Gator Website Builder Review
HostGator is a big player in the world of web hosting and web publishing. It’s developed a solid reputation for offering fast servers, great pricing, and quality service. So, after the release of their Gator Website Builder tool, we decided to dig in and give it a try.
The Gator Website Builder, commonly referred to as “Gator”, is a simple and easy-to-use website builder with drag and drop functionality. Its focus is to provide low pricing and a pleasantly simple and intuitive user experience.
Does it hit the mark? Well, yes and no. Gator knocks it out of the park in terms of cost and user friendliness, but it also has some upsells and is a bit limited in advanced options for more experienced web designers.
However, before we dive into Gator’s pros and cons, let’s talk a bit about choosing the right website builder for you.
Choosing a Website Builder – What You Need to Know
There are endless considerations to think about and account for when picking a website builder. Since the structure of your website and how it is built can have a lot of consequences, both good and bad, the website builder you choose can have a tremendous effect on your bottom line.
Not only can a website builder cause or alleviate a ton of headaches right now, but it can affect your online presence and ultimately the long-term viability of your brand as well.
That being said, similar to choosing an office space or shopping for a home, there’s not really an absolute “best” website builder. There’s simply the best option for your experience, needs, and goals.
So, before you even begin comparing website builders like Gator, you should think about how you want your site to look, what you want to achieve with it, and the features you would like it to have.
Do you want a blog section? How about an online store, contact form, reservation system, and so on?
Once you’re sure of what you want, you’ll be able to know right away whether Gator or any other website builder is right for you.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s dig into Gator and see what it offers, or perhaps more importantly, what it doesn’t.
Gator Website Builder – What Is It?
Developed by HostGator, Gator is a hosted website builder offered by a popular, well-known hosting and domain name provider. With Gator, HostGator is able to now offer hosting, domain, and software services in one convenient subscription.
Needless to say, unlike some website creation software, Gator is a hosted solution, providing everything needed to get started, develop your site, and help it grow. It’s different from many other web building solutions requiring you to purchase, install, and manage several different pieces of the website puzzle.
Rather than buying your own home, Gator is more like leasing a condo on the beach. With it, you have complete freedom and control of the furniture, décor, and everything living-related. However, the infrastructure, plumbing, countertops, and so on are left for the property owner to worry about, deal with, and ultimately control.
This is a key distinction as you must usually choose whether or not to give up convenience or control. Everything may work seamlessly and fit just right with the Gator Website Builder, but depending on your expertise or needs, it may not be your cup of tea.
As far as competitors go, Gator is similar in many ways to other all-inclusive site builders like Squarespace, Wix, Weebly, GoCentral by GoDaddy, and even WordPress to some extent. However, Gator is even more focused on speed and convenience, giving you everything needed to launch your website in under five minutes.
Not surprisingly, Gator appeals to non-developers with limited website experience or minimal time to fit and manage a bunch of pieces.
Advantages of Using Gator Website Builder
After digging into HostGator’s Gator Website Builder and putting it to the test, I’m happy to report plenty of pros with this comprehensive site building solution.
Quick and Easy “Onboarding” Process
Arguably Gator’s best feature is its quick and easy onboarding process, which is industry lingo for getting your website builder software up and running. With most site builders, there’s almost always at least one point that leaves you questioning what to do next. This isn’t the case with Gator.
In fact, Gator makes onboarding simple, straightforward, and quick as can be. In a few simple steps, you can choose a plan, pick a domain name, select a website theme, and publish it live on the internet for any and all to see.
To make things even easier, Gator provides an in-depth tutorial to walk you through various customization options. It also educates you throughout the site building process via an informational email drip sequence.
Complete Website Solution
Unlike many other site builders, Gator is a truly comprehensive and complete website building solution. From domain registration and hosting to RSS feeds and social media integrations, everything is included in its all-inclusive platform.
This means less time on the details and more time for content, marketing, design, and the things that matter most. Plus, since Gator is directly associated with one of the largest and most trusted hosting providers (owned by EIG) it allows you to tap into DNS and domain support, unlimited storage, self-hosting options, and more.
When you use Gator to build your website, you’ll need to pick out a template to begin your site design. The good news is Gator offers hundreds of different template options to choose from.
While many of the templates look quite nice as is, each can be customized and edited with Gator’s drag-and-drop functionality as well. Sure, you could build a custom site on HostGator using any software and themes you want, but why would you?
Most people are drawn to the Gator Website Builder for its vast selection of excellent customizable templates. You can customize the colors, add or remove sections, change fonts, and much, much more with zero learning curve or the extra cost of add-ons.
Step-By-Step Site Building
Speaking of design, a huge advantage of using an all-inclusive website builder like Gator is the lack of skills or experience these platforms require. Rather than dealing with code like HTML or CSS and looking at line after line of letters, numbers, and symbols, you simply point and click to create a website from scratch. It’s as simple as that.
Despite offering a bevy of customization options, Gator is super easy to use. Thanks to its drag-and-drop functionality, anyone with little to no website building experience can do everything from customizing their theme to giving their site a complete overhaul.
Not only does Gator offer a fast and easy-to-use interface, but it’s also extremely intuitive and easy on the eyes. Instead of seeing an endless slew of options, it progressively reveals more options the further you dive into each tool. While it may seem simple at first, the more you proceed, the more power and customization possibilities it reveals.
Along the left rail, you’ll see eight large icons for Pages, Elements, Design, Sections, Store, Blog, Manage, and Stats. When you tap or click on each, they open right up and display a menu with several sub-choices.
For instance, if you click on the Elements icon, you’ll see options for files, maps, navigation, text, social, videos, buttons, and PayPal, and each of these has additional sub-choices. Gator lets you drag any element wherever you like on any page, or you can click the plus sign to add a new section with any combination of elements and choose from a diverse selection of layout options.
Other than customizing with elements, Gator also allows you to customize the overall design of the site. You can either select “Design” from the panel on the right or simply click where on the page you want to customize.
When you do, you’ll have access to a giant selection of color palettes and background textures at your disposal. Other fun options include text animations, parallax backgrounds, flying or bouncing objects, and more.
If you ever find yourself going a little overboard with any customizations, you can always go back to the template defaults. Also, if you make a mistake with any site editing, the “Undo” button is also sitting there ready to be used. This is a nice feature not all website builders offer.
Speaking of features, the Gator Website Builder has them in spades. In fact, not only does offer every basic feature you would expect from a good website builder, but the folks at HostGator threw in a couple of extra nice bonuses as well.
The most notable features include the ability to:
• Connect social accounts for every major social network
• Connect Google Analytics for added stats
• Collect Paypal payments
• Setup page redirects
• See your save history and go back to an older website version
• View your form submissions and mailing list
• Add basic SEO meta tags via the “Advanced” option
Gator offers enough configuration options to satisfy most hobbyist or small business needs. Plus, the built-in functionality to accept PayPal payments and collect email addresses is a nice touch. While these abilities are free with Gator, other site builders require the use of a separate tool, which is another added cost and headache to account for.
Also included in every Gator Website Builder pricing plan is:
• Domain name registration – A domain name is the name of your website, like ‘mywebsitename.com’. Not having to go elsewhere and purchase a domain will save you both time and money.
• SSL certification – SSL certificates ensure the security of your website. With an SSL certificate, your site will have a padlock icon beside the URL, letting visitors know your site is secure. Without one, it will say ‘not secure’ next to the URL instead, which may deter visitors from staying on your site.
• Social media integration – Social media integration allows you to embed content from Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter onto your site. Social buttons, image galleries, and live feeds will improve continuity by connecting all the different aspects of your online presence.
• Mobile responsive templates – More and more people are browsing online via mobile devices, making mobile responsiveness a necessity in today’s day and age. Mobile responsiveness gives you the ability to automatically adjust your webpages to seamlessly fit smartphone screens. Not having to design a separate mobile-friendly version of your site will save you both time and money.
• Website analytics – Website analytics allows you to view important stats and track important information, like how many visitors your site is receiving and how long they stay on each page. By tracking these figures, you’ll be able to see which pages are performing the best and make little tweaks to improve traffic, dwell time, and conversions.
Now, that we have those bases covered, let’s jump to those nice bonus features we mentioned earlier. Since HostGator is a top hosting provider, it provides its Gator Website Builder customers with unlimited storage and bandwidth.
Yep, you read that right. There’s no limit on the number of visitors or how much content your site can handle. This makes Gator an ideal choice for websites with large image galleries and any site with heavy traffic stats.
Thought Gator was just for basic websites? Think again. Gator’s ‘eCommerce’ plan is built for exactly that. With it, you can sell products, process payments, and track all of your stats through a robust analytics suite.
While there are a number of e-commerce options out there to choose from, Gator is a solid choice. It allows you to extend your site with a user-friendly web store that supports both digital products and physical goods.
You can even import product catalogs using Excel, CSV, Ecwid, and Google Sheets. If you have more modest ambitions and fewer products to sell, there’s always the option to manually input the data as well.
Unfortunately, the Gator Website Builder doesn’t offer much control in terms of how products are displayed. Product descriptions are also little basic, but this shouldn’t be a problem for simpler sites.
You begin by dragging and dropping one or more images, pasting some formatted text, and entering a price. Then, you can set product variants to showcase different sizes and colors. You can also organize products into categories like jeans or shirts for an easier shopping experience.
Gator also allows you to setup discounts, which is a nice touch that’s sure to appeal to customers. With the ability to automatically calculate shipping rates via weight as well, there’s not much it doesn’t do.
That being said, the Gator Website Builder doesn’t even begin to compete with the power of specialized e-commerce solutions like WooCommerce and Shopify. However, Gator is much cheaper and unquestionably easier to use.
In fact, with Gator you can manually add a dozen products in under 10 minutes. With tax and shipping calculations, PayPal integration, Stripe card support, and a cash on delivery option, it’s a sound choice for creating simple web stores.
Reporting and Analytics
Gator’s site stats and analytics are surprisingly impressive. Directly from your account dashboard you can view the total visits, number of page views, bounce rate, and all of the unique visitors to your site in the last 30 days.
If you open the full traffic page, you’ll see additional stats like the average time spent on the site and a map showing geographical visitor data. There’s also a breakdown of each page to see how your site is doing at the page level and further visitor details, such as browsers and devices used, visitor language, and whether a visitor is returning or there for the first time.
Gator’s analytics also separates the traffic your site receives into desktop and mobile categories, providing valuable intel for paid traffic campaigns.
Help and Support
HostGator is known for its friendly support staff. So, it’s not surprising that with the Gator Website Builder, you’ll have access to 24/7 live chat, email, and phone support.
In addition to these support options, Gator offers a convenient help center as well. However, it’s quite basic and not ideal for complex search queries.
While HostGator’s support is top-notch and you can get help a number of ways, just keep in mind how big the company is. With hundreds of thousands of customers, the support staff stays quite busy with requests, so it may be a while before receiving a response.
Nonetheless, you can enjoy instant priority access to support staff by signing up for any of the mid-range plans or above. It’s sort of like buying a “Fast Pass” at an amusement park – you may pay more, but there’s no need to waste time waiting in line.
That being said, thanks to Gator’s user-friendly interface and intuitive design, you may never need any help or support. However, if you ever need a helping hand, it’s nice to know you have access to 24/7 support.
HostGator may not offer a free subdomain option like Wix, but the overall pricing of its Gator Website Builder is quite competitive compared to many other site builders. In fact, when you factor in the included domain and hosting, it’s easily one of the best values around.
With Gator, everything is unlimited and bundled for lower pricing and convenience. There are no storage or page caps, and the only difference between plans relates to e-commerce functionality and priority support.
Compared to other all-inclusive site building platforms or building your own self-hosted website, Gator’s pricing is definitely competitive. Although there are plenty of other things to consider aside from costs, it’s definitely a factor worth thinking about, especially if you’re just starting out of the gate and looking to minimize your expenses.
Disadvantages of Using Gator Website Builder
As you can see, the Gator platform has a lot going for it. However, no piece of software is without its flaws. Let’s have a look at a few drawbacks I found with the Gator Website Builder.
Lack of Apps, Extensions, and Marketing Tools
Although Gator’s all-inclusive site building platform is a solid choice for website owners concerned with convenience and ease of use, it lacks support for advanced marketing tools and third-party apps and extensions.
True, Gator offers some apps and extensions, but there isn’t many and they’re limited in their functionality. There’s also no way to edit sections of code, which limits your ability to add several advanced marketing tools.
Once again, with the Gator Website Builder, you’re choosing convenience over control. It’s extremely easy to use and works great, but you must sacrifice a bit in terms of control and customization. For some, it’s a tradeoff worth making. For others, it may not be.
Yes, believe it or not, Gator’s pricing is both an advantage and a drawback. Let me explain. While its pricing options are more than competitive, they’re also a little confusing.
For example, the 50 percent off promotion, which is obviously pretty awesome, is only good for the payment period. So, if you lock in the premium “eCommerce” plan at the two-year price, the price will go up after two years.
The domain with marketing apps up-sell is also a little convoluted and confusing. At checkout, it seems like you must buy a domain name. However, you can purchase a domain separately and use a subdomain if you choose.
This is one of several upsells you’ll encounter during the checkout process. Fortunately, despite this, the onboarding process is still relatively simple and smooth.
Gator does offer a blog integration add-on you can include on your site, but it isn’t part of your chosen theme. Instead, you must design the blog separately and select how you want it to look.
While it’s nice being able to customize how your blog looks and feels, having to select a separate theme creates a disjointed feel. Rather than seamlessly blending in with the site, this makes the blog feel like a secondary feature.
Therefore, if you want to create a website solely for blogging or plan on making a blog an important feature of your site, the Gator Website Builder might not be for you.
Summing It Up
Like all website builders, Gator features a number of tradeoffs. While it provides excellent usability and support, it lacks the customization abilities of more advanced site building solutions like WordPress. Compared to other well-established website builder software solutions, it also has fewer advanced options and template designs.
All that said, Gator offers better pricing and usability than most website builders, making it a solid choice for those wanting a well-priced, well-designed website builder without advanced marketing features, extra templates, and all of the bells and whistles.
In other words, Gator is simplicity at its finest. While basic on some levels, the drag-and-drop editor is incredibly user-friendly and offers a comprehensive solution for getting a site up and running in no time at all.
Overall, it’s a brilliant option for anyone with limited web design experience in search of a simple DIY solution.
On the fence? Why not test drive Gator for yourself and see how you like it? Within minutes of signing up and getting started, you’ll be able to tell if it’s the right website builder for you.