Country fields in address forms

This oatmeal comic talks about Shopping Carts, and while most of it is spot on there in one thing I’ve seen before that annoys me: put the most popular counties at the top of the county list.

It just smacks of bigger counties getting all whiny about the existence of smaller countries and having to scroll. It just rings of arrogance about how the small countries aren’t important and just get in the way.

And from an UI point of view, it seems like bad advice.

Your list is suddenly out of order, Sure, if you do happen to live in the biggest country your country is now at the top and it’s great. If not, you suddenly have 2 places your country could be – annoying.

So what’s the alternative?

You don’t have to scroll. You can type the first few letters and the computer will scroll for you. But I’ll accept that not everyone knows that. So maybe you could have an empty text box and when you start typing, an auto-complete popup box suddenly appears to help you.

Or maybe have a select box with a sensible default selected. What should that sensible default be?

If your a website that mostly serves one country it’s easy. Or if your a website that has separate domains for each country, it’s easy. Someone on http://www.amazon.fr/ is going to want France, 99% of the time.

So what if your a genuinely international website that serves many different countries? Use IP Lookup. Or use the language the user has chosen to browse the website in as a hint.

Now I’m not an UI expert and I’d love to hear from one on this topic. It just seems to me that “Just put the most popular one at the top!” is a really lazy solution that smacks of arrogance on the part of big countries, and there must be a better way.

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