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November 23, 2021

Address Form Autocomplete with Vue 3 and Lob

Editor's Note: This post written by Anthony Gore, full stack developer and author of Vue books, online courses and 100+ developer articles.

Adding an autocomplete feature to a Vue form can greatly improve UX. Users will only need to type a few characters before they get a selectable suggestion.

This design pattern is particularly effective on e-commerce sites where it's important to make the experience of entering an address as quick and painless as possible.

In this tutorial, we're going to build an address form app using Vue 3 and the Composition API. We'll also use the address autocomplete API offered by Lob to provide  address suggestions.

Here's how the completed feature will function:

To complete this tutorial I'll assume you're familiar with Vue 3. If you'd like to see the complete code of the finished product you can get it on GitHub.

Project setup

To develop this app we'll install the Vite + Vue starter template, which will give us an excellent developer experience for building a Vue 3 app.

<script src="https://gist.github.com/SidneyAllen/e2004fb472a2e6729a332206de42568c.js"></script>

Once the template installs, change into the directory, install the NPM modules, and run the Vite dev server.

<script src="https://gist.github.com/SidneyAllen/36c9a3c57ca4c9fe70af34ee1a9574f7.js"></script>

Vite will then automatically open the project in your browser.

Basic form setup

The first thing we'll do is clear the boilerplate content of `App.vue` and set up a basic form. You'll notice four labeled text inputs - one for Address, City, State, and Zip.

I've added a `v-model` to each text input which will bind them to a data property that we'll set up next.


<script src="https://gist.github.com/SidneyAllen/51441b8d5b380050161208d56b55adb9.js"></script>

Let's now create a `script` tag where we'll create our component definition with a Composition API `setup` function. In this function, we'll declare a ref for each form field and return those to the render context.


<script src="https://gist.github.com/SidneyAllen/af634d200f86fd963ba1f6a032db4e46.js"></script>

You'll also want to add some CSS to this component to style it. I won't show that here for the sake of brevity, but you can copy and paste it from the GitHub repo.

At this point, we have a reactive form where each input's value is bound to Vue data. (If you want to confirm this, type in each field and see their state in Vue Devtools).

Autocomplete composition function

The first field, address, will be our autocomplete field. The concept of the autocomplete feature is this: as the user is typing their address, we call the Lob address autocomplete API and get suggestions which we then display in a dropdown. The user can then use the mouse or keyboard to make a selection, and that selection will fill the other form fields.

Let's now create a function that will get the address suggestions from Lob based on the user's input into this field.

To do this, we'll create a composition function where we can abstract this logic called `useAddressSuggestions.js`.

<script src="https://gist.github.com/SidneyAllen/b7507d56bcd29ac0032a0ad79d0402da.js"></script>

In this file, we'll export a function which returns another async function called `getSuggestions`. Our Vue app can easily call this function by passing in the user's input value for the address field.


<script src="https://gist.github.com/SidneyAllen/e919ca67474aec257ebca7049c5e8e1f.js"></script>

API key and .env file

Before we continue, you'll need to get an API key to call Lob's API. You can do this by creating a free account with Lob.

Once you've done that, go ahead and grab the *publishable test API key* which can be safely added to your frontend app.

Even though this key is publishable, we'll still put it in an environment variable file to ensure it doesn't get written to source control and can easily be swapped for a different key as required.

To do this, create a `.env` file and **save in the root directory**. It's important you prefix the key with `VITE_` as Vite will only render environment variables in the app which have this prefix.


<script src="https://gist.github.com/SidneyAllen/d37e9badc12e1aa3c62ff0920cbfa8ea.js"></script>

Configuring API call

Returning to our composition function, let's now set up the API call to Lob. As you'll see in the docs, the endpoint for address autocompletion is `POST https://api.lob.com/v1/us_autocompletions`.

To call this endpoint, we'll be using the native Fetch API. To do this, we'll first need to create an object where we'll configure the API call. 

The first config property is the `method` which we'll set to `POST`

To authenticate our API call, we'll need to set a `headers` option to which we'll assign a new `Header` API object. The Lob API uses HTTP Basic Auth so we'll set a header `Authorization` and assign to it 

<script src="https://gist.github.com/SidneyAllen/4007575d4de4edd26c28d8f67d29a41b.js"></script>

What this does is import our API key, set it to the basic auth username, and encode it as Base 64. 

For more details on Lob authorization, see the docs here.

With that done, we'll also provide a `Content-Type` header to indicate a JSON payload. 

Next, we need to set the API call body. This will be a JSON-encoded object.

As explained in the Lob docs, you can send the value you want suggestions for in production mode, but in test mode, you should simply indicate the number of suggestions you want and it will return simulated suggestions (e.g. *5 sugg* will return 5 suggestions, *1 sugg* will return just one, etc).

So, we'll add an item to JSON payload with key `address_prefix` and a value conditional on the environment - either the passed in value for production or the string "5 sugg" **for development.


<script src="https://gist.github.com/SidneyAllen/5a80814e477a04a3bb754ac149e9bee6.js"></script>

Sending and receiving the API call

Now that we've configured our API call, let's write the code for sending and receiving it.

To do this, create a try/catch block and call the autocomplete endpoint using `fetch` by passing the correct URL and config. The response  can then be parsed as JSON.

The data received in the response will be an array of suggestion objects. We're going to transform this array of objects using `map` so they're easier to use in our app.

The mapped objects will include an `id` property as well as a subobject `data` which will include the complete address suggestions. 

We'll also include a `name` property which will be a string representation of the data that can be displayed to the user.


<script src="https://gist.github.com/SidneyAllen/c8d2c081bdd3ef94a3a03526a6ba6f16.js"></script>

Using the composition function

Let's now return to the `App` component and import the `useAddressSuggestions` composition function at the top of the script section.

Inside the `setup` function, we'll create a reactive array `suggestions` where we'll store any autocomplete suggestions we want to show the user.

We'll also retrieve the `getSuggestions` function we just created by calling the composition function.

To populate the reactive array of suggestions with data from `getSuggestions` we'll create another function `onAddressInput`. We'll use this as an event handler on the address input. Whenever the user types something, we'll call the function and assign the output to the suggestions array.

We'll now return these three new values to the render context. 


<script src="https://gist.github.com/SidneyAllen/edb0c42261a1f783872464897e6cc62d.js"></script>

Autocomplete component

A typical autocomplete feature is like an input field mixed with a select dropdown. Rather than create our own from scratch, let's install an open-source autocomplete component.

<script src="https://gist.github.com/SidneyAllen/c0b7a709e7ccdd3234429de454079715.js"></script>

We'll then import it in our App component and make it available for use by declaring it in the `components` option.


<script src="https://gist.github.com/SidneyAllen/b5b2097b15c3cd81130bee7e8c65a3ab.js"></script>

Now let's go to the template where we'll use this component. We'll replace the address input with this component. 

The config we'll need to supply for this component are:

  • `results` prop, which is the list of selectable items used to populate the autocomplete dropdown. We'll bind our `suggestions` array to this prop.
  • `input` event, which is called whenever the user enters a value into the autocomplete field. We'll handle this with the `onAddressInput` method which, you'll recall from the previous section, will send the value to the Lob address autocomplete API via the composition function we created.
  • `debounce` prop, which ensures the `input` callback is not called more often than the interval specified. This will prevent unnecessary over-calling of the API.
  • `onSelected` event, which is called when the user selects an address suggestion. Let's assign an event handler `selected` to this (we'll define it in the next section).
  • `ref` attribute, which we'll set to our `address` reactive data variable.

You can learn more about the config properties of the Autocomplete component in the docs.


<script src="https://gist.github.com/SidneyAllen/dd7eaec147a671efbaa47793ec949e74.js"></script>

Now that this has been set up, if we type into the address field we'll see a dropdown list appear after a second or so.

Handling selection

The final thing to do is create the `selected` event handler. This is called when the user selects one of the address suggestions. Here we want to fill the form fields with the address suggestion.

You'll recall from when we created the composition function that the suggestion object contains the address properties in the `data` subproperty. All we need to do now is assign each of those to our form inputs.

Firstly, the address line itself. To set this, we'll need to call the `setText` method of the Autocomplete component which is accessible via the `address` ref. We can simply pass the address (`primary_line`) property to this.

Then we assign the city, state, and zip values. With this done, we'll empty the selections array since that data is now stale.


<script src="https://gist.github.com/SidneyAllen/8df9c057573fcd820ee65e05ea479ced.js"></script>

With this done, the `selected` function will be called once the user selects a value and the form will be automatically filled.


If your application requires users to enter their addresses, why not provide a smoother user experience that keeps your database clean from bad addresses that could cause errors further down the line.

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