HostGator vs Squarespace: Which Should You Use in 2021?

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HostGator and Squarespace are two very different tools:

  • HostGator is a web hosting provider, which helps you manage the actual server that stores your website’s content. Hosting providers are better for more advanced users with larger websites. 
  • Squarespace is a website builder, which provides you with easy design tools and hosts your site for you. Website builders are better for beginners, or those who need to put a stylish site together quickly. 

After spending over a decade researching the top website builders and hosting providers on the market, we can say with confidence that the question of HostGator vs Squarespace really just comes down to your specific needs.

That’s why this article will pit HostGator and Squarespace against each other in all the areas that matter most. Read on to find out who wins category-by-category!

HostGator vs Squarespace: What’s the Difference?

As a hosting provider, HostGator is focused on your website’s resources, providing plenty of storage space for content and media. HostGator offers more powerful website resources than Squarespace.

As a website builder, Squarespace is focused on your website’s design, providing ready-made, expertly designed templates for easy website creation. Because they’re more beginner-friendly, website builders also take care of the hosting part for you. Squarespace offers more built-in design tools than HostGator.

web host vs website builder comparison chart
Heads up! To avoid any confusion later, we thought we’d mention that HostGator also has its own website builder – but we don’t recommend using it. Going to a web host for a website builder is like going to a coffee shop for a cup of tea: they can do it, but it’s not what they’re really there for! If you’re curious, though, you can read our review of HostGator’s in-house website builder here.

HostGator vs Squarespace: Pros and Cons

HostGator Pros and Cons

Pros Cons
• Super-cheap prices start at $2.75 per month
• You can use HostGator together with WordPress for near-limitless design freedom
• It’s not an all-in-one platform like Squarespace. You’ll have to look elsewhere for web design help
• Lots of design freedom also means a more time-consuming design process

Squarespace Pros and Cons

Pros Cons
• Squarespace is an all-in-one solution, so you won’t need to sign up for any other services
• Beginner-friendly, expertly designed templates make it quick and easy to get a professional site live
• $12 per month starting plan is more expensive than HostGator’s
• Doesn’t offer as much design freedom as HostGator can

Pricing and Value for Money

hostgator logo

HostGator is cheaper than Squarespace.

But it’s important to note that with Squarespace, you’re paying for the all-in-one convenience of having your website management, design, and hosting all taken care of. With HostGator, you’ll have to oversee the design process yourself.

HostGator Pricing

Like most web hosting providers, HostGator offers really cheap introductory prices that then renew at a regular rate after your first payment term.

That first payment term can last from three months to three years, and the introductory price is cheaper the longer you’re willing to sign up for in advance. For example, the Hatchling shared hosting plan has an introductory price of:

  • $2.75 per month when you sign up for three years in advance (so $99 total)
  • $3.45 per month when you sign up for two years in advance (so $82.80 total)
  • $3.95 per month when you sign up for one year in advance (so $47.40 total)

After that first term, the plan renews at:

  • $6.95 per month for three years ($250.20 total)
  • $7.95 per month for two years ($190.80 total)
  • $8.95 per month for one year ($107.40 total)

HostGator’s prices are really cheap. It placed fifth on our list of the cheapest hosting providers, but when you take quality into account, HostGator has better value for money than most other hosts.

That said, hosting providers aren’t all-in-one tools. These low prices only cover your web hosting, so they’re not inclusive of everything else you’ll need in order to run a website – specifically, the design tools necessary to create a stunning site.

It’s true that HostGator has its own website builder available for this purpose, but like we said, it’s a pretty basic website building tool – most people use a content management system like WordPress instead.

Top Tip: Don’t take hosting costs at face value. When you’re weighing up HostGator’s super-cheap prices, remember to also consider:

  • The $0-$130 cost of a WordPress theme
  • The cost of additional WordPress plugins, which range from free to $100+ each
  • The time investment of designing your own site

Squarespace Pricing

Squarespace has four all-inclusive website builder plans (and no complicated introductory vs renewal prices!):

  • The Personal plan ($12 per month) is for blogs, portfolios, and generally smaller websites
  • The Business plan ($18 per month) is for local business websites and larger personal websites
  • The Basic Commerce plan ($26 per month) is for online stores
  • The Advanced Commerce plan ($40 per month) is for large and/or growing online stores

These prices are more expensive than HostGator’s, but it’s important to remember that the price of a website builder is all-inclusive – so for $12 per month, Squarespace will provide expertly designed website templates and take care of hosting for you.

Learn More About Pricing

Our Squarespace Pricing and HostGator Pricing reviews cover each different plan in full detail.

Ease of Use

squarespace logo

Squarespace is easier to use than HostGator.

Squarespace’s built-in website design tools require absolutely no knowledge of code, whereas HostGator users will have to be a lot more independent.

Squarespace: Beginner-Friendly

When you sign up for a Squarespace plan, you’re getting a fully-fledged website that you can design without any knowledge of code.

Squarespace uses a drag-and-drop template editor, which means you can literally drag things like images, buttons, and text boxes to where you want them on every page.

using the squarespace drag and drop editor
Squarespace lets you click and drag different elements around on a page.

This is called a “what you see is what you get” editor, where you can preview the changes you’re making to a page as you make them, so you won’t have to wonder what the final result looks like.

Changing colors and editing text can be done from simple on-page toolbars:

editing squarespace text boxes
All you have to do is click on a text box to edit what it says.

As if this wasn’t easy enough, Squarespace actually walks you through the template editor as soon as you sign up, so you won’t even have to figure it out on your own!

Managing your Squarespace website is just as easy as designing it. From the main menu on the left side of the Squarespace editor, you can handle everything from marketing to domain names in just a few clicks.

squarespace menu
The Squarespace toolbar is easy to navigate.

Of course, the icing on the cake is that Squarespace also hosts your website for you, with hosting included in the cost of this website builder. This means you’ll never have to worry about managing your own web server like you would with HostGator.

HostGator: No Hand-Holding

HostGator, on the other hand, can’t offer the same all-in-one convenience as Squarespace. With HostGator, you’ll have to manage your own server, because you’ll be hosting the website yourself.

You’ll also be on your own when it comes to website templates. If you’re using a CMS like WordPress, then there are some free templates (also called “themes”) to choose from. But they’re definitely harder to customize than Squarespace’s templates. 

For one thing, WordPress themes don’t actually let you see your changes as you make them. You can preview your edits before they go live, but you’ll have to do the actual editing in the backend of the website, as opposed to the on-page editing you can do with Squarespace.

using the wordpress editor
When you move page elements around on WordPress, you won’t be able to tell what your changes actually look like.

That said, managing your website from HostGator’s dashboard is pretty straightforward. HostGator uses the popular cPanel dashboard tool used by many web hosts, which lets you manage your site’s files, domain information, associated email accounts, and more all from the same place.

Website Design

squarespace logo

Squarespace is better for design than HostGator.

Its template designs are the absolute best that we’ve seen, and although it’s not as customizable as HostGator can be, that also means it’s virtually impossible to make a design faux pas with Squarespace.

Squarespace: Effortless Style

Squarespace has the best-designed templates of any website builder on the market – we’ve spent over 400 hours researching and testing the top website builders, and Squarespace’s templates impressed even us.

squarespace template designs
Squarespace’s templates are the cream of the crop.

There are 113 templates to choose from, and you can filter your search by industry and website type (personal portfolios, online stores, etc.).

Here’s what one user had to say about Squarespace’s templates in our testing:

“It’s a huge challenge to create a site by yourself unless you’re a designer, so the fact that the template offers relevant industry features and is already done for you is a huge benefit. I would say it was up there as one of the most important factors.”

HostGator: Limitless Customization

Okay, so HostGator doesn’t actually have any website design tools built-in (unless you count its website builder, which we mentioned earlier).

Instead, you’ll have to use a content management system like WordPress or Magento to design your site. The process is similar with both, but because WordPress is used by 41% of the entire web(!!!), we’ll focus on this CMS in particular.

choosing a wordpress theme
There are thousands of WordPress themes to choose from.

WordPress themes aren’t as nice to look at as Squarespace’s. And while every Squarespace template comes included in the cost of a website plan, WordPress templates can cost anywhere from $0-$130.

So, what’s the appeal? Well, WordPress themes are a lot more customizable than Squarespace’s, so even if you don’t like the initial look, you’ll have the tools to change it into a totally unique and stylish format for your site.

The only catch is that you have to sacrifice some ease of use for that design freedom. When we spoke to Neil Thacker, a digital marketer who built his website with WordPress, he summed up the experience like this:

“I love the freedom of using WordPress. Having initially used more restrictive platforms like GoDaddy’s website builder and Wix, it was a breath of fresh air to finally have full control over every element of my online presence.

It was definitely a steep learning curve, though. One of the pain points, for me, is how easily you can make mistakes and accidentally ruin something!”

Features

hostgator logo

Through WordPress, HostGator can offer more features than Squarespace.

However, keep in mind that while Squarespace has less options available, the features it does offer are consistently high quality. WordPress plugins are more hit-or-miss.
What’s Included With Squarespace’s Cheapest Plan What’s Included With HostGator’s Cheapest Plan
• Free domain name for the first year
• Free SSL certificate
• Unlimited bandwidth and storage
• 113 website templates
• Free domain name for the first year
• Free SSL certificate
• Unlimited bandwidth and storage
• One-click WordPress installation

You might be wondering why both Squarespace and HostGator both technically offer unlimited bandwidth and storage.

Good question! Technically speaking, bandwidth is the amount of data that a website can transfer to its visitors in a set amount of time. What that means is that the more bandwidth your website has, the better your website will be able to handle an influx of visitors.

Storage is a simpler concept – it means the amount of space available for storing your website’s media and content.

Both Squarespace and HostGator offer unlimited bandwidth and storage “within reason,” which means that their caps are set high enough that it’s very unlikely you’ll ever exceed them.

That said, hosting providers have higher bandwidth and storage thresholds than website builders, so if you did end up exceeding your limits on Squarespace, you’d probably still be within HostGator’s limits.

What About Apps?

Apps and plugins are extra tools that you can install to add more features to your website. They could be anything, from social media promotion to ecommerce shipping tools – and they’re a pretty important way to take your site to the next level!

Squarespace has its own app store, called Squarespace Extensions, where you can find high quality tools. There are free options, and some paid options ranging from $5-$40.

using the squarespace extensions store
The Squarespace Extensions store is a great way to add quality features to your site.

There are only 24 Squarespace extensions available, but it’s very much a quality over quantity situation. Every extension is vetted and picked by Squarespace, so you can be sure that these tools are high quality and compatible with your site.

There are fewer extensions available in the store because so many of Squarespace’s features come pre-built into each site, like contact forms and image galleries. This means that there’s less of a need to download extra apps!

Want to Know Your Options?

Check out our ranking of the best Squarespace extensions that are available now.

HostGator, on the other hand, doesn’t have its own extensions store, so you’ll have to use the one associated with your CMS. If you’re using WordPress, you’ll have access to the WordPress Plugins marketplace, which offers over 50,000 tools to choose from!

wordpress plugin options
WordPress offers a virtually endless supply of plugins.

This means there’ll be a plugin (or ten) for nearly any website feature you can think of. Just beware that almost any developer can create WordPress plugins and post them in the marketplace, so quality is not guaranteed the way it would be with Squarespace.

There are plenty of excellent tools available in the WordPress marketplace – you’ll just want to make sure you read a plugin’s reviews before installing it. 

Performance and Security

hostgator logo

HostGator has better performance and security than Squarespace.

Because hosting providers are so focused on a server’s resources, HostGator will pay a lot of attention to your website’s performance, rather than its visual appeal.

Performance and Security Features

Squarespace HostGator
SSL certificate Free Free
Typical uptime 99.94% 99.99%
Website backups Automatic Manual
Software updates Automatic Manual
They’re not as complicated as they sound, we promise!

  • SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate: This encrypts a user’s connection to your website, so that they know their information is safe. SSL-secure websites will have a padlock icon in their address bar.
  • Uptime: The amount of time your website is live and available to visitors. A great uptime range is between 99.95-99.99%, which amounts to no more than 5 hours of downtime per year. Note that a 100% uptime guarantee is impossible!
  • Website backups: Backups are copies of all your website’s data. You’ll want to make backups every few days or so, so that you can restore a previous version of your site if anything goes wrong.
  • Software updates: Your Squarespace or WordPress website will be impacted whenever these platforms update themselves with new versions and features. When Squarespace updates itself, you won’t have to do anything different to your website. But WordPress is a little more advanced – you’ll be notified when a new version is available, but it falls on you to actually click “Update.”

Help and Support

It’s a tie!

HostGator is constantly available for questions, while Squarespace is there to guide you throughout the design process.

At a Glance

Squarespace HostGator
Phone No 24/7
Live chat Monday - Friday 24/7
Knowledge base Yes Yes

Both HostGator and Squarespace impressed us when we tested out their support options. HostGator’s knowledge base impressed us with its wide range of helpful articles, and its 24/7 phone support is a major plus. That said, we did think its live chat support could’ve been a little more responsive, and the replies we received weren’t as detailed as the articles in the knowledge base.

Squarespace doesn’t have 24/7 phone support, but we were impressed with its live chat team. Plus, you’re less likely to need a round-the-clock support team on hand, because Squarespace provides you with helpful tips and guidance as soon as you sign up – meaning you won’t feel lost in its template editor.

squarespace editor help
Squarespace walks you through the website building process right when you sign up.

HostGator vs Squarespace: Summary

If you’ve read this far, then it’s no secret that HostGator and Squarespace are two very different platforms. Here’s a recap of the categories we’ve covered:

HostGator Squarespace
Pricing Winner! Starts at $2.75 per month Starts at $12 per month
Ease of Use WordPress editor requires some knowledge of tech Winner! Drag-and-drop template editor is sleek and simple
Design Customizable, but no quality design options out-of-the-box Winner! Stunning, ready-made templates that still feel unique
Features Winner! Countless WordPress plugins available Small but super high-quality selection of apps
Performance Winner! Focuses on server resources Focuses more on website design
Support Tie! Round-the-clock support team Tie! Tips and guidance from the get-go
Are You Ready? Visit HostGator Visit Squarespace

Who Should Use HostGator?

  • Anyone wanting complete customization and design freedom
  • Anyone running a large website with a lot of content and media to store
  • Anyone wanting to expand their website a lot in the future
  • Anyone with some coding experience

Who Should Use Squarespace?

  • Anyone wanting an expertly designed website template
  • Anyone without much website building experience
  • Anyone wanting all-in-one convenience
  • Anyone wanting to get their site live more quickly

FAQs

Because Squarespace handles web hosting for you, you don’t need to go out of your way to find a host for your site – it’s all-in-one! This also means that hosting providers aren’t really built to work with website builders – instead, you’ll have to use a more advanced content management system, like WordPress.
We recommend using WordPress with HostGator, because WordPress is a popular, powerful content management system. That said, it’s not the only content management system out there. For example, there’s also Magento – but we’d only recommend that one for enterprise-level ecommerce sites.
HostGator’s website builder is a nice touch, but because HostGator is primarily a web hosting company, its builder can feel a little basic. For example, it doesn’t have the kind of top-quality templates that you’ll find with Squarespace.

About Maura Monaghan

Maura Monaghan

I grew up scribbling in notebooks, and until recently the thought of relocating my writing to the digital world seemed like an impossible goal. But when I finally took the plunge and created an online portfolio, I immediately saw the benefits of having my work out on the web. Since then I’ve learned everything I can about creating different websites, so that I can help those in a similar situation get online without a similar headache.

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