Gator Website Builder: Our First Look at HostGator’s Site Builder
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Want to get your website online fast? Don’t want to mess with coding? Don’t want to spend much money?
Then HostGator’s new website builder, Gator, may be just what you are looking for. You can have a great-looking website online in less than an hour for just a few dollars a month.
Below, I walk you through the process of using Gator — from setting up an account to publishing a site. Then I’ll show you the best alternatives like Squarespace, Wix, and WordPress.com in case Gator isn’t right for you.
What is Gator?
Gator is an easy-to-use, all-in-one sitebuilder designed for businesses to get up and running with a website in no time.
There are 6 simple steps to getting your website online:
- Sign up for an account
- Choose a template
- Get oriented
- Use Gator
- Get Help
Signing Up for Your Gator Account
HostGator walks you through the process of signing up for an account.
The first page you come to has an introduction to Gator. It’s worth looking through these pages to get an idea what Gator can do. But when you are done, click the “Start Creating” button.
Choose a Domain Name
You will then be asked to choose a domain name for your new website. If you opt for a 12- or 24-month plan, you will receive a domain name free of charge.
Alternatively, if you already have a domain name that you want to use with your new website, you can connect it to your new site. Just click on Connect your domain. Then enter your existing domain name.
Create an Account
You can either use single sign-on, linking either your Google or Facebook account, or you can provide your email address and a secure password.
Finally, you will need to choose a subscription plan. Gator offers three options, and as a new subscriber, you will automatically receive a 50% discount on your initial fees.
Enter your billing information and make sure your order is correct.
Once you complete the checkout process, you are ready to build your website!
Choosing Your Template
One of the biggest perks of using Gator is the ability to build a beautiful website without needing to do the design work yourself.
Gator offers a number of professionally-designed templates that you can use. All of the options provided are (by default) responsive, so your site is guaranteed to look good regardless of the device your visitor is using.
Immediately after you’ve set up your account and paid for your subscription, you will be prompted to choose a theme for your first website.
When you have decided on a theme that you like, click Edit to proceed.
(If you want to change the theme of your Gator site at a later point, you can use this feature to preview your site using the new theme before you commit.)
If this is the first time you are using Gator, you will be prompted to take a (Very useful!) short tour that shows you where all the settings you need are located.
Using the Gator Builder
The images below will not be exactly like what you see, but they should be close.
Editing Your Pages
If you have multiple pages for your website, you can switch between those pages in the editor using the primary navigation bar located at the top.
For any given page, you can add a wide variety of elements to display information to your users. There are buttons, forms, third-party (such as PayPal) integrations, images, maps, media players, and more.
Adding New Pages
If you want to add completely new pages to your website, you can do so using the Pages area.
You can create a page completely from scratch, or you can duplicate an existing page so that you are not starting from scratch.
Organizing Your Pages
While the Pages area allows you to create new ones, the Sections area allows you to divide your newly-created (or existing) pages into different sections.
Using different sections makes it easy for you to organize your content and displays visual cues that help your visitors with navigation.
Designing Your Website
You can certainly use your theme as-is, but you can still make changes to various design elements so that it reflects your tastes and aesthetic.
You can adjust things like:
- The background appearance
- The colors used for various page elements
- Text style
Create a Blog
Gator does not bill itself as a full content management system (CMS), but it definitely has many features you would typically find in one.
If you are interested in managing dynamic content, a blog might be a good option. You can add a blog to your newly-created website using the Blog section.
In addition to choosing a custom design for your blog, the blog management area allows you to view the posts you have written, as well as start a new post.
For premium users, you can use Gator to set up a basic e-commerce site that will be linked to your homepage.
Once you have published your pages, Gator automatically collects basic data about your visitors. It gathers information on things like:
- Number of page views
- Total number of visits
- Number of unique visitors
- Bounce rate
- Average length of visit
Account and Site Management
To access the administrative area for your website and your Gator account, go to Manage.
Here, you will find things including (but not limited to):
- A history of your save actions
- Your social media integrations
- Your e-commerce settings
- URL redirections
- Form submissions
One key feature of Gator I want to point out is its basic version control.
By going to the Save History section of the Manage area, you can see a list of all the times you saved your site after making changes. These are the points to which you can roll back if you ever need to at a later date.
If you have never before saved your site, you will be prompted to set the page’s URL the first time you do save.
Previewing Your Website
At any point during the site building process, you can preview your changes.
You can also view your website using the mobile preview feature.
You can toggle back and forth between mobile and desktop previews at any time.
If you get stuck and you need help, click the Help button located at the top right of the editor window.
In addition to the ability to get in touch with someone from the Gator support team via live chat, support ticket, or telephone, you can review the Gator Knowledge Base.
Now all you have to do is write the pages for your website. Gator takes care of the rest.
If Gator doesn’t seem quite right for you, there are many more to choose from. Here are some of the best:
- Squarespace is a great, all-in-one sitebuilder. It is especially of interest to those with e-commerce websites. But it supports other kinds of sites like blogs. Of interest to all website owners is Squarespace’s exceptional templates.
- WordPress.com is the best choice if you are looking for a free website builder. The base plan includes all that you need to get up and running. But you will need to upgrade to a paid plan to remove WordPress advertising and to use your own domain name. WordPress is also a good option because it is easy to move your site to another host.
- Wix is very similar to Gator in terms of features. It is known especially for its ease of use. Plus, it offers a free version so you can try it out. (The free version puts ads on your site so you probably don’t want to use it long-term.)
- GoDaddy’s GoCentral website builder is very slick and you can try it out without even entering a credit card. You can get a website up and running very quickly with it.
|Website Builder||Bandwidth||Storage||Lowest Price|
|Wix||2 GB||3 GB||$11.00||*|
|* Wix and WordPress.com offer a free basic plan also.|
Frequently Asked Question
Does Gator come with everything I need to build a website?
Yes, Gator is an all-in-one sitebuilder, so you do not need to worry about domain names, web hosting, acquiring sitebuilding tools, etc. All you have to do is sign up, choose a theme, make small edits, and publish!
Can Gator be used for e-commerce sites?
At best, Gator can be used for small, low-volume e-commerce sites. Gator is not PCI compliant, however, so you will need to ensure that you are complying with all of the appropriate regulations.
Gator is intuitive, and even novices can build a great website with the drag-and-drop builder. The support docs could be better, but with 24/7 support available to you, you can always get your questions answered.
If you are looking for a quick, easy, and inexpensive way to get up and running with a website for your business, Gator by HostGator is certainly an option you should consider.