How to create an online booking system (2023)

An online booking system is fast becoming a fundamental part of running your small business.

But they can be bewildering on first glance – to ease the stress, we’ll explain what an online booking system is and why it would be beneficial to your small business. We’ll also show you what features you should be looking for and some of the best examples on the market.

What is an online booking system?

An online booking system is a platform or software you use to manage reservations for your business services. On top of recording bookings, these systems can accept customer payments online.

Why do I need an online booking system?

As it often makes the process simpler, having an online system will likely boost your bookings as it’s quicker than picking up the phone. Plus, you can take bookings around the clock which is more convenient for customers and for you.

Most systems send out automated texts and emails, so you don’t need to follow-up with customers, saving you time.

Having an online booking system will tell you more about your business. The reporting features give you advanced insights into your business and your customers: think popular products/services, customer demographics and real-time cash flow information.

What features should I be looking for?

A lot of providers have similar features and components, so it’s up to you to pin down what service works best.

Here are the factors you should be taking into consideration.

Customise forms with your own branding

Some systems allow you to put on your own branding like your company name and logo. At times having two different company names involved can be jarring so keeping your own brand will create a smoother booking experience for the customer.

‘Book now’ buttons and widgets for your website

On the topic of smooth booking experience, having a ‘book now’ button on your website can make the process even faster, especially if that’s what the customer has logged on for. They won’t have to waste time trying to find the appropriate page.

Automated emails

As mentioned before, this is viewed as a staple on most platforms. Once a booking is secured, a text or email will be sent to the customer to confirm details. You can use them for appointment reminders too.

Ability to chat to client

(Video) How to create an online booking system free

If the customer/client has a specific request that can’t be catered to on an automated system, it helps to have a chat function. That way, you can discuss the specifics of their request and sort out the booking from there.

Reporting features

Reporting features allow you to see stats and analytics around what’s going on in your business in real time and can save on piles of paperwork.


Easy to access customer support is vital for any platform. However, a 24-hour service would be even better if you frequently have customers who book outside business hours – especially if the system goes down at 4am.


Of course, find a package which fits your budget. Bear in mind that online booking systems also have different payment structures. Payment might be made monthly by you – or it could be paid by commission or made up of user fees.

Booking through social media

Being able to book through social media gives you more payment avenues, upping your revenue. Customers can book with you without even having to visit your site.

External calendar sync

This one is more for convenience. It syncs with the customers’ calendars (mostly Google Calendar or iCal) so they’ve got a note of the appointment. It also links with your company calendars so everyone can be in the know.

What if I use a web builder for my site?

To have a real pick of the features above, it helps if your website and its components were built from scratch. More freedom in the creation gives you more flexibility.

If you built your website on a website builder like Wix or Squarespace, you’re more likely to be restricted. Your main options would be an iFrame embed or a plugin.

An iFrame is like embedding a YouTube video. It’s easy, low budget and keeps people on your site. One of the bigger problems is that you may have little power over how it’s displayed.

A plugin is also easy to set up and doesn’t need much resource – it’s the solution you’d be looking at if you use WordPress. Plugins work well on different devices, though you should be careful and avoid going gung-ho with the. Outdated plugins can cause security issues and if you have multiple plugins from different developers they could clash.

Again, what’s available could differ substantially. For example, Wix has its own booking system, allowing you to customise booking rules and cancellation policies. You can also set time limits for how far in advance a client can book a session, how close to a session they can cancel or reschedule.

(Video) How To Create An Online Booking System from Scratch (script installation guide)

Add a waiting list and choose between different time zones to list the appointment in – cater to your business’ time zone and send it to an international client in theirs.

Third party online booking systems

For those who want to go with a third party, you will have more features to play with, but be aware that it will cost more.


Freemium booking systems give you a general basic package for free, but if you want to grow your business they have increasingly sophisticated packages at higher price points.

  • Online booking system for service-based companies
  • Offers a scheduled shopping solution for social distancing
  • Video appointment booking system
  • Secure communication
  • Can sell coupons for classes
  • Accepts bookings from multiple channels


Free; Basic: €8 (£7) a month; Standard: €25 (£21.50) a month; Premium: €50 (£43) a month.


  • Live two-way calendar sync
  • SMS and email reminders
  • Over 1,500 app integrations
  • Live reporting
  • Customisable questions at booking
  • Take bookings from Facebook
  • Offer home visits
  • Use your own branding


Free; Basic: $9.60 (£7.50) a month; Grow: $20 (£16) a month; Bigger Business: $40 (£32) a month; Enterprise: Bespoke.


These packages are more advanced but that means that they’re more expensive.


  • Automates booking process for clients and admins
  • Admins can override any features that would be used for regular members
  • Can also create internal appointments
  • Regular users can create conditions per space – e.g. minimum or maximum amount of time and time windows where bookings are denied
  • Accepts online payments
  • Mobile-friendly
  • Syncs with other calendar apps
  • Integration with Zapier for easier invoicing and accounting

Pro: $39 (£31) a month; Integrations: $19 (£15) a month; Online Payments: $19 (£15) a month.


  • Customise with your own logo
  • Able to work with your own domain
  • Mobile friendly
  • ‘Book now’ button
  • Facebook widget


(Video) How To Make an Appointment Booking Website

Starter: £7 a month; Standard: £14 a month; Pro: £29 a month.


  • Has many integrations
  • Available in 30 languages
  • Cloud-based
  • Create and deliver invoices
  • Automate all reservation tasks
  • Personalised texts and emails sent to customers
  • Flexible pricing
  • Can sell vouchers and gift certificates


Cost starts at £19 per month.

Cost per transaction

As mentioned above, rather than paying a monthly fee, some packages charge fees per transaction.


  • Has a package for SMEs
  • Mobile first user experience
  • Takes automated payments
  • Manages availability
  • Automates admin tasks
  • Stripe account ready
  • Embed directly into your website


SME System: 2.4 per cent + 40p per transaction, 4.3 per cent + 40p if non-EU card is used.

What about online booking systems in my sector?

Some packages have specific features which you won’t find on other systems. We’ve listed a few of the top specialist platforms based on sector.

Best for salons and beauty therapists


  • Unlimited appointment booking
  • Unlimited team members
  • Track client history, keep notes and stay in contact via integrated email
  • List your business on the Fresha marketplace
  • Book on marketplace, Instagram, Facebook, Google or your own website
  • Remote processing of penalty fees for no-show protection
  • SMS text reminders


1.29 per cent + 20p transaction fee; 20 per cent new client fee

Best for car hire


(Video) How to Create An Appointment Booking Website

  • Find a vehicle, generate a quote, assign a client and process a booking in less than 20 seconds
  • View and manage bookings and vehicles across multiple sites
  • Obtain manufacturer and DVLA information when adding vehicles to the system
  • Automatically checkthe current balance and credit limit of an account when a booking is placed orchecked out
  • Make informed business decisions with over 80 powerful reports at your disposal
  • Protect your business from high-risk customers with free access to our shared database of problem hirers


Pricing is bespoke – contact Prohire for more info or for a free demo.

Best for restaurant booking


  • Remind diners about upcoming reservations
  • Free online training
  • Around the clock technical support
  • Guests can see real-time availability and reserve a table directly on your website
  • 600+ integrations – customers can book through a number of different platforms including Google, Apple, Instagram, and TripAdvisor.
  • Guest history: know who’s new, who’s returning and who eats out frequently
  • Communicate with guests after their dining experience by responding to their feedback
  • Keep your waitlist flowing, and text guests when their table is ready
  • Quickly see where you can fill gaps in availability


Basic (includes reservation management and a few other tools): £29 a month + £2 network cover.

Best for fitness classes


  • Grow your fitness business and let new customers find you through the BookFit app class directory/marketplace
  • Quickly and easily create a timetable of all of your upcoming sessions
  • Real time class availability and booking
  • If a customer tries to book a class which is full they will be asked if they wish to be added to a reserve list


Basic: £10 a month; Plus: £20 a month; Pro: £30 a month.

Best for online courses


  • External calendar sync
  • Eliminate costly no shows with automatic notifications and reminders
  • Easily track who – and when – cancelled a course enrolment or class registration
  • Take bookings on Facebook
  • Let your customers see what your classes are like using pictures, photo galleries and video – along with class descriptions and teacher bios
  • Simple one-click recurring bookings
  • Integrate with Google Analytics


Solo: $14.95 (£12) a month; Small: $29.95 (£24) a month; Standard: $39.95 (£32) a month; Large: $79.95 (£64) a month.

Finding the best online booking system for your small business

Of course, research is key when finding the best online booking system for your business. Each provider will offer a different set of features. Even if you have the same type of business as a competitor, your needs will be completely different to them. It can be a costly investment upfront, so ensure you get it right before you dive in.

Read more

How online booking systems have improved to make our lives easier

(Video) How to use Microsoft Bookings


How do I create an online booking service? ›

How to Create an Online Booking System in 24 Hours (or Less)
  1. Enter company details.
  2. Add products and inventory.
  3. Customize the Booking Page.
  4. Enable an online payment flow.
  5. Connect booking system to website.
  6. Automate booking notifications.
  7. Create digital waivers and documents.
  8. Assign users and commissions.
Oct 22, 2020

What makes a good online booking system? ›

The best online booking system is innovative and designed with you in mind. Such tools must allow you to set up an online booking page, create 1-to-1 and group services, automate customer and staff messages, and provide a simple calendar view with external calendar-sync options.

How do you build a booking system? ›

How to Make a Booking Website
  1. Get a Domain Name.
  2. Choose a Website Builder.
  3. Find a Template You Love.
  4. Add Your Website's Content.
  5. Install a Booking App.
  6. Get Your Website Seen.
Oct 17, 2022

What type of details is necessary for a booking system? ›

The booking engine should provide your guests with all the information that they may look for- including prices, packages, room types, add-ons, inclusions, and other details, without them having to scroll through your website.

What is online booking system? ›

An online booking system is a software solution and reservation system that makes it simple for guests to book and pay for your tours and activities online. Some online booking systems also include user-friendly tools to help you improve efficiencies and boost bookings for your business.

How do I add a booking system to my website? ›

How to Add an Online Booking System to Your Website Share
  1. Direct Users to an External Booking Website. The easiest way to provide an online booking option is to insert a link to an external booking engine. ...
  2. Embed a Booking System IFrame into Your Website. ...
  3. Use Plugins. ...
  4. Use an API. ...
  5. Develop a Custom Coded Booking System.
Jan 11, 2021

What are the requirements of online booking? ›

Basic online booking software requirements:
  • Cloud-based.
  • Payment options (credit card, bank transfer, PayPal, deferred payment processing, cash)
  • Inventory system.
  • Real-time booking.
  • User-friendly interface.
  • Customer support.
  • Integrations with an email marketing software.

What are the challenges of online reservation system? ›

Problems with Online Booking Systems
  • Choosing the wrong booking system for your company's needs.
  • You will need (at least) one expert within the business.
  • Heavily reliant on a good internet connection.
  • A target for cyber criminals.
  • Your business needs to be ready to grow.
Oct 14, 2021

What is an example of an online booking tool? ›

The most well-known example of an online booking platform operating on a travel merchant business model is Expedia.

What is the best appointment scheduling system? ›

The eight best appointment scheduling software ranked
  • 1Acuity Scheduling.
  • 210to8 Scheduling.
  • 3Calendly.
  • 4Zoho Bookings.
  • 5Appointy.
  • 6Setmore.
  • 7Appointlet.

How do I create a Wix booking system? ›

How can I get started with Wix Bookings?
  1. Sign up or log in to Wix.
  2. Choose a professional website template with Wix Bookings built right in.
  3. Add your first service with details and times.
  4. Set up a payment method to accept online payments.
  5. Create a service package or plan to offer your clients.

How do you make a hotel booking engine? ›

Here are the 3 steps to build a Hotel Booking Engine:
  1. Step 1: Find all available hotels in a given city or location using Hotel List API. API: Hotel List API.
  2. Step 2: Find the available prices with room details, descriptions and more using Hotel Search API. ...
  3. Step 3: Complete the booking engine using Hotel Booking API.

What are the different types of booking system? ›

There are two core types of bookings: 1) Direct Bookings and 2) Indirect Bookings. Within these different types of bookings there are also multiple variations including instant booking (guaranteed booking) and pending bookings.

How does booking process work? ›

After an arrest, a criminal suspect is usually taken into police custody and "booked," or "processed." During booking, a police officer typically takes the criminal suspect's personal information; records information about the alleged crime; performs a record search of the suspect's criminal background; fingerprints, ...

How can reservation system be improved? ›

Make The Switch To Digital Reservation Systems
  1. Third-Party Reservation Platforms. Using a third-party reservation system is great for boosting visibility and gaining new customers. ...
  2. Online Reservation Systems. ...
  3. Click-To-Call. ...
  4. Place A Time Limit On Reservations. ...
  5. Keep Some Extra Tables Open. ...
  6. Start A Waiting List.
Apr 12, 2021

Where are online booking system used? ›

An online booking system is a piece of a software used for reservation management. It allows travel and hospitality businesses to accept bookings online and manage mobile and personal bookings in a better way.

What is the purpose of reservation system? ›

A reservation system, though it might sound like a tool used at the reception desk, is actually an online piece of software that enables guests to book their own stays online and pay for them using a secure portal.

Is there a free scheduling app? ›

The best free appointment scheduling apps are Zoho Bookings and Setmore. They have all the essential features in their plan, and with fewer limits on their features. That makes them the best apps for small businesses looking to get started with automated online appointment scheduling.

How do I create a booking form in WordPress? ›

WPForms is the best form builder for WordPress used by over 5 million websites. You can quickly add a booking form to your website using the plugin's simple drag and drop builder. There are even ready-made templates that can help you get started.

How do I set up a booking on GoDaddy? ›

Go to your GoDaddy product page. Scroll down to Websites + Marketing and select Manage next to the website you want to change. In the dashboard, go to Appointments, and then Calendar. Select Add Booking.

What is the best appointment scheduling system? ›

The eight best appointment scheduling software ranked
  • 1Acuity Scheduling.
  • 210to8 Scheduling.
  • 3Calendly.
  • 4Zoho Bookings.
  • 5Appointy.
  • 6Setmore.
  • 7Appointlet.

How do I create a Wix booking system? ›

How can I get started with Wix Bookings?
  1. Sign up or log in to Wix.
  2. Choose a professional website template with Wix Bookings built right in.
  3. Add your first service with details and times.
  4. Set up a payment method to accept online payments.
  5. Create a service package or plan to offer your clients.

Does WordPress have a booking system? ›

A set-and-forget booking calendar for your rental business

WP Booking System is a simple booking calendar for WordPress. You will be up and running in just a few minutes. You can create booking calendars and forms, and you can manage your bookings.

How do you make a hotel booking engine? ›

Here are the 3 steps to build a Hotel Booking Engine:
  1. Step 1: Find all available hotels in a given city or location using Hotel List API. API: Hotel List API.
  2. Step 2: Find the available prices with room details, descriptions and more using Hotel Search API. ...
  3. Step 3: Complete the booking engine using Hotel Booking API.

How much does a booking software cost? ›

Best Booking Software:
2.StartBookingFree and paid options.
4.FlexBooker$49.00 /mo. for 1-4 employees.
6 more rows
Jul 21, 2022

Which features do you use to create an appointment? ›

Create an appointment

From your Calendar folder, select New Appointment or click Ctrl+N. From any other folder, click Ctrl+Shift+A. Enter a subject, location, start time, and end time. Select Save & Close to save your appointment.

Does Google have a free scheduling tool? ›

Free Meeting Scheduling for Google Calendar - Google Workspace Marketplace. Schedule meetings and appointments in Google Calendar. zcal is the fast, modern way to schedule every meeting. 100% free.

Is Wix good for scheduling? ›

Wix Bookings offers a comprehensive scheduling solution that allows clients to book different kinds of services. Whether you and your staff offer full courses, classes, one-on-one session for free or for a fee, you can handle it all in Wix Bookings.

Is Wix booking system good? ›

Many Wix Bookings reviews praise this appointment scheduling tool for its great features. Wix Bookings allows you to work within the Wix environment for online appointment scheduling. It empowers small businesses to manage appointments without third-party software.

How much is Wix booking system? ›

Wix Bookings offers a basic (free) plan. Wix Bookings premium plans start at $9.00 per month.

Is WordPress still free? ›

WordPress is free, as are many of its add-ons. Still, at the very least you'll need to spend money on both hosting and a domain. Fortunately, entry-level hosting services are common and priced very affordably. Some of the top WordPress hosting services offer shared plans starting at less than $5 per month.

How do you create a booking form in Excel? ›

Step 1: Go to Tools and select “Create a form.” Step 2: You'll be taken to Google Forms. Now, you'll begin creating your booking form. Step 3: Name your booking form.
You'll want to include a field for:
  1. First Name.
  2. Last Name.
  3. Mobile Number.
  4. Activity Date.
  5. Activity Time.
  6. Number of Tickets.
  7. Comments/requests.

What is booking plugin? ›

The plugin allows accepting online reservations, creating real-time availability calendars for each accommodation, handling online payments, automatically synchronizing booking calendars with popular OTAs etc.

What are the booking process steps? ›

3 examples of the reservation process
  1. They check availability and start booking. ...
  2. They fill out the booking form. ...
  3. They fill out required details and documents per guest. ...
  4. They create a new booking. ...
  5. They try to add more to the booking. ...
  6. They enter the payment into the booking system. ...
  7. They complete the guest details and documents.
Nov 5, 2020

How do I make a hotel booking app? ›

To create a hotel booking app, you should ensure the presence of the following data on your accommodation details screen:
  1. Photo gallery.
  2. Map.
  3. Price details.
  4. Basic information (address, stars, etc.)
  5. Hotel facilities & policies.
  6. Call-to-action button.
  7. Sharing button.
  8. Add to favorite button.
Oct 16, 2022

Which booking engine is the best? ›

What is the best hotel booking engine? According to HotelTechReport's rankings, which are based on real user reviews and software specs, the best hotel booking engine is Cloudbeds, which was voted #1 at the 2021 HotelTechAwards. Other top booking engines include Bookassist, SiteMinder, NetAffinity, and Avvio.


1. How to create an online booking system FREE - FULL WALK-THROUGH
(CAF-Innate Academy)
2. How to Create Online Appointment Scheduling
3. How To Make A Clean Appointment Booking System With WordPress | Simple Tutorial (2022)
(The Social Guide)
4. This video explains how to create a simple calendar and booking system in Microsoft Excel.
5. How to create an online booking system?
6. How to create an online booking system | Free guide
(10to8 Appointment Scheduling Software)
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