Since many years we are using a product catalog (print) with many products in it, but since it costs a lot of money to print and send it to our customers, we slowly want to move from a physical catalog to a digital one.

There are many PDF e-publishing tools, but it feels like it doesn't really work with a 500 page catalog. Since there is no traditional flat/deep hierarchy, like a usual webshop has.

There are some examples like IKEA (where you can browse through pages online, download a pdf version or navigate to specific chapters): https://onlinecatalogue.ikea.com/PT/en/IKEA_Catalogue/#/pages/1

What are some UX design patterns that are suited to displaying such a big digital catalog?

Hopefully anyone of you can help me with his/her experience on this subject.

Many thanks in advance!

  • 1
    One of the first questions to ask your users: do they actually want the catalog or do they want an easy way to browse, find what they want, and place an order? Catalogs used to be the medium that provided those things, now the web is. There could also be solutions like "Text PART# to 123456 to place an order" that might work for your audience or you might find out they choose to print the 500 page PDF you send them. Oct 15, 2019 at 12:19
  • Good point. Our users are used to the catalog for more than a decade. Because there weren't any other options. No webshop or anything. Just out of curiosity: would it be redundant to have both a webshop and online catalog (that links to the webshop)? Because finding products is probably easier through a webshop if the IA is done right.
    – Wishit
    Oct 15, 2019 at 13:20
  • 1
    Having both would be redundant, but it's hard to say if that's good or bad. Your business users could be trapped on corporate PCs running IE6 with no way to use modern e-commerce sites so they might appreciate a catalog as backup. Or they could do all their business on their smartphones and think the PDF takes too long to download. Catalogs (print and digital) are more geared toward browsing what's available and hoping you spot something you want, whereas online stores tend to focus on searching to find exactly what you want as quickly as possible. Neither approach is wrong, just different. Oct 15, 2019 at 13:42
  • If some products have the similar features, you can benefit from filtering, this will help users to find the needed articles faster. On the other hand, catalogue seems like an inspiration for selecting the products. What is more important in your case? Fast search or the inspiration and giving the context?
    – Anton T
    Nov 8, 2019 at 10:31
  • It's really hard to answer this question without knowing what you are selling or how and why customers request items for purchase. A catalog of car parts is a very different kind of catalog than one listing rare books for example. As an example, compare the online catalog for Moss Motors (mossmotors.com) with that of McMaster-Carr (mcmaster.com). Very different approaches to managing a large number of items because they are very different customer needs and purchasing needs.
    – Tim Holt
    Apr 20, 2020 at 21:15

2 Answers 2


Today there are many easy-to-use options, free in basic features and paid with added options such as shopping cart.

We use Publitas where after uploading the printed catalog you can add the shopping links. This is an online catalog example with shopping cart included.

  • 1
    It would be good to try and address some of the questions, even if they are a little bit general, or at least why you think Publitas is a suitable potential solution for the given scenario in a little bit more detail.
    – Michael Lai
    Oct 15, 2019 at 23:53
  • 1
    You are right, I should have put it as a comment instead of an answer, the question content is too broad, I have only focused on the bold question. We've been working with several catalogs with + than 2000 references for years and after testing several online options to publish them digitally as Calameo or Issue, the alternative we found best is the one I mention in the answer. I also hesitated to answer thinking that it could be interpreted as spam. That's why I haven't described any of the main app. features that appear on its home page and that may answer some of the other OP's questions.
    – Danielillo
    Oct 16, 2019 at 0:34

I'd suggest to use the catalogue with the flat structure and enrich the experience with the filter and sort functions. Each catalogue article can probably have a few attributes that can be represented as tags, e.g. Bathroom, Living Room etc. So the user will have an opportunity to see the cheapest/newest/most popular articles first and filter them out using the thematic tags. If the inspiration is important, I'd suggest to make a few thematic landing pages that relate to specific sets of tags and filters, e.g.: "Bathroom" which could have the inspirational content (picture of the room including the articles) or text and of course the related articles.

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