HostGator Web Hosting full review
American outfit HostGator looks like a good bet when you first feast your eyes on its brightly coloured home page and beginner-friendly text that suggests its integrated Website Builder could be just the thing you’re after. And, to a degree that’s mostly true.
Scroll down the page and it appears to indicate that there are three straightforward options to pick from, but it gets a little more involved than that the more you dig around. And, circumnavigating the seemingly endless pricing options is one thing but you get a similarly daunting experience if you’re past that point and into the website building arena.
Price & plans
HostGator's biggest strength is value for money, though. For plain web hosting, the Hatchling Plan is $2.75 / £2.16 per month, and that gives you unlimited storage, unmetered bandwidth, an SSL certificate, a domain name, 99.9% uptime guarantee, instant backups and 24/7 support.
Virtually all its rivals limit you on storage at this sort of price, and usually charge more besides, so it's a great way to try out web hosting with no contract to tie you in.
If you need to host more than one site, the Baby Plan removes the "one domain" restriction and lets you have unlimited domains. That's $3.95 / £3.11 per month.
Those without a website ready to transfer to their new web hosting space can sign up for the Starter Gator Website Builder plan which is $3.84 / £3 per month. Only if you need priority support will you need to upgrade to the Premium plan which is $5.99 / £4.71 per month.
WordPress hosting is a bit more expensive, with the Starter Plan at $5.95 / £4.67 per month and that's suitable for up to 100,000 visitors per month. But even if you expect more than that, the Business Plan which allows for 500K visits is only $9.95 / £7.82 per month.
For alternatives, check out our roundup of the best web hosting services.
HostGator has the potential to appeal to the more adventurous fledgling site builder as inside the account there are a whole stack of different options. However, if you’re trying to keep things simple then it’s probably best to begin working with the Website Builder if you don't already have a site.
The theme is a familiar one, with a reasonably good selection of templates up for grabs that will suit most requirements. These aren’t extensive though and there will be branding present on your initial half-dozen newly created pages. Nevertheless, the way it works is perfectly serviceable thanks to an agreeable drag-and-drop interface, which allows you to plod through your page creation without fear of running into too many obstacles.
Meanwhile, HostGator makes use of cPanel, which is a common feature among hosting providers. Essentially, it's a control panel that allows account holders to explore all sorts of different tools, from basic through to powerful, all within the confines of their administrative space.
So, for example, if you quickly find that you’re outgrowing the standard website building option then you can soon move on to the likes of WordPress, Joopla or Drupal. These are all much more powerful options, and they can be launched from within the cPanel area without too much bother.
At the same time though, you might find that navigating your way around the interface a bit of a challenge. Part of the issue is that there's so much to see and do, and it can be daunting if you’re the sort of person who finds acronyms such as FTP terrifying.
Indeed, there is much inside your HostGator account that might leave you feeling drained, but fear not as the level of support is good. We actually liked the way the online support area works, although that in itself could prove to be a little bit overwhelming to the uninitiated, it still makes a sound base for getting to grips with core features.
A small mountain of video tutorials, for example, will guide you through many different aspects of your HostGator account, while you can also dip into online forums that will put a little more meat on the bone of any topics that have defeated you.
What’s more, HostGator makes it pretty easy to get in touch, as there are links for contacting support if you need too as well as the option for starting a live chat.
With so many website building options out there, many of which have been beautifully thought out, HostGator feels a little bit lacklustre. It’ll do most things you want it to do, but getting to the finish line might feel a little bit more laboured than with its rivals.
That said, the more we used the Gator Website Builder the more we warmed to it. In fact, HostGator has clearly spent some quality time making its latest incarnation the best one ever and, with a little perseverance, it’s more than possible top produce a funky-looking site that belies the fact that you’ve used drag-and-drop ingenuity to create it.
The other thing we like here is the ability to bolt on more sophisticated features, such as an ecommerce store, as you go, though that does involve upgrading to the more expensive 'eCommerce' plan which is $9.22 / £7.25 per month (and that's a special offer with 50% off). And, as for making the whole thing live, the Publish button does just that for you, which means there’s very little to worry about beyond whether or not you like the template you’ve chosen. Of course, the great thing about that is if you change your mind, you simply dip back in and remodel it until you’re happy.
While you do tend to get what you pay for with web hosting, HostGator's plans buck that trend. Even the cheapest imposes virtually no restrictions unless you need more than one website. So assuming that you don't it's a very good choice for those on a budget.