1 Oct 2023

Building a Web Crawler with Python and Scrapy

The internet is a vast repository of information, containing data on almost every topic imaginable. As the volume of data continues to grow, the need for efficient web scraping tools becomes essential for data analysts, researchers, and businesses alike. Python, with its extensive libraries, offers an array of tools for web scraping. Among them, Scrapy stands out as a powerful and flexible framework for building web crawlers to extract data from websites at scale. In this blog post, we'll explore the process of building a web crawler using Python and Scrapy, and demonstrate how it can be used to collect valuable data from websites.

Table of Contents

  1. What is Scrapy?
  2. Setting Up the Environment
  3. Building the Web Crawler
    • Creating a Scrapy Project
    • Defining the Spider
    • Extracting Data
    • Saving the Extracted Data
    • Running the Spider
  4. Conclusion

What is Scrapy?

Scrapy is an open-source web crawling and scraping framework written in Python. It provides a set of tools and functionalities to navigate websites, send HTTP requests, and extract data in an organized manner. Scrapy is built on Twisted, an asynchronous networking library, which allows it to efficiently handle multiple requests concurrently, making it ideal for large-scale web scraping projects.

Setting Up the Environment

Before we dive into building a web crawler with Scrapy, we need to set up our development environment. Ensure that you have Python installed, preferably Python 3.x, and follow these steps

Building the Web Crawler

In this tutorial, we'll create a simple web crawler to extract quotes and authors from the popular website "http://quotes.toscrape.com/". The objective is to learn the fundamental concepts of Scrapy, which can later be extended for more complex projects.

Creating a Scrapy Project

To create a new Scrapy project, run the following command in your terminal or command prompt

scrapy startproject quotes_crawler

This will create a new directory named "quotes_crawler" containing the basic structure of a Scrapy project.

Defining the Spider

A spider is the core component of a Scrapy project responsible for extracting data from websites. In the project directory, navigate to the "spiders" folder, and create a new Python file, e.g., "quotes_spider.py".

In this file, define your spider by subclassing scrapy.Spider and specifying essential attributes such as name, start URLs, and parsing methods.

import scrapy

class QuotesSpider(scrapy.Spider):
    name = "quotes"
    start_urls = ["http://quotes.toscrape.com/"]

    def parse(self, response):

Extracting Data

In the parse method, we'll write the code to extract the desired data, quotes, and their authors. To do this, we'll utilize CSS selectors provided by Scrapy.

import scrapy

class QuotesSpider(scrapy.Spider):
    name = "quotes"
    start_urls = ["http://quotes.toscrape.com/"]

    def parse(self, response):
        for quote in response.css("div.quote"):
            yield {
                "text": quote.css("span.text::text").get(),
                "author": quote.css("span small.author::text").get(),
        next_page = response.css("li.next a::attr(href)").get()
        if next_page is not None:
          yield response.follow(next_page, self.parse)

Saving the Extracted Data

By default, Scrapy will print the extracted data to the console. However, we can customize the output format to store the data in various formats like JSON, CSV, or XML.

In the project's main directory, add the following command to the settings.py file

FEED_FORMAT = 'json'
FEED_URI = 'quotes.json'

Now, when we run the crawler, the data will be saved in a file named "quotes.json".

Running the Spider

To run the spider, navigate to the project directory and use the following command: scrapy crawl quotes


In this blog post, we explored how to build a web crawler using Python and Scrapy. We learned the basics of setting up a Scrapy project, defining a spider, and extracting data from websites at scale. Scrapy's powerful features, including asynchronous processing and robust data extraction capabilities, make it an excellent choice for web scraping tasks of varying complexities. From simple data extraction to large-scale scraping projects, Scrapy empowers developers and data enthusiasts to harness the wealth of information available on the internet for their specific needs. Happy web scraping!

Remember to be mindful of the website's terms of service and robots.txt file when conducting web scraping activities to ensure ethical and legal use of the data.