15, Mar 2024

How to Build a Website Like Craigslist Step-by-Step

Creating a website like Craigslist is a process that presents unique challenges and opportunities. It requires a balance between technical proficiency and an understanding of user dynamics to build a platform that is both intuitive and comprehensive.

Website Like Craigslist


Dmitry Boyko, Android Team Lead

Serhii Stavichenko,

Serhii Stavichenko, CTO

Serhii knows everything about project architecture, data science, and machine learning. His superpower is translating clients' business needs into top-notch technical solutions.

Craigslist is the main go-to resource for finding anything you can’t just buy at the store or order in the app. Craigslist has it all: used goods, rare items, gigs, event opportunities, and any custom service requests you can think of.

It has long become the most used classified website in America, popularizing the whole concept of online ad boards that connect independent sellers and buyers far beyond the USA. This success story can’t but inspire.

If you are looking to draw from Craigslist's success with a similar website, this article will explain how to create a website like Craigslist and get a cost-efficient, competitive solution.

Understanding Craigslist's Success

Craigslist has remained the main source of classified ads in the US and Canada since the ‘90s, getting about 240 million user visits monthly in 2024. This ingenious alternative to printed ads revolutionized the way people do retail with classified postings. But how did Craigslist start?

Craigslist introduced the concept of a classified ads directory. Classified ads are short advertisements typically found in newspapers, magazines, online platforms, or other media channels. They are used by regular users or businesses to advertise products or services, real estate listings, personal requests, job openings, etc.

These ads are organized into themed categories or sections based on their content for easy search. Classified ads are concise, often containing limited text and basic details such as the item or service being offered, contact information, and sometimes pricing or location details.

But the site’s legend started with a single email highlighting a few events in San Francisco sent to around twelve people in 1995. The email was spread around quickly, and people were emailing back for more info.

Craiglist logo

Witnessing the efficiency of “online word of mouth,” Craigslist’s founder Craig Newman continued using emails to push various events and selling and buying offers. The question was how he could facilitate and organize this form of promotion into a consistent system.

Features of Craigslist Website

In 1996, Craig Newman launched a separate web-based service for newsletter sharing. Structuring it, customizing it, and adding ad categories, Mr. Newman gradually expanded this service into the Craigslist we know.

Craigslist gave people free access to classified ads online and, eventually, paved the way for job boards, marketplace, and classified websites of today, including eBay and Amazon, Upwork and Fiverr, and your local online ad posting sites.

But it is still a “good old” directory dedicated to classified ads that retain the features it has become loved for, which include:

Plain newspaper-like interface

Craigslist is, basically, a digitized newspaper that uses complicated web software to power a simple, minimalistic, and easy-to-navigate user experience. All listings are categorized for quick and easy search. Users of any age, PC/smartphone skill, and background can navigate, search, and post ads effortlessly.

Ad diversity

Craigslist has hundreds of ad categories, including job offers, used vehicles, furniture, electronics, and so much more. It is also a place where people worldwide can discuss different topics and develop startup ideas, with threads that are also categorized by date, topic, location, etc.

Free and featured listings

Craigslist allows sellers and buyers to list ads without facing any upfront expenses, which is great for startups and businesses running on tight budgets. Going for a paid account, businesses may use featured ads to boost ad visibility and target specific buyer niches.

Features of Craiglist

Kicking off the Development — Choose a Development Approach

Now that you have your basics straight, it’s time to figure out your new website development project. Start with the basic workflow model — the info and tips below will help you avoid common pitfalls, risks, and extra costs.

You have two ways to build a new Craigslist-type site: build a simple open-source solution or dive into custom development for a more complex, unique solution.

Open-source solution

Using a readymade platform will be the fastest and probably the easiest option. It doesn't require qualified coding skills or experience to build a site — you’re good to go if you know your HTML/CSS basics.

Just take a free template that fits a website like Craigslist and let your imagination go. Apart from that, all you need to do is buy a domain name and maintain the website. However, a highly unique or branded look may require more complex customization or premium templates.

Website like Craigslist design

Choosing the right Content Management System (CMS) should be done wisely, as it can significantly impact the functionality, scalability, and user experience of your website.

Here are some of the best and most popular CMS platforms for building Craigslist clone website:

  • WordPress: Highly customizable and easy to use, WordPress is the most popular CMS in the world. It offers numerous themes and plugins specifically designed for classified ads websites.

  • Joomla: Known for its flexibility and power, Joomla is a great choice for those who need more than what WordPress can offer but aren't ready for a fully custom solution.

  • Drupal: Ideal for complex, advanced, and versatile sites, Drupal is great for community platform websites like Craigslist. It requires a bit more technical expertise than WordPress or Joomla.

  • Yclas: Formerly known as OpenClassifieds, Yclas is a powerful platform designed to create classified websites easily without any technical knowledge.

  • Squarespace: While not a traditional choice for a classified website, Squarespace can be a good option for those looking for beautiful design and simplicity. It's more suited for small-scale or niche classified platforms.

  • Wix: Known for its drag-and-drop interface, Wix is user-friendly and suitable for small classified sites. It may not offer the same level of customization or scalability as some other platforms but is a good option for beginners.

  • Magento: While Magento is traditionally an eCommerce platform, with the right extensions, it can be transformed into a powerful classified site.

Developing from scratch

Developing a custom website takes a lot of time and money, but the result stands out. You can build a scalable, secure solution with a great promise of RoI. To avoid pricey risks, you can develop a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) first, a basic version of the website for usability testing and quality assurance.

You need reliable specialists to create the MVP version that puts a solid foundation for future enhancements. It’s also crucial to base your MVP on the Unique Value Proposition (UVP), as it makes your website stand out from the crowd and engage a larger audience. The UVP can enhance the website's market position and encourage user loyalty in the long run.

Further, we will delve into the key steps for building a custom website like Craigslist. By understanding these steps, you'll be better equipped to create a successful online marketplace.

How to Build a Website Like Craigslist from Scratch

At Requestum, we break down the creation of a website like Craigslist into manageable steps. Let’s learn about them in detail.

Product discovery

This initial phase in custom software development forms the cornerstone of the project. Our team conducts in-depth research and analysis of your classifieds website concept, formulating a comprehensive development strategy. The aim is to identify both the strengths and weaknesses of the proposed solution, ensuring a cost-effective development phase and facilitating well-informed decision-making.

MVP development

Before advancing to full development, assessing the viability of your business concept is crucial. By crafting a Minimum Viable Product (MVP), you can gauge the initial response and tailor the product to meet user needs, ultimately saving time and reducing initial costs. Essential MVP features for a Craigslist-like site include:

  • Sign-up and authorization for users to create a personal cabinet or sign in via social profiles (Facebook or Google). Two-factor authentication will help minimize spam and detect fraudsters.

  • A user-friendly product page should be equipped with a distinct search bar that has filters and auto-filling options.

  • Ad posting moderation is required to prohibit inappropriate or offensive ads.

  • Adding an online chat or any other messenger will also be a smart idea.

Now, for some advanced features, you can add the following:

  • Calendar notifications can be used to inform users about upcoming special offers.

  • A community forum will help boost customer engagement on your website.

  • Search filters by price, place, and category help sort through hundreds of offerings to find exactly what one needs.

  • Reliable security options include IP blocking, limited login attempts, and login history that aims to protect personal accounts.

Essential features of Classified website

UI/UX design

For classified websites, simplicity and clarity are paramount. Design efforts should prioritize ease of navigation and minimalism, focusing on product visibility and user experience. Effective design will not only facilitate site usage but also enhance customer satisfaction and return rates.


This phase encompasses both front-end (user interface and experience) and back-end (server, database, and application logic) development, utilizing diverse technologies to meet specific needs. It also includes the integration of various functionalities like payment systems and analytics tools.

Testing and Quality Assurance

Ensuring the website operates flawlessly is essential, employing various methods to detect and fix any issues.

Performance monitoring and support

Post-launch, continuous monitoring and support are crucial to maintain optimal website performance and user satisfaction. This includes server and database management, technical support, and regular updates to enhance functionality and security.

Incorporating AI for Competitive Advantage

The above info tells how to make a website like Craigslist in a nutshell. But you can use some extra power to polish user experience and gain a relevant competitive advantage. AI-driven ad moderation can be used for efficient and accurate content screening, which helps minimize inappropriate or fraudulent listings.

Personalized recommendations made by AI tools increase user interest based on individual preferences. Smart search functionality is achieved through AI's natural language processing to generate intuitive search results.

Using AI

AI-driven features may also power a detailed analysis of seller credibility (KYC/AML), a dynamic pricing strategy based on market trends, and automated image recognition.

Challenges and Solutions

Launching a website like Craigslist is not always smooth. You should be ready to deal with particular challenges on the way to a well-polished result, including the following.

Attract users to your website

Like any project, a classified website will need a loyal user base to build a strong standing. That’s why you should study the market beforehand to gain leads and find efficient ways to attract and retain an audience. Market/competitive research, marketing strategy development, targeted promotion, and SEO will help.

Dealing with illegal or unsolicited ads

Craigslist initially had no policies for ad moderation, which resulted in ad displays of illegal products and services. For instance, the cases of Trojan ads were constantly growing. The situation changed with the introduction of special agreements and tech moderation later on.

On top of firewalls, you can equip your site with reinforced authentication, anti-fraud mechanisms (like Know Your Customer and Anti Money Laundering), and data encryption based on blockchain principles.

Building a customer support team

Craigslist used to have no customer support. That became a huge issue once user started facing legitimate problems related to their accounts, payments, etc. To avoid it, you should provide responsive customer support 24/7.


This knowledge should give you a good heads-up on building a Craigslist clone and leveraging the famous site’s success. And while you get all the tools to set up sites almost single-handedly, building a truly stand-out, profitable solution calls for professional assistance.

At Requestum, we offer years of experience in qualified web development. Our team is ready to dedicate in-depth knowledge of the eCommerce industry and web tech trends to your project. Let’s discuss it at once!



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