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Address autocomplete best practices

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Ryan Muir
Ryan Muir
 • 
September 28, 2023
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Properly implemented address autocomplete can help businesses to improve conversion rates by speeding up address entry, improve address data quality by reducing typos, and reduce user frustration related to errant address data. 

But, if you choose the wrong autocomplete API or make implementation errors, those benefits can evaporate. In our new ebook, "Magical Benefits of Address Autocomplete," where we've compiled valuable insights and implementation tips, including the best practices we'll cover here. Read our ebook now

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Choose the right autocomplete technology

Not all address autocomplete technology and methods are created equal, and picking the one that best aligns with your goals is essential. Here are three common development approaches to autocomplete, their key features and drawbacks:

Mapping providers (e.g., Google Maps):

  • Approach: Flexible user input, focused on navigating to an approximate location. Autocomplete designed for mapping tries to provide address suggestions regardless of entry quality, even for phrases like "a monkey eating a banana."
    Autocomplete screenshot
  • Key drawback: It doesn't factor in house and building numbers or secondary addresses like unit or suite numbers, leading to address errors.
  • Result: Errors in building/house number or apartment/unit number are missed, leading to faulty analysis, lost packages, and customer service problems. Not suitable for precise address suggestions.

Partial address matching engines:

  • Approach: Suggest results based on street name, city, and state combination while ignoring building, house, and apartment numbers. Also known as "street validation."
  • Key drawbacks: Users need to complete the building/house numbers and enter the street name before address suggestions populate and take more keystrokes to find the correct address.
  • Result: Autocomplete that may require almost full address entry before the correct address is suggestions and only confirms street existence but not building house or unit numbers. The address may look real but not be valid.

Address matching engines

Smarty's address autocomplete:

  • Approach: Never returns fake suggestions. Only suggest valid building number, street, unit, city, and state combinations. Typos in building numbers/apartments cause suggestions to disappear when there are no valid matches. 
  • Key drawback: The user may need to fix crucial typos in building numbers. This approach also informs users of typos to fix before submitting.
  • Result: Provides faster and more flexible suggestions based only on real addresses as the user types. The approach ensures accurate and reliable address predictions. It makes invalid address entry impossible unless the user bypasses autocomplete by entering their address manually, which is easy to flag for manual review.

Customize your forms

Tailoring your forms to match user preferences is crucial for a smoother experience. Consider these customization options:

Form fields

  • Consider Customizing form fields to match the user's country or region based on geolocation, a selection from a country drop-down, or both. 
  • Address autocomplete also allows you to flexibly reduce address entry on your forms to a single text field, then use the autocomplete API to parse the address components to populate appropriately in the form directly.

Keystrokes

Customize the frequency of API requests based on keystrokes to reduce costs; you can also implement a pause before sending keystrokes to avoid unnecessary suggestions.

Geolocation

  • Decide if you should prioritize address suggestions based on the user's geographical location when your users are geographically close to the user's location.
  • If your organization only does business in certain areas, consider limiting results to relevant ZIP Codes, cities, or states for targeted services.
  • Consider turning off the location feature if you'll use it in a nationwide or international call center or other applications where the address entry happens on a device more than 100 miles away from the entered address.

Test and optimize

Continuously test and optimize your address autocomplete feature to ensure it meets your users' needs. Verify that customizations are working correctly, providing an accurate and user-friendly experience.

Emphasize accuracy

To offer the most reliable address suggestions, when implementing zero keystroke autocomplete, focus on rooftop or parcel-level results from geocoding providers. Avoid less precise options to maintain data integrity.

Suggesting addresses vs. auto-filling

When implementing zero keystroke autocomplete, address auto-filling is the process of identifying the address closest to the user's location and automatically filling the address in the form before presenting address options to the user. 

While auto-filling may seem faster, it can lead to inaccuracies if the predicted location is incorrect. Instead, you should offer users a dropdown with limited address suggestions to ensure a more controlled and error-free experience.

Remember, the goal of address autocomplete is to simplify the process without introducing unnecessary risks.

Our recommendation? Always auto-suggest, never auto-fill. Limit your address suggestions to 10 or fewer, and display the closest delivery points first, thus improving address entry without compromising quality.

Read our ebook

Are you ready to take your address autocomplete implementation to the next level and provide a top-notch user experience? Don't miss the opportunity to explore our ebook, "Magical Benefits of Address Autocomplete." It's packed with valuable insights and best practices you won't want to miss!

So, what are you waiting for? Click here to download the ebook and become a master of address autocomplete today. Happy coding!

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