How to Build an App Like Craigslist

Accessibility and variety go hand in hand. Such is hence the preferred choice for many.

The convenience and efficiency offered by online community ad platforms have transformed the way we engage in commerce. These platforms have completely revolutionized consumer behavior and fostered a sense of community, bringing together individuals from different backgrounds with a common goal—to find the perfect product for their needs.

With apps like Craigslist, in just a few clicks, you can explore diverse options and connect with a community of buyers and sellers with similar interests.

As per Semrush’s latest report, Craigslist receives over 160 million users visit on a monthly basis. They earned $694 million in revenue last year, the highest since their founding in 1995. With a user base spread across 70 different countries, the site posts around 80 million classified ads each month, with each post ranging from $3 and $75.

All of these, proliferated by people’s increasing affinity towards digital means of advertising, makes building an app like Craigslist a perfect business opportunity.

Confused about how to start?

Don’t worry.

In this blog, we will cover everything related to building an app like Craigslist. We will extensively cover the essential features, cost factors, developmental steps, and all other intricacies so that you can confidently move ahead with your vision of developing a classifieds app and making it a reality.

So without further ado, let’s start.

What is Craigslist?

Craigslist is an online classified advertisements platform that allows users to post and browse various types of listings, including job opportunities, housing, services, items for sale, community events, and more. 

The platform was founded in 1995 by Craig Newmark and initially served as an email distribution list for local events and classified ads in San Francisco.

Over time, Craigslist expanded to cover a wide range of cities and categories, becoming a popular platform for buying, selling, and connecting with others within local communities.

Today, the app is one of the biggest ad distribution platforms in the entire world, with a user base spread across 70 countries, and lists ads relative to any product you can think of.

One of the distinguishing features of Craigslist is its emphasis on simplicity and minimalism. The platform provides a straightforward interface where users can navigate through different categories and locations to find what they want.

Therefore, the app amassed its popularity due to three distinct things:  its free listings (not free anymore), accessibility, and broad user base.

How Does Craigslist Make Money? 

Craigslist’s business model is a mixed bag, i.e., they leverage a mixture of freemium, advertisement-based, and commissioned app business models. 

Two of the company’s main advantages are its low overhead costs and a large user base. They generate revenue through a variety of methods. These include job posting fees, real estate listing fees, classified ad fees, pay-per-click advertising, and the selling of user data to third-party companies.

i. Job Posting Fees

They charge fees for posting job listings in specific cities, typically ranging from $25 to $75, depending on the location. 

ii. Real Estate Listing Fees

Posting real estate listings on Craigslist also incurs fees in certain cities, typically around $5 to $10, depending on the specific location.

iii. Classified Ad Fees

This is the biggest source of Craigslist’s revenue. They charge fees for posting classified ads within specific categories, usually ranging from $3 to $5, varying depending on the category chosen.

iv. Pay-Per-Click Advertising

Businesses can opt for pay-per-click advertising on Craigslist, allowing them to pay for their ads to appear prominently at the top of search results.

v. Selling of Data

Craigslist monetizes user data by selling it to third-party companies, which may include user demographics, browsing history, and search history, among other information.

A thing to note, critics have often criticized Craigslist’s business model for being exploitative, with concerns raised about high fees, invasive data collection practices, and inadequate user privacy protection. Despite all this criticism, the app remains one of the most popular classified ads platforms in the market.

Top Features You Must Add to Make an App Like Craigslist

Top Features You Must Add to Make an App Like Craigslist

To build a successful app like Craigslist, incorporating essential features is paramount. Here are the key elements contributing to Craigslist’s popularity that you can add to your own online classified ads platform.

1. Registration and Login

Provide users with a seamless registration and login process to create personalized accounts and access the platform’s features.

2. User Profile

Enable users to create and manage their profiles, showcasing relevant information such as contact details, location, and preferences.

3. Product Listing

Allow users to easily create and manage product or service listings, including detailed descriptions, pricing, and images.

4. Search & Filters

Implement a robust search functionality that enables users to find specific listings based on keywords, categories, location, and customizable filters.

5. Chat

Facilitate direct communication between users through an in-app messaging system, enabling smooth interaction for negotiation, inquiries, and coordination.

6. Payments

Integrate secure payment options within the app, allowing users to make transactions conveniently and confidently.

7. Ratings and Reviews

Enable users to provide feedback and ratings for sellers or buyers, promoting transparency and trust within the community.

8. Recommendation

Utilize algorithms to offer personalized recommendations based on user’s preferences and browsing history, enhancing their experience and increasing engagement.

9. Multi-lingual Support

Perhaps the most overlooked feature, enabling multi-language support will facilitate your users with enhanced accessibility and user experience and help retain a diversified user base.

By incorporating all these features into your app, you can definitely create an online classified ads platform that can rival the success and popularity of Craigslist.

How to Build an App Like Craigslist? (Developmental Steps Explained!)

How to Build an App Like Craigslist?

i) Planning and Designing

Defining the scope of the app is crucial. Identify the key features such as listings, search functionality, user profiles, and messaging system. Determine the supported categories like jobs, housing, and services.

Target audience can be individuals, businesses, or both. Create wireframes and prototypes using tools like Sketch or Adobe XD to visualize the app’s layout and functionality. 

Develop a user flow diagram to map out the steps users will take within the app, from browsing listings to contacting sellers. Create a style guide that establishes the app’s branding, including color scheme, typography, and visual elements.

Seek feedback from potential users and iterate accordingly. 

ii) Development

Front-End Development

This involves building the app’s user interface (UI) and user experience (UX). For effective front-end development, use HTML, CSS, and JavaScript to build the user interface. Frameworks like React or Angular can enhance development efficiency.

Back-End Development

This involves building the app’s server-side logic. The best tech stack for back-end development includes Java, Python, or Ruby on Rails

Java offers excellent scalability and performance, suitable for handling high-traffic and complex classified ad platforms.

Python’s simplicity, versatility, extensive libraries/frameworks like Django and Flask, and ease of integration with other technologies make it suitable for various back-end tasks in a classified ads app.

RoR’s elegant syntax and built-in features, such as database management and routing, would better enable building classified ads apps.

Database Development

The best database for a classifieds app is a NoSQL database, such as MongoDB or Cassandra

Both are well-suited for classifieds apps because they provide flexible data models that can handle unstructured or evolving data, allowing for easy storage and retrieval of various types of classified information. Such would also help accommodate growing user bases.

iii) Testing

Testing your app is mandatory to identify, report and fix bugs and other issues to ensure the app performs optimally and provides a smooth user experience. To test your app’s performance, you might consider unit, integration, and system testing.

Unit testing involves testing individual components or units of code to ensure they function correctly. Integration testing checks how different components work together. 

System testing verifies the app’s functionality as a whole, testing all features and user flows. 

Other types of testing, like performance testing, security testing, and user acceptance testing, may also be performed to ensure a robust and reliable classified ads app.

iv) Deployment

Deployment simply means setting up hosting and configuring servers. 

Consider cloud platforms like AWS or Azure for scalability and reliability. Optimize your app’s performance and security. 

Implement a continuous integration and deployment (CI/CD) process to streamline updates, and then you can go ahead and deploy your app on the respective playstore.

v) Marketing and Promotion

Once all is done, the last thing you need is a comprehensive marketing and promotion strategy. Such will help your app reach the target audience efficiently.

You can opt for different digital marketing channels, social media platforms, and search engine optimization (SEO) techniques. 

Or you can collaborate with influencers, consider partnerships, and invest in paid advertising for broader visibility.

Factors Affecting the Cost of Developing a Classifieds App

Several factors can influence your classified ads app’s development cost and corresponding cost prospects. The main ones among them are the development team size, the app’s complexity, required features/functionalities, and lastly, chosen monetization model.

FactorsDescriptionImpact on Cost
Development Team SizeThe size and expertise of the development team required for the app development process. Larger and more experienced teams may increase the overall cost.Medium 
App ComplexityThe level of complexity involved in designing and developing the app, including the number of features, functionalities, and integrations. Higher complexity usually leads to increased development costs.High
App FeaturesThe specific features and functionalities required for the app, such as user registration, search functionality, messaging system, geolocation, etc. More features often result in higher development costs.High
App PlatformThe app’s target platform(s), such as iOS, Android, or both. Developing for multiple platforms generally increases the development cost.Low – Medium
App Monetization ModelThe chosen revenue model for the app, such as in-app advertising, subscription-based model, or transaction fees. The complexity and implementation of the monetization model can impact the development cost.Medium

Apart from these market rates, development location, and customizations, such as the addition of newer features later on, also raises the total cost of your classified app’s development.

How Long Does It Take to Develop an App Like Craigslist?

Different factors can affect the overall development timeline for a classified ads app. Here are three different estimates to give you an idea of the possible timeframes:

i. Basic Functionality (6-8 weeks)

If you aim to build a classified ads app with essential features like user registration, listing creation, search functionality, and basic messaging, the development time can range from 6 to 8 weeks.

ii. Moderate Complexity (10-16 weeks)

For a classified ads app with additional features like geolocation, advanced search filters, image uploading, user ratings, and payment integration, the development timeline can extend to approximately 10 to 16 weeks.

iii. Advanced Functionality (16+ weeks)

Suppose you envision a highly sophisticated classified ads app with advanced features such as real-time messaging, AI-powered recommendation systems, social media integration, user analytics, and multiple monetization models.

In that case, the development time may surpass 16 weeks and vary based on the complexity and customization required.

It’s important to note that these estimates are approximate and can vary based on the development team’s size, experience, and resources allocated to the project. Factors like app design, testing, and deployment can also influence the overall timeline.

Top 5 Classified Platforms like Craigslist

Top 5 Classified Platforms like Craigslist

Countless platforms and apps exist that function similarly to Craigslist. Here are the top 5 Craigslist alternatives:

i. Facebook Marketplace 

Facebook Marketplace is a great alternative to Craigslist, as it allows you to connect with people in your local area who are looking to buy or sell items. You can also use Facebook Marketplace to find services, such as pet sitting or house cleaning.

ii. Letgo 

Letgo is another popular classified platform that is similar to Craigslist. You can use Letgo to sell or buy items in your local area. Letgo also has a mobile app, so you can easily browse and post listings on the go.

iii. OfferUp

OfferUp is a similar platform to Letgo, but it has a slightly different user interface. OfferUp is also more focused on buying and selling local items, while Letgo has a wider range of categories.

iv. Oodle

Oodle is a classified aggregator that pulls listings from a variety of sources, including Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, and Letgo. This means that you can search for listings on Oodle that are not available on any other platform.

v. 5miles

5miles is a classified platform that is specifically designed for buying and selling items in your local area. 5miles has a mobile app that makes it easy to browse and post listings on the go.


In conclusion, building an app like Craigslist requires careful planning, strategic execution, and a deep understanding of user needs. As you embark on this journey, it is crucial to recognize the importance of selecting the right development partner to ensure the success of your vision.

Choosing Idea Usher as your development partner can be a game-changer. With our extensive experience, technical expertise, and commitment to excellence, we can guide you through every step of the development process. Our dedicated team will work closely with you to understand your goals, refine your ideas, and transform them into a fully functional app that meets the expectations of your target audience.

Ready to build your customized app like Craigslist?

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Q) How to create an app like Craigslist?

A) To create an app like Craigslist, you will need to:

  1. Plan and design the app. This includes defining the scope of the app, creating wireframes and prototypes, developing a user flow diagram, and creating a style guide.
  2. Develop the app’s front-end, back-end, and database. This involves using technologies, such as HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Java, Python, Ruby on Rails, MongoDB, and Cassandra.
  3. Test the app. This includes unit testing, integration testing, and system testing.
  4. Deploy the app to production. This involves choosing a hosting provider and making the app available to users.
  5. Market and promote the app. This includes creating a marketing plan and promoting the app through social media, search engine optimization (SEO), and paid advertising.

Q) How much does it cost to develop a classified app?

A) The cost of developing a classified app will vary depending on the features and complexity of the app. However, a basic classified app can cost anywhere from $10,000 to $50,000 to develop. More complex apps with additional features can cost upwards of $100,000.

Q) How do classified ads make money?

A) There are a few ways that classified ads make money. One way is through advertising. Advertisers can pay to display their ads on the app, which can generate revenue for its owners. Another way that classified ads make money is through commissions. When users sell items through the app, the app’s owners can take a commission on the sale. Else, like Craigslist, you could also employ a mixed monetization model.

Q) Can Idea Usher build a classified ads app for me?

A) Yes, Idea Usher can build a classified ads app for you. We have a team of experienced developers who can build an app that meets your specific needs and requirements. We also offer a variety of services to help you market and promote your app, so you can reach your target audience and start generating revenue.

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