Probably the most annoying popup in e-commerce

So you’re buying something online. And you have filled in your inside leg measurement, mother’s middle name, etc etc and you’re on the home stretch. And now it’s simply time to choose which country you live in.

What do you get? The country popup: (Go on, click on it. There’s more, much more. See how long it takes to find the United Kingdom.)

Which never fails to vex. I mean, is Afghanistan such a thriving hub of e-commerce now G.Bush got it bombed that it must come at the top of all e-commerce country popups? Is it an incentive scheme for the Afghans, who do of course need every help, though perhaps something more material than that? In an age where databases can track your food purchases, it is really so impossible to generate a list of countries based on where people buying from your site actually live? Often you’ll find the US at the top, but then it goes back to the long, long alphabetical list. And some sites really outdo themselves to include every possible territory. Look! The Pope can order some V**gr* with this popup! The Vatican is there are a location!

Another example of just because you can doesn’t mean you should. How many countries does the typical e-commerce site get business from? How many where the request doesn’t need some sort of human examination (quite a few countries have full-time scammers)? And I’d bet that the number of countries follows some sort of power law – eg 10x more from the US than the UK, 10x more from the UK than France…


  1. They use the menu for statistical reporting. If people are from the UK and they can only choose UK, you don’t have to check for “Britain”, “England”, “UK”, “Scotland”, “Wales”, “U.K.” and so on. Or “US”, “USA”, “United States”, “America”, “United States of America”, “US of A”, “States”. You get the idea.

    However, that pop-up doesn’t include the Pitcairns who recently got Internet access. Is that “Pitcairn”, “The Pitcairns” or “Isle of Pitcairn”. But, at the end of the day it’s easier to get a web developer to add another line to his JavaScript array that to get WebTrends or Excel to work out all the possible combinations that people could type in.

  2. My point is: why do it alphabetically? Why not offer the array according to the relative likelihood of people being from that country? It might be a coding challenge, but it’s the sort of thing you could (gasp) patent, even. Database generates array of countries according to latest stats of who buys coming from which country. (I’ve seen arrays where the US and UK and Mexico and Canada are the top four items.) I don’t mind having tons of countries in the popup. But I do mind having to scroll down through a zillion ones which might generate one order in a year to get to my country which probably generates hundreds of times more.

    OK, you might have to either find a way to store the name of the country and point directly to that in the database, but that’s only one step removed from what you do already.

    It’s a user issue, where the site has been designed for the convenience of the coders, rather than the users. That’s what’s wrong about it.

  3. It isn’t that difficult to tell from your IP address where you come from (all our website statistics services have been able to tell us where viewers viewed from), so that should allow it preselect the UK (or wherever) on the list.

  4. it took me 3 seconds to find the United Kingdom: i clicked on the list and typed on my keyboard “un” then i chose the next one. easy.

  5. It is extremely easy to check you IP address, and tell where in the world you are form. As dfx says, the site should preselect from the list

  6. Top marks and a Dutch lottery prize to Nate for most helpful tip. Nice one – should save me some time in future. Though it still takes the page some time to load up all those countries, which slows it down on dialup.

    Also I think guessing the country by IP isn’t precise. What if you’re on AOL, which often pipes stuff through the US, or used to?

  7. A scroll down list loses its utility once you surpass a dozen or so entries. It does not matter what “short cut” is available to reach the intended country, it is still poor design. One could, of course, simply be an adult and TYPE in their corresponding country, or at a minimum, iterate the 10 entries that incorporate the 99.99% of business and then provide an “other” input field.

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