "G" repeatedly to skip over countries like Gabon or Georgia, and I always wonder how many customers for this particular company come from those places as opposed to Germany...

  • Another great way to speed up things and wow the customer would be to automatically predict the town or city from the ZIP code (if present). If it's ambiguous, provide a list of choices and also allow free-text input if nothing fits the bill.
    – Jan
    Commented Apr 29, 2011 at 10:47
  • Thanks for all the great ideas. For longer processes like e-commerce checkout, country selection might work in the first step (or just a separate section), perhaps with a few fields for other basic information. Country might also affect phone number fields (and others), so that seems like a good idea.
    – Baa
    Commented Apr 29, 2011 at 23:10
  • One problem with a per contry form is that it might be quite a bit of work. So far US, Canada, and Ireland all seems to handle it in different ways. And I could add Sweden and Netherlands to that. I could see that it quickly would grow out of hand.
    – Alvin
    Commented May 22, 2012 at 6:57
  • I really appreciate dropdowns that show the most likely Countries at the top - for the same reasons as Jan. Additionally it also helps with another annoying issue: I frequently type "G", only to find out that Germany is listed under D (Deutschland) - and, of course, the other way around. A list at the top saves me from guessing or checking whether the list is all-English or native countries names.
    – Louise
    Commented Jul 11, 2012 at 6:45
  • A good solution to cover the many cases like Jan's and Louise's is Christian Holst's redesigned country selector, where different spellings, languages, and a weighting of results are taken into consideration. It's open source and can be manipulated to your needs. Commented Jun 23, 2014 at 14:31

Yes, especially if you have a mix of international users filling out the form.

We in the U.S. sometimes forget others need to use our forms.

I think the way you have it makes the most sense because each field relies on the next.

(i.e. If they live outside the US they will not be in a state.)

  • 1
    Sigh. The U.S. doesn't have a monopoly on using "State" as a geopolitical division. Mexico, Germany, Austria, Nigeria, Australia, others - all have States.
    – Bevan
    Commented Apr 29, 2011 at 3:42
  • 2
    I know, but I have been on too many sites where I choose another country and it still gives me california as a choice.
    – jonshariat
    Commented Apr 29, 2011 at 3:53
  • Yeah, I strike those all the time too. Most of them don't end up with my money, 'cause I can't be bothered working around their lack of clues.
    – Bevan
    Commented Apr 29, 2011 at 6:41
  • Thanks for your feedback. You're right, each field relying on the next is exactly why we chose that order. It still feels weird to me because it's so different from how I'm used to writing my address on paper. But for a web form I guess it makes sense. Good to see some other designers agree.
    – Baa
    Commented Apr 29, 2011 at 23:02
  • @Bevan: While they all have states of some sort, the postal system does simply not require them, hence the typical address format only comprises name, street (potentially with a second line), postcode and city. Every time I get asked for my state I consider it unnecessary information and will leave it blank unless forced to fill it.
    – Louise
    Commented Jul 11, 2012 at 6:50

The last time I had to implement a form with address information I also had to start with the country. The reason was that all input boxes were connected with a road-map system and autocomplete functionality. When people put in their country first, the autocomplete of the next field (zip and/or city) would only load the cities of that country. By giving the city, the autocomplete of the next field (street) would only load the possible street names for that city in that country. It could work the other way around as well, but we found out that our deduction method worked better for our users.


I decided to check the experts (FedEx) and they eliminate the first three fields right out of the gate, but just for their rate quote. Their sign up form is more like the international form above, but with one required address filed and a second not required. Countries with a postal code especially US 9 digit codes shouldn't even need all those address fields.

They start with country listbox and then a city listbox for countries w/o a postal code and that's it. If you have a postal code it usually ends there and they have a lookup for zipcodes where you can drill down and find your 9 digit zip. I suppose you could add street names and numbers after zipcode, but evidently they are becoming more and more unnecessary.

It appears most major countries do have some postal code and I will predict the big shippers will eventually get all countries to fall in line to make their P&L easier to control.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.