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Tips and Tricks for Building a Classified Website Like Craigslist

Krunal Shah

Oct 21, 2021

7 min readLast Updated Dec 05, 2022


Let’s go back in time a little bit. Remember those weekend marketplaces you would go to sell your second-hand products or buy something for yourself? All the bargaining, and the effort it took to sell your product? Fast-forward a little bit now, if you wanted to sell a product or buy one, rent a place or lease one, you would turn those newspaper pages to find the classified ad sections to look for listings and write a similar ad for your product. Now imagine if we could take marketplaces + newspaper classified ads and make it simpler.

Well, Craigslist did just that. With the advent of technology and the growing phase of the internet, Craigslist’s online classified ads went on to replace printed ads in many ways. Launched in 1995, it became a platform for people to write online ads to sell a car, buy furniture, or post job openings. So what is it about Craigslist that makes it so popular? What does the process of building a website like Craiglist look like?

In this article, we’ll share all the tips and tricks involved to build a website like Craiglist, the most important features to include in your app, the challenges you could face, and how to steer clear of them.

Table of Contents:

Craiglist and its Secret to Success
How to Build a Website Like Craiglist
Challenges in Building a Website Like Craiglist
How Much Does it Cost to Develop a Website like Craiglist?

Craiglist and its Secret to Success

There’s no doubt about the fact that Craigslist is a top classified website around the world and especially in the US. One fact worth noting is that Craiglist has not changed its design and core features in all these years. But why? What makes it so popular?

Although it is not the only website in its category, it still manages to perform better than all its competitors like OLX, Quickr, OfferUp, Oodle, and GumTree. Now that we have built enough curiosity, let’s take a look at the peculiarities that make Craiglist stand out.

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Traditional, intuitive & simple

Every other website today goes out of its way to make an exceptional UI/UX design, whereas Craiglist believes in keeping it simple. While some might think it’s not creative enough, many think of it as intuitive. Its design is like that of a newspaper’s classified ad page and hence it makes its mark in striking a chord even with the elderly. It’s easy to understand navigation and a simple interface with no banner ads confusing the customers, no images, no themes, and no animations give people a chance to get right to it and achieve their desired outcome in the most minimal amount of time.

2. Diverse ad categories

Craigslist has a world of things to offer and hundreds of ad categories spanning from job postings, sale and purchase of vehicles, furniture, electronics and so much more. It is also home to discussion forums where people across the world come to discuss all sorts of topics, from politics to parenting and passion projects. Moreover, the categorization is also made by dates, topics, and location. Craiglist is available in 70 countries and supports 13 languages.

In a time where businesses are all about money, and phrases like there’s, “nothing such as a free lunch”, are popular, Craiglist believes in going against the tide instead of riding it. It enables customers and business owners to list both free and paid ads on its website.

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How to Build a Website Like Craiglist

Create a unique value proposition

For those looking to build website like Craiglist, it’s important to remember to create a unique value proposition by studying your target audience and carving a relevant niche for yourself. Digging deep to find grey areas and bridge that gap with a unique solution of your own would be the best way to go about building a classified website.

Make a choice between open source solution or customized web development

One of the main questions that clients ask us is if they should go for customized classified portal development and build it from scratch or use a CMS like WordPress for development. The answer here is pretty simple, if you have a set amount of budget and would like to keep your operations simple and hassle-free, then an open-source solution like WordPress is the best way to go forward. WordPress is one of the most compelling, feature-rich, intuitive websites, that delivers an amazing outcome while saving you a ton of development time and money.

On the other hand, for those having no budget constraints and for those looking for highly unique features, flexibility, and customization as per their audience’s need, then developing from scratch would be a good option here.

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Be sure to include MVP feature list

A classified website like Craiglist is known for its features and so it goes without saying that to build website like Craiglist, it’s crucial to keep a balance of both basic and advanced features. The features listed below are absolute must-haves:

  • Quick & easy registration
  • Product page
  • Category bifurcation
  • Search bar
  • Favorites or wishlist
  • Advanced filters (price, place, category)
  • Live chats
  • Ad posting & moderation
  • Multiple language support
  • Calendar notifying about specific events
  • Community forums
  • Payment gateway
  • Two-step verification

Also Read: Does Your Web Application Need A Front-End Framework?

Challenges in Building a Website Like Craiglist

Getting users on your website

Classified websites like Craiglist thrive and survive because of their loyal user base. While it’s easy to build website like Craiglist, it’s difficult to get traffic, attract and retain customers. The only way to do this well is by truly studying the market, your audience and tap into their preferences and pain points. Start by crafting a unique solution that provides them real value while making a difference in their lives.

Dealing with the nightmare of illegal or unsolicited ads

Time for a quick backstory! In its early days, Craiglist had no real terms & conditions for ad moderation on its website which led to ad display of illegal products and services. Shockingly, there was even a case of a woman hiring a killer of the website. To put an end to such horrific incidents, Craiglist decided to have strict terms & conditions in place that also allowed users to flag unreliable sellers and illegal activities.

While the internet and technology surely have many benefits, they also come with their set of troubles and challenges. The cases of illegal products and services including the sale of alcohol, tobacco, drugs, and weapons at online marketplaces are not unheard of. Numerous people make wrong use of SEO to list their ads in multiple places. Even cases of identity theft and trojan ads are severely growing in number, Therefore, it is crucial that your classified website has ad moderation with the required policy agreements and terms & conditions in place.

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Building a customer support team

Craiglist in its initial days to this day has no customer support. This becomes a big problem if customers have legitimate issues related to their accounts, sellers, or payment mishaps. Another big challenge with Craiglist is its lack of reviews & ratings, the ability to leave comments, or any way in which a buyer can trust a seller and their products. Thus it’s a good idea to get a customer support team on board.

Also Read: How To Choose A Technology Stack For Web Application Development

How Much Does it Cost to Develop a Website like Craiglist?

We were sure that the question about cost would be the next to pop in your head. Now that we have gone through the main features and challenges of developing a classified website like Craigslist, let’s take a look at the factors that will determine its cost.

Project complexity & features

Not just for developing a classified website but the cost for any project for that matter will depend on its complexity. This is because the more complex your project, the more time it will take for the developers to work on it. In addition to that, If you wish to integrate advanced features into your website, it’s sure to increase your cost quite a bit.

Type of development & tech stack

Like we have discussed above, the cost will vary if you wish to develop a customized website over an open source solution like WordPress. In addition to that, the framework you choose for your classified web app will also impact the cost, for instance, whether you go for native or cross-platform app development.

Location of development

Your price is also set to vary upon the region your web development service provider or developers are based out of. For example, the per hour cost of developers is a lot expensive in regions like North America and Europe as compared to countries like India.

Keeping in mind all the factors mentioned above, the approximate cost to develop a classified website like Craigslist will come close to $10,000 to $20,000. The cost will increase further if in case you wish to incorporate additional features.

Also Read: 7 Biggest Ecommerce Challenges in 2021 and How to Overcome Them

Wrapping Up

Craigslist is an epic example of a classified website and investing your time to build a Craigslist clone will definitely be worthwhile. While making a classified website may seem simple on the outside, but it’s a lot more challenging. There are so many decisions to be made and so many things that deserve your undivided attention. Here at Third Rock Techkno, we specialize in web and mobile app development. Our team is backed by experts in the industry that will make your vision of developing a classified app become real.

Krunal Shah

Krunal Shah is the CTO and Co-founder at Third Rock Techkno. With extensive experience gained over a decade, Krunal helps his clients build software solutions that stand out in the industry and are lighter on the pocket.

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