Grrrumpy-making forms

Yesterday I sent an email to my mobile phone company, and they asked me to provide my street address. My street address? Why? I had already provided my email address and cellphone number. I was startled, annoyed, and suspicious.

I felt like a foreign tourist in rural China, where it's common (I'm told) for local police to request a copy of your passport. They like to keep tabs on foreigners and track their movements. Westerners tend to find this offensive, even scary.

OK, the cellphone company had me over a barrel because I wanted a reply to my email. But take a look at the form. Isn't that weird? Seriously stupid? Figure how you would complete it.

Yet it's not exactly hard to request an address in a form: just find one good example and copy it. Presumably the content writer tried to improve on the tried and true system of asking for the street number and name first, then suburb, then town or city, then postal code, then country if relevant.

And why on earth have a drop-down menu for the street type? A person who is capable of writing "Main" is surely also capable of writing "Street".

This bad, bad form from a major company reminds us:

  • never ask for unnecessary personal information in a form
  • don't try to be too clever for your clogs
  • test every form for usability.

Rachel McAlpine
Rachel McAlpine


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