HostGator is a well-known name in the web hosting industry, but is the website builder as good as the hosting services? I’ve been wondering about this, so here I am, signing up for the Gator account to try it all for myself.
For this HostGator website builder review, I’ve explored the features, designs, performance and other qualities to see if it’s actually a useful product.
And lucky me, I did come across a few interesting features.
At the start of my HostGator website builder review, I was very impressed with the design and editing services on offer. This is quite a complex drag-and-drop builder with very decent flexibility. Meaning, no confining to pre-coded placements, which is a plus for those who want to build a truly personalized website.
And it comes with a range of attractive, mobile-responsive themes all of which are fully customizable using the website editor.
I also liked the fact that there are various advanced analytics features. And HostGator also has basic eCommerce tools, making it a viable option for small online stores.
It even has great customer support coming with all plans: 24/7 phone, live chat, and email support. Having tried it out, I must say, that makes the whole website management process even easier.
On top of that, the plan pricing is really competitive. eCommerce plan for just $9.22/mo? That’s what you get!
But there are quite some not-so-cool things I found. The most disappointing one was the slow website speed. Add a tight list of eCommerce tools and you get something unsuitable for a bigger website.
So, on the surface, at least, the HostGator website builder appears pretty good. It offers great design flexibility, a decent range of attractive templates, great customer support, and advanced analytics tools.
But let’s take a closer look, shall we?
The HostGator website builder is very competitively priced, with plans ranging from just $3.84 to $9.22 per month. These are introductory prices and will double after the first year. But even so, they are still very budget-friendly compared to other website builders.
HostGator’s lowest end subscription, the Starter plan, comes in at just $3.84/month ($7.68/month after the first year). Although it’s one of the most affordable website builder plans that I’ve seen, it still offers a range of great features.
Signing up with the Starter plan will give you access to unlimited storage and bandwidth, unlimited website pages, $200 worth of advertising credit, advanced analytics, and much, much more.
The Premium plan costs $5.99/month ($11.98/month after the first year) and includes everything in the starter plan, plus priority support.
Finally, you will have to upgrade to the eCommerce plan if you want to be able to add an online store to your website. And Gator surprises with a really low cost here – just $9.22/month ($18.44/month after the first year).
Honestly, this is one of the cheapest eCommerce plans that I’ve come across. Just compare it with Wix’s cheapest eCommerce option for $23/mo or Weebly’s for 25/mo.
It includes everything in the Premium plan, as well as an inventory management dashboard, a shipping calculator, the ability to create coupons, and various other online store features.
But… there is no free trial. Now, I understand that not every builder is into giving free forever plans, but a mere opportunity to try out the service before the purchase would seem only natural.
Well, at least there is a refund policy. So if you don’t like what you get, you can cancel the plan within 45-days and get a refund.
The HostGator website builder offers full drag-and-drop functionality, that allows adding a wide range of elements and customizing things pretty much how you want to.
Although, for the same reason, it isn’t the easiest builder. Because to use it freely you’ll have to take time mastering it.
But there are plenty of things to be praised.
Starting with the simplicity of the HostGator editing dashboard. You will even get a tour of the main features of the builder before you start building your website, and definitely make sure that you pay attention to get the most out of it.
You can manage everything from your website’s design to its page structure via the editing menu on the left of the builder. Similarly, the menu at the top of the screen lets you switch between pages, view the mobile version of your site, and preview your changes before you publish them.
The first thing that really stood out to me about the HostGator website builder was the huge number of different elements that can be added to your website. You can find everything from images and image galleries to music players and donation buttons.
And, if you can’t find exactly what you want, you can even embed things on your website by adding custom code blocks. HostGator certainly excels here.
Once you’ve added a new element block to your site you can drag it to the exact position you want it. Like Wix, the HostGator website builder offers pixel-level customization, which means that you can achieve the exact look you want without having to touch a line of code.
You can also customize each element that you add to your website through a powerful popup menu. This lets you change the expected things, including colors, fonts, sizes, and borders. However, it also includes other interesting features like the ability to animate blocks.
I also like the fact that the HostGator website builder makes it easy to manage your content by letting you split it into sections. You aren’t confined in any way by the type of section you use to build your site and I found them very useful to help me simplify the design process.
Similarly, I loved how simple HostGator made it for me to edit my universal design. You can change your entire website’s color scheme, fonts, background images, and text style via the Design tab on the left of the screen.
Once I had explored all the features of the standard HostGator builder I moved onto the mobile editor, and that didn’t disappoint either.
Accessible via the menu at the top of the editing interface, the mobile builder lets you edit the mobile version of your website separately. This means that you can rearrange or remove content from your mobile site, enhancing the user experience, and therefore potentially boosting your success.
For me, editing the mobile version of my website was just as easy, if not easier than editing the desktop version.
You can do pretty much the same things, dragging and dropping elements where you please, changing the color and size of things, and even hiding blocks that you don’t want to be visible on mobile.
In my opinion, there is only one area where the HostGator website builder falls down. Because it’s possible to drag and drop elements wherever you want on your website, things can get a bit complicated if you’re not careful.
You will have to make room for new blocks before you add them or else they will simply sit on top of whatever is already there.
Therefore, you will need at least basic design skills to compose all the elements without hurting the user experience or your website’s content. Otherwise, you will find it very hard to build an attractive website.
HostGator offers a range of over 220 professionally designed website templates that you can base your site on. Design-wise they aren’t exceptional but the styling is modern and there’s enough variety for different types of websites.
To make things easy, all of HostGator’s design templates are organized by category, including eCommerce, blog, portfolio, technology, and business. However, a lot of the designs are quite generic, which means they can be used for various different types of websites.
I also love the fact that all of HostGator’s templates are fully responsive and mobile optimized. Although it’s a crucial thing to consider in the modern world of smartphones and tablets, a lot of website builders still don’t offer responsive themes.
And, even if you can’t find a theme which really appeals to you, I wouldn’t consider it a bit problem. The extreme design flexibility of HostGator’s website builder means that you can customize every part of the design that you choose, personalizing it to your heart’s content.
At first glance, HostGator appears to offer some very strong features for online businesses. It makes social media integration, eCommerce, and advanced data analytics easy, but I came across some pretty big limitations.
As far as eCommerce goes, I was instantly impressed by HostGator because of its low-priced online store plan ($9.22/month! Are you kidding me?). And while digging things further, I uncovered a range of great tools to make basic online selling easy.
HostGator online store management interface is simplistic and intuitive. To upload products, you can add each manually or import them from a database, while inventory management is kept simple through your store dashboard.
Similarly, viewing and fulfilling orders is quite straightforward.
However, not everyone shares my enthusiasm for HostGator’s online store builder. A lot of people have given it very poor reviews, citing things like the inability to customize product pages and an “unprofessional” checkout.
And for a fact, I agree with them. Many eCommerce specific features seem a bit clunky or lacking. With all that simplicity, for a bigger store, HostGator’s eCommerce features simply don’t cut it.
But hey, we’re talking about eCommerce costs less than $10 per month. Keeping that in mind, HostGator’s flaws don’t shock me as much.
All in all, you get what you pay for with HostGator’s eCommerce plan. It’s a lot cheaper than almost any other online store builder, but it’s a lot more limited as well.
Unfortunately, HostGator doesn’t excel in the email marketing front. It doesn’t include any native email functions whatsoever, which means that you will have to use an external provider.
HostGator does recommend using Google’s G Suite to manage your email list. Unfortunately, this costs $6/month for even the most basic subscription, which makes it quite an expensive choice.
It is worth noting that HostGator lets you add subscription forms to your website. This gives customers the ability to sign up to your email list if you want them to, but everything else has to be managed externally.
To put it bluntly, at least basic built-in email functionality would seem logical for an eCommerce website builder.
On the other hand, HostGator offers some great data collection and analytics tools. It gathers a wealth of information about your website, including detailed statistics about audience demographics and behavior.
I particularly like the fact that the Gator dashboard includes a dedicated data and analytics section. Here, you will find information about the way people find and interact with your website, allowing you to make informed management decisions.
Just some of the data that HostGator collects includes standard bounce rate and visitor retention times, where your visitors are coming from, what sort of device is used to browse your site, and the browsers people are using.
Surprisingly to the fact that Hostgator is primarily a hosting company, the website performance tests were terrible.
To test the performance of the website I built with HostGator, I used two industry-accepted tests: GTmetrix for site load times and LoadImapct for performance under high traffic.
First, I did The GTmetrix page speed test using my website built with HostGator website builder. And… it brought results below the industry standard.
The PageSpeed score of 55% is one of the lowest I’ve seen and certainly isn’t what I expected from an industry-leading hosting provider like HostGator.
Luckily, the decent YSlow score of 91% made things a little bit better, but the load time of 4.2 seconds isn’t amazing either.
Page speeds like this have a big negative impact on both the user experience and SEO, so it’s safe to say I wasn’t happy with the results.
At the same time, the LoadImpact performance test also showed some pretty average results.
Base response times (blue line in the image below) sat around 50ms, which isn’t bad. However, there were numerous spikes to more than 500ms when my site was subject to 50 virtual users (green line in the image below) for an extended period of time.
To me, this suggests that HostGator doesn’t allocate enough server resources to the website built with their builder – despite claiming to provide unlimited storage and bandwidth.
The HostGator website builder turns out to be a great option for small sites but might be a disaster for bigger ones.
This builder gives you a range of attractive design templates, while the drag-and-drop editor allows a high level of customization. On the other hand, it might be too complicated for beginner users.
To help managing an online business, HostGator provides some great data analysis tools with each plan and the pricing is very affordable.
However, this builder falls down in other areas.
The eCommerce tools it provides are quite limited and not suitable for bigger businesses. But what’s worse is the poor server performance.
If HostGator website builder doesn’t cut the deal for you, don’t worry – there are plenty of alternatives! Here are some of the best builders in the industry to consider:
If eCommerce is your focus, then Shopify is a great alternative to HostGator. As an industry-leading online store builder, it comes complete with a huge range of eCommerce features and tools.
This platform is fully capable to fit the needs of growing businesses. It offers a powerful store manger, plenty of payment gateways, and tools for marketing and selling various types of items – digital or physical.
Wix is a great alternative if you need an even higher level of the design flexibility that HostGator’s website builder offers. The plans are pricier here, but you’ll find more specific features for different types of websites.
And if you only need a small and simple website – Wix has a free forever plan available!
If you want to build a simple website without investing a lot of time or money, then GoCentral is a good choice. It provides a very intuitive editing interface and lets you get your site online in just a few hours.
Moreover, GoCentral websites also stand out with great performance. And a fast website always helps to keep a good user experience.
Weebly is a great alternative for those who want access to some of the most attractive modern design templates on the market.
It also provides quite great eCommerce features and a fool-proof website editor.