Online classified websites like Craigslist have replaced printed ads in many ways. They help users find a job, a place to live, a car, and other things we can’t do without in our everyday lives. In addition, people actively use these platforms to buy or sell second-hand items. One of the most popular websites of this kind is Craigslist.
In this article, we will cover how to build a similar classified website, following the concept of Craigslist. We will analyze classified website development, provide an overview of how they work, discuss revenue models that help reap profits from this type of online platform, cover the biggest challenges, and more. This article offers a comprehensive deep dive essential to entrepreneurs aiming to create a successful competitor to Craigslist.
Let’s get started.
A classified website definition
In layman’s terms, classified websites like Craigslist are designed to publish ads for goods and services. Some companies also post job openings on such platforms, looking for new staff. Individuals are provided with both free and paid listings on these promotional platforms.
Advertisements form categories or classes - that’s how classified websites got their name. The most common sections are real estate, services, vehicles, and jobs.
Classified ad marketplaces like Craigslist fall into two groups: horizontal and vertical.
Horizontals offer diversified goods and services. The classic cases are Craigslist and Classified Ads.
Verticals, in turn, specialize in a narrow niche. Here, we can recall Indeed and Glassdoor as the most famous job-related online platforms.
Overview of the online classifieds ad platform market
TechNavio, a technology advisory and research company, predicts steady growth of the global online classified ads site market at a CAGR of 10.7% during 2022–2027. The cost-effectiveness of online ads combined with the decrease in print advertising can be defined as the major driving factor of this trend.
At the same time, the comparatively short life of online classified ads prevents the classifieds platform market from experiencing more active growth.
Speaking about the segment of online classifieds websites like Craigslist, we cannot help but mention its other biggest players. The most successful classified ad websites are Oodle, Locanto, Classified Ads, and Gumtree. All of them are noted for their high ratings and are commonly used by entrepreneurs to solve their business needs.
Craigslist success story
Craigslist is the world’s biggest classifieds website. According to Semrush, with over 150 million visits per month in July 2023, it tends to have the biggest traffic in North America, as 91% of those visits are from the US.
So, what is Craigslist's success recipe?
Intuitive and simple interface
Craigslist looks like a good old newspaper. The website loads fast due to text-driven pages. It does not have banner advertisements that could confuse visitors. You can quickly find the required items and post ads even without creating an account.
Free or cheap ads
Let’s talk about prices. According to Craigslist’s policy, all postings are absolutely free, with a few exceptions.
- Job publications in the US and certain parts of Canada. Their cost ranges from $10 to $75, depending on the area.
- Apartment rentals in Boston, Chicago, and New York areas. These publications have a stable price of $5.
- Gigs in the US and selected Canada areas — $3-10.
- Commercial real estate in the US is also not free. Such publications cost $5.
- All for sale by-dealer categories in the US will also cost $3-5.
- Cars/trucks, RVs, and motorcycles by owner in the US — $5.
- Postings about cars/trucks offered by dealers in the US and Vancouver come with a stable price of $5.
- By-dealer furniture in Vancouver — $3.
- Services in the US and Canada — $5.
Apparently, there are very few limitations for users, and the majority of them seem to be linked to big cities or expensive postings like vehicles or real estate.
Craigslist is a medium where anyone can buy or sell anything. 80 million ads published every month are a clear example of such versatility.
Types of classifieds website you can create
When you start wondering how to build a website like Craigslist, first of all, find a specific niche. Compared to all-in-one solutions, modern vertical online marketplaces better meet customers' demands. Here are the most popular ideas for you to consider.
Classifieds for automobiles
As cars have become a vital aspect of our lives, the absolute majority of people either have cars or want one. However, the economy around the world differs, and sometimes brand-new cars aren’t affordable. For this reason, a classified website for automobiles is a tempting idea.
Essentially, this type of website allows customers to create and browse listings for new and used vehicles. Same as with other niched marketplaces, people can choose the desired car based on color, model, year, and other criteria.
For example, Autotrader can boast extensive search options, a neat interface, and a thoughtful user experience. With very detailed vehicle descriptions, potential customers feel more confident when making a choice.
Classifieds for fashion products and services
The fashion world is constantly changing. New trends come and go, and some of them become a part of our daily lives. The rise of online marketplaces offering beauty products and services is one such trend.
This type of classified website will be a real catch for people following the latest fashion and beauty trends. They will easily find clothes, shoes, beauty services, and products nearby. Moreover, not many such options are available online, making it a good ground to start your own classifieds website for fashion products.
One such example is Apparel Search.
Classifieds for real estate
The real estate industry is worth noting as it is always in demand. Apparently, the lion’s share of it has moved online, and classifieds for property are in high demand these days. Typically, sellers or landlords need to provide detailed information about the property, upload photos and videos, and be able to provide more information on demand. Then, tenants or buyers can easily browse all the published options.
Classifieds for jobs
It is no wonder such websites are in demand, as most hiring processes, interviews, and other events happen online. Every company wants to hire qualified staff, and at the same time, employees want to find the perfect job that matches their skills. Job classifieds bring these two sides together.
These websites collect vacancies from job sites, career organizations, and other Internet resources. Moreover, they keep track of industry trends and release salary reports.
Thus, Glassdoor allows users to view average salaries for specific job titles anonymously. This information helps companies offer candidates competitive wages.
Even though there are various niches to consider, there have also been classic all-in-one solutions you can always choose.
Essentially, horizontal classifieds websites like Craigslist are always a safe bet. They quickly attract users searching for any kind of product or service. Therefore, they have greater chances of becoming extremely popular.
Ways to monetize a classified website
We all know that Craigslist is a non-profit platform. It doesn't charge everyday sellers anything. It makes money only from specific ad listings, such as job openings, apartments, and cars from automotive dealers.
However, charging for particular advertisements is not the only way to monetize your online marketplace. Let’s cover several winning business models that will help you make a profit with your platform.
It is a common revenue model for a classified website like Craigslist. Users get the chance to highlight their listings to promote products or services. Featured ads are placed above the regular ones or have a specific badge. These distinctions help advertisers increase brand visibility.
When adopting the subscription model, you charge customers a monthly fee for using your website. Bear in mind that people are usually hesitant to pay if they can’t understand how your platform works or what it can do for them. A trial period will help them decide whether your service is worth their money or not.
This is another popular revenue model. It involves selling space on a classifieds website to other businesses for displaying ads. You have full control over the advertising that will be shown to your visitors. The good thing about this model is that it does not require you to share revenue with intermediaries.
We have already discussed the option of charging fees for using your services. However, some online marketplaces go beyond the subscription model and offer premium memberships. It gives customers access to some extra features, such as viewing profiles of people interested in their offerings.
Here is an eloquent example of a Locanto website that offers such a subscription with better functionality. Take a look at the benefits users will get from upgrading their accounts.
Pay to post
There are dozens of free classifieds websites like Craigslist on the Internet. Therefore, the idea of charging a fee for a post seems extremely doubtful. However, you will be surprised to know that, in some cases, this tactic shows great results.
Implement the pay-to-post model when you already have a steady stream of customers who regularly visit your website. It is also effective when you have a specific niche or a category with great benefits for your customers.
Building a website like Craigslist
Moving to the core of the article, it’s worth noting that building a website like Craigslist can be a complex task and has to be approached carefully. Consequently, let’s divide the entire creation process into manageable steps we adhere to at Codica.
Being the initial step in the process of custom software development, product discovery is the foundation of everything. During the discovery, our team performs thorough research and analysis of your classifieds website idea and develops a detailed development plan.
Basically, product discovery includes lots of aspects, each aiming to reveal strong and mediocre elements of the future solution. Here’s a short overview of the entire process.
Regarding the advantages, product discovery is a great investment to save costs during all the development phases as it helps to approximate prices and project them in greater detail.
Additionally, with the deep research it provides, you will be able to make moderate and informed decisions, minimize potential risks, as well as understand the market of classifieds websites you are entering.
MVP development for a website like Craigslist
Before you dig into the online marketplace development process, it would not hurt to check the true value of your business idea. Given that you already know all potential ups and downs thanks to the product discovery, developing a minimum viable product will help you test the future product.
This approach will save you a lot of time. Besides, the MVP web development cost will be significantly lower than the launch price of a full-fledged online marketplace.
A minimum viable product (MVP) is a website with limited functionality designed to satisfy early adopters and receive feedback from potential investors (if any). You will grasp the basic needs of your target audience and add new features to satisfy their demands.
Further reading: How to Create a Minimum Viable Product (MVP)
Are you wondering how to build a minimum viable product for your classifieds website? We would recommend taking a precise look at the functionality that offers the biggest value to the early adopters or fixing one of their pain points.
When it comes to the MVP of a website like Craigslist, the following features deserve your special attention:
- Sign up. It allows users to create an account where they can manage personal data and track transactions.
- Search filters. They help visitors find relevant ads.
- Ads moderation. It enables users to ban inappropriate or offensive ads.
- Communication channels. It will be a good idea to add an online chat for immediate interaction between users.
- Payment system. Multiple payment gateways and currencies are required for the best buying experience.
UI/UX design of a classified website
After the future product is researched and the MVP yielded results, the UI/UX design services come into play. In the context of the design of a classifieds website like Craigslist, simple and straightforward functionality comes to the fore. It may look like classified websites don’t rely on design, as they are quite simple. However, understanding the core UX design principles will help evoke positive feelings and emotions from interacting with your website.
There are several design rules you should keep in mind to offer an excellent user experience when you are building a website like Craigslist.
- Make navigation easy. Let visitors quickly discover items of interest. They will reward you with repeat purchases.
- Avoid overwhelming customers with extra information. Concentrate on product photos rather than ads so customers can easily find what they need.
- Create a customer journey map. It will identify the challenges your target audience may face and show their buying preferences.
- Never underestimate the importance of the typeface and its size on your website.
- Use spaces wisely to improve readability.
Related reading: How UX Designs Solves Online Marketplace Issues
Once all previous steps are done, the development stage begins, which is typically the core of the entire website. In this regard, we employ various marketplace development techniques.
Normally, the marketplace development process consists of several parts.
Back-end development, in turn, focuses on developing a reliable backbone of the website. It includes building the part of the site that is responsible for connecting with servers. Typically, it is a part of the website users don’t have access to. In this regard, we prefer Ruby, Ruby on Rails, and Strapi, and we also work with Node.js and Nest.js.
Databases in classified websites are also important. They are used to store and retrieve the data users input, along with all the ads published on the website. Again, we work with a range of them but prefer PostgreSQL, MySQL, and MongoDB.
Integrations are the last but no less important part of your future classified website. Essentially, you will need a lot of different functionality, and third-party integrations are there to help us implement it. For instance, you may need to add payment functionality, for which we use PayPal and Stripe. Or, if you need to track the performance of your site, we can integrate Google Analytics or HubSpot, which can do the job just fine.
Once the product is planned, designed, and built, there’s no guarantee it will work perfectly. In this regard, QA or software quality assurance services come. During this stage, we employ different tactics to see whether each cog in the website’s mechanism works as intended.
We use different testing methods to ensure the website works as smoothly as possible. Here are a few examples.
- QA consulting. With its help, we can greatly boost the effectiveness of the QA process, as well as refine the existing QA services.
- Performance testing. This type implies meticulous checks on the system's performance under specific conditions, workloads, etc.
- Security testing. Security is of utmost importance, and in this regard, security testing helps to cover gaps, breaches, and weaknesses in your software.
- Test automation. To increase test coverage and productivity, test automation is an absolute go-to in the majority of QA cases.
- End-to-end testing. It is a general testing process that analyzes all operations and logic the website performs and makes sure everything works as planned.
- API testing. This approach helps to make sure that all application programming interfaces work reliably, transfer data, and meet reliability and performance expectations.
Performance monitoring and support
Last but not least, performance monitoring and support are critical steps in the development and operation of an online marketplace. These steps are focused on ensuring that your marketplace platform functions efficiently, effectively, and reliably even after the deployment.
Speaking of performance monitoring, it implies a regular analysis of how the website performs.
For instance, developers monitor servers, databases, and network infrastructure. They also use metrics like server response times, CPU and memory usage, and network latency to identify any bottlenecks or performance issues.
Databases also require maintenance. In this matter, developers keep an eye on the database performance, ensuring that queries are optimized for efficiency and that data indexing is appropriately configured.
Regarding support processes, there are many ongoing things. For instance, the company may provide help in customer support for your classifieds website. Alternatively, your website may also need technical maintenance. Users and vendors may have lots of different technical issues while using your marketplace, and the company must be swift to address those issues.
Lastly, other considerations include minor bug fixes, glitches, and regular updates. The latter, for instance, includes different updates to functionality, interface, security improvements, etc.
The functionality required for a classified website like Craigslist
So, you have chosen a specific niche or decided to start an online marketplace with several ad categories. Now you need to define what functionality will assist visitors in finding the required goods and services.
While building a website like Craigslist, you should pay attention to the following features:
- Sign-up and verification. Allow users to register an account or sign in via Facebook and Google. Verify new users by email or phone number to reduce spam and detect a false identity.
- Easy ad posting form. Create simple templates for placing ads. Add extra columns that users may need to provide additional details about their products and services.
- Geolocation feature. People tend to buy or sell products nearby rather than travel somewhere. That’s why product listings should be categorized based on their location.
- Integrated messenger or chat. When building a website like Craigslist, tools for instant communication between buyers and sellers become essential.
- Simple navigation. Intuitive navigation will guide your users through all steps of the buyer's journey and facilitate a seamless customer experience.
- Search with autocomplete. This option will give buyers a helping hand in building their search query.
- Straightforward checkout process. Being the final step before the purchase, it must be understandable and clear so that buyers do not abandon their cart, leave the site, or write a complaint.
- Visible search box. The search bar is a key feature of classified websites like Craigslist. It should be big and properly placed.
- Search engine optimization. Each advertisement on your platform should have the correct metadata and keywords. Then, Google will index them easily.
- Cross-platform functionality. Responsive design is a must when you want to build a website like Craigslist. Your website should work across multiple devices, regardless of their operating systems.
- Multiple payment options. Online shopping can be stressful for some people. They might be afraid that something will go wrong with their payment and they will lose their money. It often happens when they have to use a new payment option. So, the ability to choose a preferred method of payment makes the buying process easier and more pleasant.
- Security features. Email or IP blocking, SSL certificates, multi-factor authentication (MFA), and limited login attempts will help you protect your service.
- Rating and review system. When you are building a website like Craigslist, don’t lose the chance to enhance the credibility of your platform and help customers make a weighted decision.
- Filtering and sorting features. Allow visitors to sort through thousands of products or services to find the desired item. This option will drive more conversions to e-commerce websites.
The biggest challenges owners of classifieds websites may face
The launch of an online ad marketplace can be associated with particular challenges. Let’s take a closer look at the most common ones.
It can be a tall order for a classifieds website like Craigslist to attract and retain customers. Accordingly, your platform should offer real value and make sure it is offered in a user-friendly way.
Make sure that your website addresses the pain points of your audience, and has a user-friendly interface, guidance, and open policy so anyone interested will have no problem understanding how it works. Thus, you will gain new visitors who may become loyal customers later.
Ads and content moderation
All ads on your online classifieds marketplace should be carefully moderated on a regular basis. Otherwise, illegal products and services, including weapons, prescription drugs, alcohol, tobacco, and stolen property, can be sold there. Besides, cases of identity theft and multiple ad publications are pretty common on classified websites.
Usually, new classifieds websites have limited staff. For example, Craigslist had only 28 employees at the very beginning. They did not have enough human resources to offer customer support.
Accordingly, it may cause serious trouble for users. Suppose unfair competitors ban your advertisements. How can you deal with that if there is no one responsible for handling such issues? There is not much you can do but post your ad again.
When it comes to delivering customer support, owners of classified websites like Craigslist have several options.
- Hire staff to handle customers’ requests and complaints;
- Implement a rating and comment system that shows the reliability of the advertiser, be it a seller or a landlord;
- Hire outsourced staff that can be cheaper but also less effective compared to previous options.
Classifieds websites store user information, including personal details and payment data. Hence, the website has to have solid, secure data storage practices, such as encryption and access controls. Here are a few considerations.
- User authentication. Adding strong user authentication mechanisms, such as multi-factor authentication (MFA), helps protect user accounts from unauthorized access.
- Secure communication. Messaging between users should be confidential and to ensure that, it must be encrypted (e.g., using HTTPS).
- Third-party risks. Classifieds websites often rely on third-party services, such as payment processors or analytics providers. Hence, you must ensure that these third parties also have robust security measures in place, as they can expose your website’s security.
- Regular updates. Keeping software, plugins, and systems up to date with security patches is essential to protect against known vulnerabilities.
Further reading: Web Application Security: The Ultimate Guide
Promoting a classifieds directory website
Apparently, there are various tactics to promote a classifieds website. It effectively involves a combination of online and offline marketing strategies, user engagement, and optimizing the platform for search engines. Among the most popular tactics are:
Search engine optimization
This process implies optimizing the website and enhancing it with keywords, links, and optimized images to boost traffic and ranking in search engines.
Social media engagement
Social media has always been a proficient tool for boosting the business’ online visibility. To promote your classifieds website, create profiles on relevant social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Then, you can come up with various tactics, from posting user-generated content to interesting listings from your website. Also, you can run targeted ad campaigns to reach potential users in your niche.
On classifieds website, you can get a hold of dozens of emails from users interested in your website. Then, you can use those emails to send regular newsletters featuring new listings, tips, and updates.
Partnerships and collaborations
Combining efforts with influencers or other companies in your niche can greatly promote your classifieds website. Simply put, influencers or partners can bring new visitors to your website from their audience.
User referral programs
This tactic is quite popular with marketplaces and can work just fine for a classifieds website of yours. Essentially, a referral program implies rewarding users who invite new people to the platform. You can offer discounts, new features, or even monetary rewards.
After all, promoting a classifieds directory website is an ongoing process, and there are many ways to do so. It may take time to yield results and build a user base. However, this is key to your long-term success.
The cost of building a website like Craigslist
If you are planning to build a classified website, of course, you would like to know the required budget.
Below, we have listed the main aspects that can influence the cost of your Internet classifieds platform:
- The approach: out-of-box vs. custom classified website development;
- The list of functionalities you want to have.
Custom classifieds website development can seem more expensive than a ready solution, however, building your own platform will help you avoid hidden costs. For example, you will not have to pay for functionality you will never use, and there will be no license fees, regardless of how many users you might have. Additionally, a custom website is always a more secure option.
So let’s answer the question of how much to build a website like Craigslist, including the functionality we discussed earlier in this article. For this purpose, we will use the average rate of Eastern European development agencies, which is $50 per hour.
|The cost of building a website like Craigslist|
|Features||Time, hours||Cost, $50/hour|
|UX Development||64 hours||$3,200|
|UI Development||96 hours||$4,800|
|Project setup||16 hours||$800|
|DB structure||32 hours||$1,600|
|Payment (Stripe or PayPal)||64 hours||$3,200|
|Authorization and Security||72 hours||$3,600|
|User Profiles||42 hours||$2,100|
|Home page||84 hours||$4,200|
|Search and filters||96 hours||$4,800|
|Product page||42 hours||$2,100|
|Reviews ratings||64 hours||$3,200|
|Shopping cart||64 hours||$3,200|
|Geolocation feature||64 hours||$3,200|
|Easy ad posting form||64 hours||$3,200|
|Categories management||48 hours||$2,400|
|Buyer panel||120 hours||$6,000|
|Admin panel||164 hours||$8,200|
|Non development activity|
|Project management||64 hours||$3,200|
|Quality assurance||96 hours||$4,800|
|Code review||48 hours||$2,400|
To sum up, if you want to know how much it would cost to build a website like Craigslist, the answer is that you will need a minimum budget of $76,600. This is the approximate estimate for a custom classifieds website if you choose to build it with a development agency from Eastern Europe.
In the aftermath, building a classifieds website like Craigslist is a comparatively challenging task. It includes many attention-worthy aspects that have to be carefully planned in order for the platform to work as intended.
However, this comprehensive article provides a solid, deep dive into the intricacies of such development. Still, all processes we mentioned can be greatly simplified with custom software development services companies like Codica offer.
A bit less than a decade, we specialize in custom online marketplace development, offering our clients a thorough and mindful approach in creating such websites. Thus, feel free to contact us to discuss the details specifically tailored to create a classifieds website solution.