"County" address field usability - dropdown or text?

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New Member
I had the "county" field on our billing/shipping address fields as free text.

While tidying up something related, I populated a couple of Magento tables with county details, and now find that once there's data in those tables it automatically hides the text field and replaces it with a dropdown.

I'm trying to decide if this is a good idea or not.

Personally, if I'm typing in an address and am tabbing into each field, it's a (very) minor inconvenience to hit a dropdown, it breaks the flow and I'd rather just keep typing.
On the other hand, some people may prefer it.

It I do go with the dropdown option, then I'm faced with what to put in it.
If I just go with e.g. "Limerick" or "Cork", then it may not be immediately clear from the address whether it's a suburb of Cork city, or a town in Cork.
If I put in "Co. Cork", then every entry begins with C, which is a nuisance if you're using the keyboard.

I could use a display value of "Cork" and then use "Co. Cork" as the actual value in the address, which would be fine for everywhere except Dublin, since "Blah St, Dublin 17, Co. Dublin" would look a bit weird.

Or I could include all the Dublin postcodes in the dropdown, though that seems a bit unhelpful. It makes it much longer, and now you've got a load of keyboard-unfriendly 'D' options. And there's already a separate (text) postcode field.

I'm tempted to just go back to the way it was, and have a text "county" field which is optional, but either that or postcode must be entered.
And of course it will all have to change anyway when (if ever) An Post bring in real postcodes.

It's hard to find anything useful - Google's first two results for "address form usability dropdown" were from 2000 and 2001 (so much for QDF!).
And of course we're probably the only country that treats postcodes as kind of the same thing as state/province.

Just wondering what other people's preferences are.

(On a side note, if you're looking at country dropdowns, there's an interesting Smashing Magazine article from a couple of weeks ago).


New Member
This is true. :(

On the other hand, I'm just going with the assumption that people are used to entering their address in a particular way, and having free text fields mean they're more likely to just do it the way they always do, whereas if you start making them think about it by putting in dropdowns they're more likely to make a mistake.

I'll let you know how that theory works out!