Why are there two Address lines in Address forms?

  • Experience and a quick Google Images search suggests that it's standard to provide two fields for Address/Street. A colleague argues that it's perceived as two alternative addresses, and that the fact that there's only one country, state, zip, phone just makes it more confusing. I tried to think of a good explanation for having two fields but couldn't. To the reason of "there are some very long addresses" he replies "then why don't they use a multiline input field which would make it clearer that it's the same address".

    So, what's the reason? And is it only standard for the US or for Europe as well?

    It's standard for Europe too. As an example I use the first line for my house number and building name, the second line for my street address. Asking for state is often redundant in the UK as postcode will do the trick. When living in Australia I had no street address instead using RMB or RSD code (country mailbox where it is not near a house). There are 2 reasons I can think of. 1. To reflect how you would write the address on a letter (hoping it will be interpreted that way) and 2. Because of the wide variety of possible address formats.

    It's probably a legacy of various database systems that the forms hook into. That too is probably a legacy of various paper-based address forms. It's very hard to programatically split a one-line address into the various lines the DB requires for an address so the form is designed to match the DB. It probably comes down to the old "well that's how we've always done it" and it's now too embedded in the technology infrastructure that to revert to a more simpler method is just too big a change to make.

    The USPS generally uses a "smallendian" approach to addresses. The most minute part of the address at the top, the most general at the bottom. When sorting and delivering, they work their way up, first with ZIP, then Street Address/PO Box, then Addressee. If the ZIP is incorrect, that will delay delivery more than anything. If the city is wrong, it still goes to the right ZIP first, then street address (as long as it makes sense for that ZIP).

  • The two fields are part of the same address. (I've never heard your colleague's interpretation before.) Usually the second line is optional.

    As noted by dnbrv and TJH, in some locations the second line is necessary or helpful. In addition, providing the extra line allows for formatting an address to optimize postal delivery, which is largely driven by automated scanning of package/envelope labels. Some post offices have preferences about what goes on its own line; while something addressed to "Such And Such Building, Suite 42, 1001 Main Street SW" all on one line will get there, it might get there more quickly if the street address is on its own line. If a form is asking for your address because it might generate physical mail, this would be a reason to provide the extra optional line.

    One small issue with that, they do not label the fields correctly, so basically it is up to the user to fill out whatever in each field, that kind of defeats that purpose

    @Ayyash oh, I usually see them labelled as "address line 1" and "address line 2" or similar. If they're both labelled "address", or if they're unlabelled, that would be confusing.

    well thats the problem, line1 and line2 say nothing, I could easily put my name in the first, and my street address in the second :)

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Content dated before 7/24/2021 11:53 AM