HostGator is one of the best known brands in the website & hosting industry. They’re especially known for their shared hosting, building their reputation on good pricing, fast servers, and great service compared to other brands. While I’ve long used HostGator for website hosting, I recently gave their website builder software, Gator Website Builder, a try.
View Gator Website Builder Current Plans & Pricing.
But before I get into the pros and cons of my Gator website builder review, let’s dive into an overview of website solutions.
There are so many considerations to take into account when choosing a website builder — and really, there are a thousand ways to get what you want in the end in terms of functionality, convenience, pricing, etc.
The thing to remember is: whether you’re building a simple personal website or running a business, the way you build your site has a lot of consequences.
In the long-term, it affects your versatility, functionality, and, of course, your brand. In the short-term, it can certainly add/take away a lot of headaches. That said, just like choosing a physical house or office, there is no such thing as an absolute “best” or “top” choice. There’s only the right choice relative to your goals, experience, and circumstances.
What Is Gator Website Builder?
The Gator Website Builder is HostGator’s hosted website builder. HostGator has traditionally only provided domain names & hosting for other website software (like installing WordPress). Gator is their move into providing domain, hosting AND software in a single subscription.
So, on the wide spectrum of website building solutions, Gator Website Builder lives on the end that is hosted, all-inclusive, provides everything you need to get started and grow your website. It contrasts with solutions where you buy, install, and manage all the “pieces” of your website separately (ie, buying your domain name, hosting & installing software).
Using HostGator’s Gator Website Builder is sort of like leasing and customizing an apartment in a really classy development instead of buying and owning your own house. You’re still in control of decor, cleaning, and everything living-wise – but you leave the construction, plumbing, security, and infrastructure to the property owner.
That point is key because there’s usually a direct tradeoff between convenience and control. You can read more about what a website builder is and how it contrasts to web hosting here.
Everything may fit together just right with a website builder like HostGator, but that may or may not be what you’re looking for.
As far as competition, HostGator competes directly with all-inclusive website builders like Weebly, Wix, Squarespace, GoDaddy’s GoCentral and WordPress.com.
Compared to their direct competition, they focus on speed and convenience by offering everything you need to get your website up and running in just a few minutes. HostGator appeals to the non-developer community here (think DIY-ers who need to create a website without having tons of website experience or time to maintain self-hosted software).
One other quick aside – a disclosure – I receive referral fees from all the companies mentioned in this post. My opinions & research are based on my experiences as either a paying customer or consultant to a paying customer.
Pros of Using Gator Website Builder
Here’s what I found to be the pros of using HostGator’s Gator Website Builder — not just in comparison to direct competitors, but as an overall website solution.
Easy Onboarding Process
One of Gator’s best features is its onboarding process (AKA the process of getting up and running with Gator’s website software). There is typically a part of the onboarding process when you think, “okay… what do I do now?”
With Gator, onboarding is quick, simple, and straightforward. In just a few steps, you’ll have selected your plan, chosen your domain name, and picked a theme to create your website with — all without wondering, “Where the heck do I go now?”
Plus, Gator builds in education not only through email drip sequence, but through a simple, step-by-step tutorial that walks you through how to customize your theme and add content to your website.
Again, HostGator’s Gator Website Builder is an all-in-one solution, which means everything you need — from hosting to domain registration to integrations (more on that shortly) is included in the platform.
That means everything just works — there’s no figuring out if this app or extension is compatible or is going to break your site. There’s no troubleshooting or support needs outside of what they already offer. Even things like analytics are built into the platform.
Spending less time on research and troubleshooting means you can spend more time on stuff that matters – like content, design, and marketing your site.
Plus, since Gator is associated with HostGator — a well known, trusted hosting provider — the platform has the flexibility and resources to provide things like unlimited storage, DNS & domains support (AKA buying and mapping your domain name to your website), and support to migrate to a self-hosted product if or when that makes sense.
When you set up your website with Gator, you have to choose a template to start your design. One of the pros of HostGator’s website builder is their pre-built templates. They have hundreds of options to choose from, and each option can be edited and customized in their drag-and-drop website builder.
You could custom build a website on HostGator with software & themes of your choosing (ie, WordPress + themes), but part of Gator’s appeal is that they have a huge selection of well-designed templates that you can tweak for your own needs by adding / removing sections and customizing the colors, photography, fonts, and content — all without worrying about their learning curve or costs of addons.
Site Building Process
Speaking of design… one advantage of an all-inclusive website builder is that you don’t have to write HTML or CSS code — instead, you can just drag and drop elements. What you see in the builder is what you get on the website.
HostGator’s drag and drop builder is simultaneously detailed and simple. It gives you plenty of options for customization, such as adding new elements, change colors and fonts, adding entirely new pages to build from scratch, etc. But it also is extremely easy to use (it’s literally drag and drop). It makes it very simple for someone with no website experience to customize their theme or even give it a major overhaul.
While HostGator doesn’t have a free option for a subdomain (like Wix does), their overall pricing is competitive not only compared to other all-inclusive website builders, but also to buying your own hosting.
Notice how everything is bundled and unlimited. There are no caps on pages or storage space. In fact, the only difference between the plans is support (priority is “faster” support) and ecommerce functionality.
Compared to building your own website on your host and especially other website builders, Gator’s pricing is very competitive. And while pricing isn’t everything, it’s certainly a factor, especially if you’re looking to bundle price and convenience.
But of course, no Gator website builder review would be complete without looking at the downsides. Every piece of software will have complaints. Let’s look at 3 specific cons I found.
Apps, Extensions, and Advanced Marketing
While Gator’s all-in-one platform is a solid pro for the website builder, it does also give it a disadvantage in terms of lack of support and ability to add 3rd party apps, extensions, and advanced marketing tools.
Gator does offer some apps and extensions, like G suite integration and priority support on their platform, but they’re pretty limited.
And while Gator does allow you to edit the site HTML and insert HTML when designing a page, there isn’t a way to go in and edit specific sections of code. This, combined with not having 100% control over your site & server (ie, to FTP verification files), limits you to which marketing tools you can add to your website.
This tradeoff does ensure that everything works correctly (no WordPress white screen of death when adding Google Tag Manager), but the trade off is control and customization.
Pricing + Upsells
Yep — pricing is also a con. While Gator’s pricing options are extremely competitive, it’s worth noting that the 50% off promotion only applies for the payment period. For example, if you commit to the premium plan at the 2-year price, that price only lasts you two years.
It’s also not clear from the initial pricing information that a free domain name is only included in the yearly billing. That information comes during the checkout process.
The overall upsell with the domain + the marketing apps is also a bit convoluted. When you’re checking out, it almost looks like you have to purchase a domain name if you don’t yet own one. In reality, you can use a subdomain and purchase a domain separately.
The domain add-on is one of a few upsells during the checkout process, which does clutter the onboarding slightly.
While Gator does have a blog integration that you can add on to your website, it doesn’t come as a part of your theme. It’s treated as more of an “add on”, and you can select how you want your blog to look.
While it’s great to be able to customize the look and feel of your blog, having to choose a separate theme makes it a bit disjointed and seems like the blog is a secondary feature. If you’re looking to have a website for the sole purpose of blogging, this may not be the best fit for you*
*if you are primarily a blogger, but want the all-inclusiveness of a website builder, then you should check out WordPress.com – it’s powered by WordPress but is hosted and controlled so that the experience is better than self-hosting WordPress.
Gator has many of the tradeoffs inherent with all website builders while capitalizing on the potential strengths of a website builder (ie, usability & support).
Compared to other established website builder brands, it lacks many advanced options & templates (ie, especially compared to Wix), but Gator has better usability and pricing than most.
Gator is a really good fit for anyone looking for a well-built, well-priced, straightforward website builder and doesn’t need many extra templates or advanced marketing features (ie, CRO and Schema plugins).
Check out Gator’s current plans & pricing here.
Not sure Gator fits your needs? Check out my quiz to find what the best website builder is for you based on your preferences.
Working on a long-term project and need more freedom and don’t mind a learning curve? Check out my posts on trying out and self-hosting WordPress.
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