How to Build a Website Like Airbnb: Step-by-Step Guide

Daniil Torkut
Daniil Torkut
Content Writer

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 does the platform 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 overview

In fact, there are many Airbnb’s competitors and alternatives in this market segment, like Booking, HomeAway, Wimdu, TripAdvisor, and 9Flats.

Being a multi-vendor marketplace, 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 similar marketplaces connect the customer with hotels and motels. Therefore, Airbnb 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 take a look at the overall statistics about Airbnb through different aspects to see the working results.

Airbnb stats 2019 | Codica

History

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 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 websites version looked like back in their early days.

Airbnb first website | Codica

Starting small, Airbnb is now one of the world’s major accommodation rental marketplaces.

Below you can see an insightful infographic which shows how Airbnb went from two guys providing couches to a 10 billion-dollar marketplace giant.

How Airbnb started infographic

Source: Funders and Founders

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.

Airbnb monetization structure | Codica

Related reading: Best Monetization Practices to Build a Successful Online Marketplace.

How to create 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 for the online marketplace development.

Ready-made solution

In case you want to start your 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. 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 a 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

Let’s now discuss how to build a marketplace like Airbnb choosing a custom software development option.

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 platform utilizes a pretty powerful technology stack and a large number of tools. In terms of the 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.

Here you can see the technology stack options for an MVP of your marketplace:

  • Programming languages — Ruby, JavaScript
  • Application Framework — Ruby on Rails
  • JavaScript Framework — React.js
  • Automation Frameworks — RSpec, Capybara
  • SQL data storage — PostgreSQL
  • Data storage — Redis
  • Web server — Nginx
  • Web application server — Puma
  • Hosting — Amazon Web Services (AWS).

Technology stack for Airbnb | Codica

As you can see, we offer Ruby on Rails as the main application framework. 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.

3. Define the functionality required for a rental marketplace

When you create a website similar to Airbnb, you need to distinguish between the core and additional features. Due to the fact that Airbnb 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 accommodation rental marketplace:

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 marketplace.

Listing

Both platform sides fill in the most useful data. Sellers specify the details about the accommodation provided, including locations, types, prices.

Online maps

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.

Messaging

This feature is crucial as it allows travelers to discuss any details with the hosts, like arrival time, delays, number of guests, etc.

Booking system

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.

Notification system

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.

Online payments

It allows marketplace travelers and hosts to send and accept payments for their services.

Community support

This feature provides both hosts and travelers with 24/7 access to support services that solve the problems of platform users.

Apart from general functionality, you need to consider the features for each platform side specifically. Let’s take a look at them briefly.

Functionality for all Airbnb parties
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 the marketplace MVP

We recommend you to build a Minimum Viable Product 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 the MVP product 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 similar to 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.

5. Follow common design principles

You may be wondering whether a website like Airbnb needs a high-quality and attractive design. The reason for this question is that many people believe that such major marketplaces put the conversions and functionality aspects first.

However, the first thing you see when visiting the e-commerce website 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 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.

Arbnb design 2016 | Codica

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.

Simple message

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.

Intuitive navigation

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.

Trust level

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.

Final words

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.

You are looking for a team that can help you create a high-quality and money-making accommodation marketplace? Codica team has built multiple marketplace websites, and we will gladly help to create yours. Check our ready works or contact us to discuss your project.

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