Office Max is not much help…

I went to the Office Max ecommerce site in search of a notebook. Now, by notebook, what I had in mind was some kind of nicely bound, 3-ring sort of notebook. The kind I could put a presentation in to make it look professional. Seems simple enough. But little did I know the flood of results I would get by entering “notebook” into Office Max’s search function.

Wow, 57 pages of results?! Obviously I need to narrow this down… But with all these possible categories in the left-hand navigation, that becomes a really overwhelming task. There has to be a better way!

officemax copy

Of course, cutting down on these categories would be a start. Probably most of the people searching for “notebook” aren’t looking for an item in the Storage or Media & Entertainment Furniture categories. Taking out the less popular categories would make this list shorter and easier to use. Also, a suggested search function could be helpful as well. Asking if shoppers are looking for “single subject notebook” or “notebook PC,” etc., would help people to find the search term that will better lead them to the products they want.

In the end, I couldn’t really find the kind of notebook I was looking for. This ecommerce site search really needs some improvements. Help me out, Office Max!



  1. Posted May 2, 2013 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

    “Notebook” is a typical polysemy problem. They need a better way to disambiguate. I don’t know if they have a proper multi-level category hierarchy, but they could simply show the first 2 departments (root level) like so

    + Electronics
    [show subcats here]
    + Paper and Office Supplies.
    [show subcats here]

    eBay does something like that.

    Let’s just ignore the problem of whether a ‘notebook’ is an office supply and make them siblings or 1st cousins. Ultimately the most brute-force but simple approach would be to simply show them a custom disambiguation feature (meaning do it all manually) for something as important as this keyword. Failing that …

    They should look at OfficeMax and Home Depot which both use category data to drive a disambiguation before and after the search respectively. I know you suggested keywords, but keywords are more dangerous unless you only let it ones with very high frequencies. But that means they’d probably have been better off being categories anyway.

    But yes, your suggestion is correct. I’m just tweaking it 🙂

  2. Posted May 2, 2013 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

    Oops. I meant Office Depot and Home Depot. 2 “Depots” was confusing.

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