Monday, October 12, 2009

Easily Offending Most of the World - Data Validation Errors

I'm a huge fan of clean data, anyone who has read this blog for long knows that. However, clean data can never trump customer experience. Many times, simple tactics that you use to manage your incoming data can have large and unintended consequences.

The example that prompted this post was a Zip Code validator on a web form. The form did not specify country, and it was for the download of a whitepaper, so it was not something that seemed likely to be restricted to only viewers from the United States. However, the Zip Code field had a validation javascript on it, and required a Zip Code that was correct according to US standards.

I'm from Canada, and we have Postal Codes that use numbers and letters in a A9A 9A9 format, so clearly this did not pass the test, and I received an error alert. I dashed off a quick note to the site owner, and then filled in the only Zip Code I have top of mind - 90210.

This is an interesting example, as it highlights a mis-match between the user experience on that web form, and the quality of the data. Bringing the data management in house into an inline data management process like a contact washing machine is usually the best bet, while minimizing the burden placed on web form visitors. For address information, using address validation to balance the user experience can often be better than restrictive forms.

In thinking about the experience of your landing page visitors, be sure to balance the need for quality data with the need to deliver a great experience to your visitors.