Chinese Address Format and Input layout

— Part One



When it comes to designing for Chinese users, localisation is one of the most important parts of the strategy, helping to make a good first impression and improving the chances of success.

During the process of designing a Chinese page on an e-commerce site, I found myself applying some of the patterns that make more sense to Chinese users (and myself) than my English speaking UX colleagues. This led to some interesting thoughts.

  • How different is an address in China than one in the UK or USA?
  • What information does a Chinese address include and how important is this information?
  • Aside from the language, what else do we need to consider when designing the delivery and address fields for a website or an app aimed at Chinese users?

Conducting an online search returns very little comprehensive information on UX practices in China. Therefore, I decided to conduct my own research, documenting my findings and sharing my own conclusions. Hopefully this two part feature will be able to shed some light on Chinese UX issues for other designers encountering these problems.

Chinese Address Format 中文地址格式

Before we look at the format of Chinese address, let’s take a look at what we’re familiar with. UK address recognition relies heavily on the postcode and begins with the house name and number before working its way to the county. For example:

John Smith
12 Longview Road
West Kirby
CH48 0RS

Addresses in the US have a similar format and hierarchy, for example:

John Doe
111 First St
Apt 1
First City NY 11111

A Chinese address is the other way round, beginning at the top with the province/Municipality (for international post it will begin with the country) before working its way down to the precise apartment/room number.

For example:

Standard Chinese Address

A typical address section on a Chinese e-commerce site would look like this:

Typical address fields on a Chinese e-commerce mobile site

As part of the post address there are 23 provinces, 4 municipalities (Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai and Chong Qing) and 2 special administrative regions (Macau and Hong Kong) to include in the field choices we provide to the users.

Phone Number 电话号码

Mobile number in particular is absolutely essential.

Couriers normally call to check if anybody is there to receive/sign for the post prior to their arrival. They also call to check the address if they have difficulties locating it and to discover anything further that they need in order to deliver the goods.

The boom in online shopping and the growth of the delivery industry has encouraged many more people to take on express delivery as a part-time or freelance job for additional income. For many, delivery time and accuracy are tied to their income, so making a phone call prior to delivery saves time and avoid costly mistakes.

Photo of a delivery guy on his phone (image sourced from the internet)

Postcode 邮政编码

Don’t make it a required field, because not many people know their postcode.

Unless you choose EMS to be your currier within China, as they require accurate postcode for delivery and sign off. If that’s the case, it will be a good idea to give user the option or information on where they can search for their postcode.

EMS has a postcode finder on their website

Providing a smart address recognition, auto-fill or a built-in postcode finding function would be a good idea too. There are local companies and online services that provide this already. For example, RightData (佳数), is an online service specifically for address and postal related data that provides an API for their address standardise service.

Screenshot of postcode search on RightData

Detailed Address 详细地址

There should be an input field for users to type in their detailed address information.

Most people in Chinese cities live in residential communities which have a high density of tall buildings. Each of these buildings has hundreds or even thousands of apartments. Therefore, the detailed address information often contains the detailed road name, the name of the community as well as the building block number, floor/level and the apartment/room number.

Photo of a residential community (后湖世纪家园小区) in Wuhan, China

Examples of Address Section on Popular Chinese e-Commerce Sites 中文购物网站地址栏范例:

Here’s an example of the address section on Tmall — a popular e-commerce platform in China. The same address fields format is used on another popular Chinese e-commerce platform — Taobao. (Both Tmall and Taobao belong to the Alibaba Group)

Address section on Tmall
Address section on Tmall with provinces dropdown open

Taobao and Tmall are the top 2 most popular e-commerce platforms in China. According to recent data analysis on iwebchoice, Taobao has the most unique daily visits.

The data above provides a good indication of where we should seek reference when designing the address section for Chinese users and what we should take in consideration to provide a good experience.

In the next part of this feature, I’ll showcase some more data and provide a comparison of Chinese address sections on desktop and mobile. I’ll also share what I have learned from the research.

Continue to Part Two.

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