I was having an interesting discussion tonight about laying out a website. Specifically talking about how to sell industrial supplies. Yes, I know this is a weirdo thing to talk about someone with for fun, but hear me out.

Amazon sells damn near everything. But our search isn’t really that good, honestly.

McMaster-Carr sells a lot of stuff, but certainly not everything. The stuff they do sell is laid out in different sections that are front-and-center, literally, on their site.

The McMaster way of doing things isn’t to suggest what you might want to buy based on your previous purchases, or perhaps off whatever is selling best at the moment. They are an industrial supply company. Typically people go there because something broke. Be it a fastener or some variety of power transmission doohickey… or whatever else. They are looking to find some way of doing something.

The taxonomy of their site is broken down by what you’re trying to accomplish.

Once you find something that might work, bolts for instance, you need to be able to do a parametric search on that and quickly be able to see the specifications of the parts that might meet your criteria. Amazon doesn’t really do that at all.

Their taxonomy understands there are many variables that come into play when selecting parts. And that the criteria are very different between different types of parts.

Amazon tries to be everything to everyone, and works for a lot of people; we also fail miserably for a lot of engineering work. McMaster doesn’t try to be everything to everyone. In fact, most people probably haven’t even heard of them. But they have won in the space of the industrial supply business, my conjecture is that it’s because they don’t try to be something for everyone.