At work we make websites for other companies. One of our client wanted us to make a e-commerce website for them. Nothing out of the ordinary until we realized they had 50 000+ products to sell and their classification is inexistant. In other words, we don't have ay categories to work with. They just told us to "Put a search bar and it'll be fine".

So, how would you make an e-commerce site work for the users without any kind of browsing through lists of products ?

EDIT The client is a reseller. He sells power outlets, light bulbs, electrical cords and stuff like that. The reselling part is why he doesn't have categories, because every single seller manage their own database with their own description for each product.

3 Answers 3


I would recommend a masonry-like experience as Pinterest implements. Infinite scrolling of all 50k products and have a details page for each one. Keep track of which products are viewed the most on a weekly basis and display those towards the top.

It sounds like this client wants an adventure-like experience with a search bar that searches on just one field; product name.

That is my 1/50th of a dollar; 2 cents =)

  • Thank you for your answer, I took good note of it. However, I don't think this type of design is the solution to my problem. My client is a reseller in the home/electrical field. Basically the site will sell power outlet, light bulbs and stuff like that. Still a valid answer for people with the same problem but not in the same situation, so have my +1 (... when I'll have the rep for it)
    – Burnlan
    Commented May 7, 2014 at 13:48
  • No problem. I think it would help your question get better attention if you could outline what resources/product information is available to you because I honestly could not tell if this is a question regarding the best way to tell the client that they need structured data before proceeding or if your question is asking about the best way to implement an e-commerce site with nothing more than a list of 50k products. Do the actual sellers have an API which would allow you to request detailed product specs and build your own structured DB?
    – MonkeyZeus
    Commented May 7, 2014 at 13:59
  • Sadly no, the individual sellers do not have that kind of API or product details stored in their database. (Sure is great working as a webdev for old estearn european companies)
    – Burnlan
    Commented May 7, 2014 at 14:05

Your client might not be able to assign categories to products, but there is noting stopping them assigning categories to sellers.

The kind of sellers using a resale ecommerce site are likely to be specialists in certain categories already, rather than having a diverse range of products (e.g. there will likely be sellers that specialise in lightbulbs and related items). You could build loose categories around this information to augment the search functionality. For example you could have an option to "view more sellers like this", or "view all items from similar sellers".

  • Thanks for the answer, we will definitely implement a filter for the user to only view products from one particular seller.
    – Burnlan
    Commented May 7, 2014 at 14:07

If there is no way of categorizing the products then search must be the primary method of traversing the catalog. But as a previous answer suggests you should guide the user with top products sold for a search, top products viewed for a search etc. The other users behavior should help guide them, consider adding a method for users to tag products to build the categories may be an option. You may also be able to build a straw man structure by querying the product names for things like bulb, switch, socket etc and start with that to see what sort of a category structure may be involved.

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