Over the past 10 years, Airbnb has become one of the most popular and profitable rental e-commerce websites. It stands for a peer-to-peer marketplace that provides accommodation-renting services all over the world.
However, what makes it unique, successful, and game-changing? What business model did Airbnb implement to make a profit? What is an efficient way to build a similar website?
In this article, we are going to discuss how this major lodging rental website stands out from the rest, and tell you how to build a website like Airbnb in detail.
Airbnb history and overview
If you are wondering how to create a website like Airbnb, Airbnb has the same functionality as any other booking website, but there is a global differentiating feature.
This platform connects guests with homeowners, while other marketplaces similar to Airbnb connect the customer with hotels and motels. Therefore, Airbnb marketplace platform has three parties: travelers (who want to rent), hosts (who want to rent out), and admins (who take care of the smooth and transparent interaction between the first two sides).
Let’s look closely at how to make a site like Airbnb and review the overall statistics about Airbnb through different aspects to see the working results.
History of Airbnb
In August 2008, two designers from San Francisco, California, Joe Gebbia, and Brian Chesky, were on a tight budget. In order to rake up some money to pay for their accommodation, they came up with an idea to rent out their living room in a bed and breakfast format. There were three airbeds for the guests.
When the designers received money for their accommodation, they started looking for investors to support their startup idea. Brian and Joe developed a simple website and posted their living room for rent there. Shortly, they improved and expanded the platform for use by other hosts, and implemented additional functionality:
- Sign-up/Login process
- An option to be a traveler or host
- An option to monitor new listings.
The worldwide known Ruby on Rails marketplace was initially named as “AirBed and Breakfast”. As mentioned earlier, the primary core platform idea was to list couches and airbeds. In its early days, the website was quite similar to a paid version of the popular service CouchSurfing.
Here’s what one of the first Airbnb website versions looked like back in their early days.
Starting small, Airbnb is now one of the world’s major accommodation rental marketplaces.
The infographic below that may inspire you to develop a website like Airbnb, shows how Airbnb went from two guys providing couches to a 10 billion-dollar marketplace giant.
Business model of Airbnb
If you want to know how to start a business like Airbnb, then it’s important to learn about its business model.
According to the monetization strategy, both travelers and hosts pay commission for every order. Thus, owners pay 3% per each transaction, and guests pay approximately 6-12% per each booking. The commission amount fully stands upon the property value.
Here, you can see the platform commissioning structure for both visitors and hosts.
Related reading: Best Monetization Practices to Build a Successful Online Marketplace.
How to build a website like Airbnb?
1. Choose the solution type
In fact, you can build such a platform with the help of two options:
- Choose a ready-made solution;
- Choose custom development.
Both options have their benefits and drawbacks that depend on users’ needs and preferences. Let’s quickly take a look and define when and why you need to use each option, to understand how to start a website like Airbnb.
In case you want to start your Ruby on Rails marketplace in a matter of days at an affordable price, a ready-made template is a pretty good choice. By the way, you can choose either a non-customizable or a customizable template that will give you more freedom in actions. However, you will need to scale the product sooner or later.
Considering the most popular solutions, we recommend you to pay attention to Sharetribe, RocketBazaar, Yo!Kart, CS-Cart, and Shopify. These platforms offer a wide range of functionality, so you can choose different solution options at any price while deciding how to create a website like Airbnb. Your marketplace information will be stored on the servers along with thousands of other websites.
Custom development from scratch
In case you want to have specific business logic and be user-oriented to the maximum degree, custom marketplace development will work best for you.
This approach is rather time- and cost-consuming, but as a result, you will get a fully-functional web application created by a professional development team. They will take into account all your preferences and business requirements to bring your ideas to life.
2. Choose the technology stack to build a website like Airbnb
Let’s now discuss how to build your rental marketplace platform choosing a custom software development option and the Airbnb technology stack.
The technology stack is crucial for a project. Firstly, it greatly affects the budget because every tool has its own degree of complexity, thus the rates will significantly differ. Secondly, it makes a huge difference in product scalability and the time required for the development.
Alongside this, you should keep in mind that the modern Airbnb marketplace platform utilizes a pretty powerful technology stack and a large number of tools. In terms of the marketplace MVP website, you will not need that full range of instruments. Most likely, you will use far fewer engines and they may be completely different.
You can use the following technology stack to develop a website like Airbnb:
- Application Framework — Ruby on Rails
- Automation Frameworks — RSpec, Capybara
- SQL data storage — PostgreSQL
- Data storage — Redis
- Web server — Nginx
- Web application server — Puma
- Hosting — Amazon Web Services (AWS).
As you can see, we offer Ruby on Rails as the main application framework for building a website like Airbnb. It will assist you in developing your MVP website rapidly and affordably, and Rails will also make your online marketplace platform scalable, productive, and protected.
As for the Airbnb platform, even though they implement a vast technology stack, they still run on the RoR framework. Therefore, it may be a good idea to build a room booking site like Airbnb with Ruby on Rails as well.
3. Define the functionality required for a rental marketplace
When you create a website like Airbnb, you need to distinguish between the core and additional features. Due to the fact that Airbnb marketplace platform has two parties (exclusive of the admin) – travelers and hosts – we will discuss the platform functionality required for each side. It is worth noting that the most complex development part is connected with implementing the hosts’ features.
Here is the core functionality required for an online marketplace like Airbnb::
Authorization and roles
The platform users are divided into travelers and hosts. The latter publish their accommodation and specify the details. Guests can see all the available options, comprehensive information, and book lodging listed or contact the owner.
Moreover, the authentication feature allows suppliers and consumers to change their roles anytime. For example, today you have an empty villa for renting, tomorrow you will be probably making a business trip to another city and searching for accommodation.
Personal profile data
Users should have an opportunity to modify their settings smoothly and conveniently. For instance, they may want to adjust their account settings like e-mail, password, phone number, etc. This feature builds confidence between the customers and your Ruby on Rails marketplace.
Both platform sides fill in the most useful data. Sellers specify the details about the accommodation provided, including locations, types, prices.
This function allows customers to navigate the local area and find the most relevant lodging. Also, it provides a sorting system to search around the area and get a quick property preview with the name, price, and a couple of photos.
Also, the algorithm shows you the most popular accommodations based on the views and visits of users.
When you are considering the option to make a website like Airbnb you should not avoid such a meaningful feature like messaging. It is crucial as it allows travelers to discuss any details with the hosts, like arrival time, delays, number of guests, etc.
When travelers search for accommodation, they want to book it for a particular date. This way, a homeowner receives a notification and decides whether to confirm or decline the booking. It makes the marketplace more flexible compared to Booking.com for the following reasons:
- Hosts have the opportunity to solve any issues before confirming a booking;
- In case it is impossible to provide lodging, homeowners may decline a request.
Push notifications allow both guests and hosts to reach a certain web page as fast as possible. It works pretty simply: you get a notification, click on it, and immediately shift to a certain page. This way, it greatly boosts user experience and accelerates many processes.
It is pretty convenient, isn’t it? This feature will enable the users (both travelers and hosts) of your online marketplace to always stay up-to-date.
It allows booking marketplace travelers and hosts to send and accept payments for their services.
For an online marketplace like Airbnb it’s crucial to have powerful community support. This feature provides both hosts and travelers with 24/7 access to support services that solve the problems of platform users.
When planning how to start a website like Airbnb, apart from general functionality, you need to consider the features for each platform side. Let’s take a brief look at the functionality necessary for hosts and guests of an Airbnb booking system.
|Functionality for all parties of a website like Airbnb|
|Travelers (Buyers)||Hosts (suppliers)||Additional features|
|Add & edit profile details||List property||Comparison of multiple accommodation options|
|Use search & filtering options to find properties||Wizard listing||360 accommodation virtual tours|
|Get apartment details||Set the pricing & availability||Advanced filters|
|Book a property & add to a wishlist||Set the payment details|
|Use integrated messenger to contact a host||Use integrated messenger to contact a guest|
|View upcoming/past bookings and reservations details||Accept/decline booking requests|
|Receive push notifications||View upcoming/past bookings and reservations details|
|Submit reviews||Submit reviews|
|Add/delete payment methods and see transaction history||Add/delete payment methods and see transaction history|
4. Build a rental marketplace MVP
We recommend you to build a marketplace MVP first, instead of creating a fully-functional product at once. The matter is that the MVP approach will help you save time and budget. Also, you will get valuable feedback from investors (if any) and early adopters that will help you validate your idea.
You need to include only the primary functionality during marketplace MVP development. Over time, you will expand the platform implementing add-ons and optional features.
Here is the primary functionality that should be implemented on an MVP website like Airbnb:
- Sign up/Sign in. It allows users (both guests and hosts) to create an account where they can manage personal data.
- Guest and Host roles. You need to diversify the platform roles to provide travelers with an ability to search for and book accommodation and allow homeowners to list their property and specify the required details.
- Search option. It helps travelers find relevant lodging.
- Filters. This way, you allow travelers to clearly define their request by choosing a certain property type, price, availability, inner facilities, amenities, number of rooms, beds, bathrooms, etc.
- Search results. It is the page of relevant accommodation options which should include informative property cards with high-quality photos (slides), the possible number of guests, facilities, and a map with lodging icons on it.
- Property page. It should contain a full and comprehensive description including facilities, amenities, number of beds, bathrooms, and accommodation type. Also, you need to make the ‘Contact Host’ button as vivid as possible so that users do not find it difficult to book accommodation.
- A host contact form. When users click on a CTA button, provide them with a form that stands for the final user journey stage. It should require travelers to fill in important information and send an email to a host. This way, suppliers will receive a notification and respond to consumers in any possible way.
- Communication channels. It will be a good idea to add an online chat where users can communicate to discuss the details.
- Relevant recommendations. In case users do not want to book the found property, they may want to see other relevant and similar options. This feature greatly boosts user experience and allows you to retain customers.
Have a great idea of a marketplace platform? We know how to bring it to life.
5. Follow common marketplace design principles
You may be wondering how to make a site like Airbnb in terms of design. Does it have to be attractive and high-quality? The reason for this question is that many people believe that while building a website like Airbnb you should put the conversions and functionality aspects first.
However, the first thing you see when visiting Airbnb is its design. This way, your initial impression, and consequently, further purchases completely depend on this crucial aspect.
The design has always been important at Airbnb – it was founded by designers and the first guests were coming to a design conference in San Francisco. Some of the biggest changes have come from scaling and adapting to the momentum.
- Alex Schleifer, Airbnb Vice President of Design
Airbnb marketplace platform has two key principles: designing for trust and designing for everyone. Thus, in April 2016, Airbnb introduced an updated app design following these two principles. The platform development team made everything to match people to houses, neighborhoods, and experiences that will help them live like a local.
Core e-commerce design guidelines
Now, let’s take a look at the most important principles that will help you create an attractive web solution for your accommodation rental marketplace like Airbnb.
You should get out a clear message to your potential users. First of all, implement a simple and intuitive design that will help customers understand what products and services are available. Also, emphasize the strong points of your website that make it stand out from the market rivals.
Navigation and user journey are the foundation stones of usability. The easier it is to buy products, the more sales are generated. Build a simple-to-understand and efficient user flow that will allow your audience to find and purchase the desired accommodation in a few steps.
You should avoid tons of information on the webpage. Otherwise, the users will feel overwhelmed and will likely leave your marketplace without any purchase. Create trustworthy photos of products, give a full item description, implement a feature that allows customers to leave comments or reviews for other potential guests.
Want to know more about the importance of web design for online marketplaces? Our article will help you: How UX Design Solves Online Marketplace Issues.
How much does it cost to create a website like Airbnb?
To make sure you are ready for your platform development and launch, we have prepared an approximate cost of an accommodation rental website like Airbnb.
Please bear in mind that the final price of such a platform depends heavily on such factors:
- The functionality you wish to have on your platform;
- The development approach you choose;
- The location and consequently, the rates of your development partner.
Taking into account all the functionality discussed above, an average cost of a rental housing website is as follows:
|Average cost of building a marketplace website|
|Features||Time, hours||Cost, $45/hour|
|UX/UI Development||42 hours||$1,890|
|Authorization and Security||72 hours||$3,240|
|User Profiles||42 hours||$1,890|
|Home page||84 hours||$3,780|
|Search and filters||96 hours||$4,320|
|Reviews & ratings||48 hours||$2,160|
|Managing listings||64 hours||$2,880|
|Booking system||64 hours||$2,880|
|Property page||42 hours||$1,890|
|Guests panel||82 hours||$3,690|
|Hosts panel||84 hours||$3,780|
|Admin panel||96 hours||$4,320|
To sum up, we should mention that the final price can vary, and only your software development partner will be able to provide you with an exact quote.
However, you can count on the quoted numbers if you want to know how much does it cost to create a good website for a vacation rental with a development agency located in Eastern Europe.
As you can see, it’s a time- and cost-consuming process to create a marketplace website like Airbnb. You need to keep in mind that features and tools that Airbnb uses may somehow differ from yours because of different implementation aspects. Thus, follow the mentioned above principles, techniques, and customize your product to make it unique.
Are you looking for a team that can help you create a high-quality and money-making accommodation rental marketplace? Codica team has built multiple marketplace websites, we know exactly how to build a website like Airbnb and we will gladly help to create yours. Check our ready works or contact us to discuss your project.