Two approaches to development
There are two approaches to creating sites like Craigslist
: using open source solutions or developing from scratch
. Let’s consider the advantages and disadvantages of each option. This will help you understand which option is best for you.
Open source solution
WordPress Theme Classiads
When it comes to open source solutions, they usually mean using WordPress
themes. They are simple and quite functional, while if a particular theme lacks a specific function, this can be fixed with the help of a plugin. To create a site on the type of Craigslist, suitable themes Classiads, Classifieds, Classify, ListingPro, FlatAds and others.
- Price. Starting a WordPress site is usually inexpensive. Of the mandatory costs only domain and hosting (up to $ 200). Many themes and WordPress itself can be used for free. True, if you need bright and multi-functional themes, you will have to pay from 200 to 1000 dollars. Plug-ins can also be both paid and free.
- Development time. WordPress can be compared with a designer, with which you can build a site like Lego. That is, technically speaking, there is no need to develop anything, so the launch of the site will take very little time - from a couple of hours to a couple of days, depending on the complexity of the project and the ideas of the designers.
- Simplicity. You will be able to create a website on the type of Craigslist by simply viewing the video instruction on YouTube. To do this, you do not need programming skills, web design or project management, perseverance and a few hours of free time are enough.
- The limited settings. Professional programmers have created a lot of topics for online ad platforms, as they are in demand. At the same time, almost all such topics can be slightly modified: customize the design, change the color scheme, slightly expand the functionality with the help of plug-ins. But in order to significantly change the design or functionality of the theme, you need the help of a developer.
- No support. Typically, creating a site on WordPress happens like this: you install the engine, download and install the necessary theme, and then add another 10-20 plug-ins. What happens next is also predictable: the number of plug-ins will grow, as well as the number of users, and this will lead to failures and the need to hire someone who will fix everything. In this case, rely on the support of plugin developers and themes are not worth it, since it is not their problem.
- Templates of functions. If you need uniqueness in design and / or functionality, WordPress is not your choice. This system offers sample solutions that should satisfy the needs of most potential customers. To create unique features and integrate them into a WordPress theme, you need a specialist, money and time.
- Scalability Problems. Platforms such as WordPress were created for blogs and small news sites. Everything else is an add-on that weakens the reliability of the underlying architecture. In this case, the architecture itself is not designed to work with multiple databases or distributed databases. Therefore, the more traffic on such sites, the more problems they have with stability.
- Security Problems. When the site is made of 20 modules that are created by different people, you will have a lot of problems (albeit not critical), and the biggest one is security. Each module is an opportunity for hacking and their "docking" too. Hundreds of thousands of simple instructions for hacking WordPress on Google and YouTube are proof of that.
Development from scratch
By creating a site like Craigslist from scratch
, you will be sure that it has only those features that you need and the design you need. In this case, the final product will belong only to you.
The benefits of developing from scratch:
- Scalable architecture. By developing a website from scratch, you can create an architecture that will initially be sharpened for a large number of users, ads, transactions.
- Full customization. It's about the possibility of adapting functions, design and user experience to the needs of your target audience. By launching a website developed by you (or an outsourced company), it is much easier to configure any of its elements if you see that the audience does not respond to it in the way you expected.
- Safety. You can think over and implement all levels of protection, which is impossible in the case of using template solutions. Personal data, user bases, financial information and transactions will be protected at the highest level.
- MVP. You can start by developing a minimally viable product to test the concept with minimal risk, and then modify the site and add new features as needed.
Disadvantages of development from scratch:
- More expensive. The final cost will depend on the team (amount, salary), technology and complexity of the project. And it will obviously be more expensive than the most expensive WordPress theme. Usually, prices start at $ 5,000 and end with millions of dollars.
- Longer. Creating a site from scratch, you need to think over all the details and only then proceed to direct development. Some projects spend years developing concept and design and only a few months to implement them. But since you know what you need (your Craigslist), then in your case, developing from scratch can take from 6 to 18 months.
Which approach is better
The answer depends on the goal. If you need to quickly try out an idea or get a proof of concept to attract investors (or venture capital), it is better to choose an open source solution. And it can be either WordPress
or any of its analogs.
If you need a reliable, secure and scalable site, it is better to spend time and money on developing a site from scratch. This approach will be the only option if you need to implement a unique function, design solution or technology.
Minimum feature set for MVP
The core of the online ad platform consists of these features:
- Registration. Required to create a personal profile with which users can manage ads, accounts, and relationships with other system members.
- Personal accounts. In Craigslist, this feature is required for US users and those who post paid ads. You can use a similar business model with earnings on advertising.
- Search filters. Help users find ads relevant to their needs. There are dozens of search criteria on Craigslist.
- Placing ads. Users should do this in a few clicks with the help of intuitive icons, interfaces, tips. If access to this function will be difficult (for example, due to various personal confirmations or actions), this will create a negative user experience.
- Moderation of ads. Users should be able to complain about ads if they advertise illegal products and services or do not comply with the rules of the site. And administrators should be able to moderate and delete such ads.
- Forum / blog for communities. Craigslist uses this feature to strengthen the community, increase engagement and help users.
- Calendar. Needed for planning and tracking events.
These features are required when creating an MVP for a site like Craigslist
. But they are not enough to conquer the market. For this you need something unique or much better than the competition.
Key challenges for online ad platforms
Creating your Craigslist is not so difficult from a technical point of view. You can use a WordPress
theme or clone an original that takes a couple of hours or days. It is much more difficult to attract users to the site and prove to them that it is a worthy alternative to Craigslist. Solving this problem, you will face three challenges.
# 1 How to attract users
Craigslist is in the top 50 most popular sites in the world
On April 12, 2019, Craigslist is the 42nd most popular in the world and 14th in the United States (according to the version of Similar Web
). And since you intend to compete with it, you must somehow lure its users.
For this you need to offer users opportunities that are not on Craigslist. It can be:
- More features. If you have an idea, a new function or a proposal for a radical improvement of existing functions, you can quickly win the market. For example, Tinder gained popularity in the established market precisely because of the implementation of one new feature.
- Modern UX / UI design. Yes, many people like Craigslist because of the minimalistic and simple design, but this does not mean that the same users will not like modern design.
- Best user experience. It can be created with the help of a better mobile application, closer integration with social networks, a developed blogosphere and with the help of other things that increase the interest and involvement of your users.
- Cost advantage. All Craigslist publications are free, with the exception of a few categories (office supplies, daily rent apartments, concerts, etc.). In addition, there is advertising on Craigslist (from $ 5 for 30 days). Offer the best conditions and it will become a real value for users.
# 2 How to moderate ads
At the beginning of its journey, Craigslist
suffered greatly from advertising illegal products, so the site established its own rules regarding what can and cannot be advertised (sold through ads), and the ability to "Report" to an ad was introduced. This greatly reduced the amount of illegal advertising. True, even now there are cases when users are looking for killers or drugs on Craigslist.