Quick Overview of Key Question

HTTP status codes are standardised responses that servers send to clients indicating the outcome of a request. For example, the code 200 means the request was successful and the requested information is being sent to the client.

Overview of HTTP Status Codes

HTTP Status Codes are vital for troubleshooting website performance. As they are an integral part of communication between web servers and browsers, HTTP status codes help us identify problems related to a website and provide users with the necessary explanations. Understanding how these codes work is essential for anyone looking to monitor or optimise the performance of their website.

At its core, the HTTP Status Code consists of three-digit numbers that indicate which message the server has sent back to the client. The first group in this three digits construes the type of response: 1xx – Informational Messages, 2xx – Successful Transactions, 3xx – Redirection Messages, 4xx – Client Error Messages, and 5xx – Server Error Messages. Each message has a unique meaning and provides different insight into what is or could be going wrong with your website.

It is important to note that different codes require different solutions. While some errors have fixes that can be applied quickly and easily, others may take more time or require help from specialists. As such, it is beneficial to have an understanding of HTTP Status Codes so you can accurately diagnose issues with your website and take appropriate action as needed. It helps to further understand each individual error code in order to gain full context into what might be going wrong with your website.

With that being said, it is time to dive deeper into individual codes beginning with one of the most common errors seen on websites: Requested Content Not Found (404). In the following section, we will discuss in detail the implications a 404 error has on your website’s performance and what you can do to fix it.

Requested Content Not Found (404)

After getting an overview of HTTP Status Codes, the next thing to explore is the Requested Content Not Found status code: 404. As with any HTTP status code, this code doesn’t just apply to webpages; it can also extend to non-html documents and web services.

In its most basic definition, the 404 status code indicates that a client has tried to access something that cannot be found on a server. The requested page or service may have been removed or moved, or it may never have existed in the first place. It’s important to note, however, that a 404 should not be used as an “all purpose” error message; more specific codes are available for different circumstances.

It’s essential for developers to customise their 404 pages to help the end user understand why the content is missing and what other options they have instead. For example, customising your 404 page could direct visitors to a list of pages with related content or simply redirect them back to the homepage. Furthermore, hosting companies often provide reports so that developers can view how many visitors are receiving a 404 response and identify which URLs they are trying to access. This allows developers to better understand what content needs updating or creating.

Ultimately, having an effective strategy in place when dealing with non-existent URLs is very important in order to avoid confusion and frustration from users who are unable to access the content they need. Moving forward, let’s look at another common scenario which will show us how web servers respond when users are not authorised: Unauthorised Error 401.

User Unauthorised (401)

Now that we have discussed what a “Requested Content Not Found” (404) status code is and its potential causes, let’s move on to discussing the “User Unauthorized” (401) status code. This code is generally sent in response to an unauthenticated request, either attempting to access a restricted area of your website or attempting to access content that can only be accessed with appropriate credentials.

In this case, rather than returning a 404 error, you are instead telling the user that their request was acknowledged, but they are not authorised to view this particular page or perform this type of action because it is protected by authentication. You might argue that sending a 401 status code is more secure since it does not disclose the contents available behind an authentication page and only the fact that authentication is required. On the other hand, some could argue that information about the page being restricted should be provided in order to avoid confusion or miscommunication between a user and the site.

A great example of how a 401 status should be utilised can be seen when two-factor authentication is enabled for highly sensitive sections of your website; in such cases, users must have already been authenticated before they are given access to those specific pages and would therefore receive a 401 error if they attempt to view them without authenticating again. This clearly communicates that their request was understood, but they need to authenticate in order to gain further access.

No matter which stance one takes on whether a 401 ought to provide additional information as mentioned above, it is important to remember that these status codes allow us to effectively diagnose issues with our website and guide our users better. As we come towards the end of understanding specific HTTP status codes, let’s now learn about common errors across websites so that we can proactively prevent them from happening.

Common HTTP Status Codes

Understanding the various HTTP Status codes is essential to troubleshooting issues with one’s website. The HTTP status code “User Unauthorised (401)” signals a missing or invalid authorisation header, meaning that the user is attempting to access a resource without providing credentials. Now let’s explore some of the other more common HTTP Status codes.

One such code is “Not Found (404)” which indicates a broken link on the server side. In other words, the server could not find what the user requested. This code can also signify an incorrect URL was typed in by the user. Looking at this from a more technical perspective, it could be a problem from an SEO standpoint, and webmasters should regularly monitor 404 errors as they can harm search engine rankings.

A “Forbidden (403)” Error occurs when access to a certain directory or file on the server is forbidden for reasons such as missing index files, failed authentication checks, or no permission to access the resource. Furthermore, this code can be associated with file sizes exceeding limits or trying to access hidden directories.

The “Internal Server Error (500)” occurs when something went wrong on the server side while trying to deliver the request by the client. Typically, it’s caused by configuration issues or software bugs within applications that are on the server being used toaccess development builds of software may encounter this error due to persistent conflicts between components. There may also be coding errors present if custom scripts were added to run different processes and services.

These can surely prove to be vital pieces of information when troubleshooting one’s website and are worth noting for future reference. Progressing through these common codes enables us to gain a better understanding into how our websites function and identify any potential problems in order to move forward with successful solutions. With an educated perspective in hand, let’s now take a deeper look into “OK (200)” and shed light on what signals a successful response between client and server.

OK (200)

When discussing common HTTP status codes, the importance of understanding an OK (200) status code cannot be understated. This is one of the most commonly used codes and can be seen when a person’s attempt to access a website or server was successful. Often times, this is an indication of good communication between the user’s browser and the server. It should also be noted that having an OK status code does not necessarily mean that everything on the page is free from errors, only that it is working properly.

On one side of the argument, many web developers see 200 status codes as just that – a sign of proper functioning. An OK message can imply that everything went exactly as planned; all requests were met and resources are available. Even with problems arising on the page, having an OK code serves as a certain form of assurance. On the other hand, some people argue that because OK status codes don’t indicate every detail about how things were working within the page, such as how long it took to load or if there were any errors found within it before loading, relying on them too heavily can provide false security for webmasters.

Much like all coding languages and computer functions, it’s impossible to know what will happen until the process has been completed. An OK status could even lead to misdiagnosing symptoms when checking a website’s overall performance. It’s important to combine several tools to gain complete insight into your online presence if you really want to conduct thorough troubleshooting in order to achieve desired results.

By understanding these nuances while developing a website, webmasters have more control over potential risks and ways to debug them. As we progress through our journey of understanding HTTP status codes, it is beneficial to understand why a “Reserved for Future Use” code (307) exists and learn its appropriate uses so we can authentically prepare for any possible difficulties in not only maintaining but improving our websites in the future.

Reserved for Future Use (307)

Now we turn to the less common statuses codes. Unlike the generally used 200 OK, the 307 Reserved for Future Use is rarely seen on websites. It is an Interim Response, meaning it should be followed up by a final response. In this instance, the 307 code informs the user-agent to follow the redirect instructions received in the response header of the status request itself. If multiple redirects occur consecutively, some browsers have had difficulty properly locating and interpreting them. As such, experts use caution when implementing these type of requests.

Despite its limited applications, developers continue to investigate and explore their use in order to avoid any potential conflicts with future standards or norms. A small yet growing number of online marketers leverage the 307 Status Code as an optimisation tool for search engine indexing and scalability across multiple platforms and browsers. They believe promotions and advertisements will benefit from it due to its unique ability to allow multiple redirects at once instead of one at a time.

Still, as this is a rarely seen status code, there is much debate around its effectiveness and purpose; it’s recommended that cautious testing methods are used before attempting implementation in any widespread fashion. Moving forward we’ll examine another rarer Interim Response – the See Other (302) code – and its uses within website maintenance and troubleshooting.

See Other (302)

The See Other (302) HTTP status code is less well known than some of the other codes. When a website is redirected to another webpage, usually due to the website being under construction or down for maintenance, this code is typically used. This type of redirect serves the purpose of informing visitors that an alternative URL will have the required content they were originally seeking; however, the initial request they made should not be repeated in the future.

A debate has arisen as to whether or not a 302 redirect should be used as opposed to a 307 redirect if it is possible that the requested content may find its way back to the original address in the future. Some experts argue that 302 redirects are better suited to situations of temporary redirection because they maintain relevance for search engines by giving priority and ranking to links of the original page; whereas, a 307 redirect does nothing to help web page rankings. Supporters of using a 307 redirect believe it imposes less “crawl cost” on search engine bots and provides more flexibility for the webmaster when permanently moving content from one page to another.

When considering which type of redirect should be used for your website, it is important to consider both arguments presented here. For example, if you plan on running a special promotion or posting a limited-time announcement on your site, then a 302 redirect lasting only until said event has passed would make sense in those cases. On the other hand, if you plan on permanently relocating content elsewhere on your website, then there is no harm in using a 307 code since that indicates this will be a permanent change.

No matter what decision you make regarding when and how best to use these particular redirects, it is important that you know how they work and why each particular code might be appropriate for different scenarios – especially when it comes time for SEO optimisation. Moving forward we’ll take a closer look at another popular status code, Moved Permanently (301), and explore how you can use that one when transferring content from one address to another.

Moved Permanently (301)

Moved Permanently (301) is an HTTP status code that can be considered the counterpart of See Other (302). Unlike the 302 response which requires the browser to ask the user for a new resource, 301 tells the browser to automatically redirect requests to a different endpoint. This is ideal for when you’ve moved your website to a new URL, so that your users don’t have to manually request the right resource.

The 301 code also provides a better user experience compared to 302 since it ensures that all future requests automatically go to the correct endpoint, meaning your user won’t mistakely access outdated resources. That said, unlike 302 which works with any request method, 301 responses must indicate a new URL and work only on requests using GET and HEAD methods. As such, it’s typically best used when these two are the primary request methods on your web application.

This difference between See Other and Moved Permanently response is important because they satisfy different use cases in terms of how they serve up content. Going forward, we’ll discuss another useful HTTP Status Code called Found (303), which serves as an alternative way of redirection that may fit your needs depending upon the requirements of your application.

Found (303)

One of the lesser known HTTP Status Codes is “Found (303)” which serves a similar purpose to “Moved Permanently (301)”, however there are subtle differences between the two. While “Moved Permanently (301)” indicates that a resource has been moved to a new location and future requests should be sent to the new address, “Found (303)” requires additional caution when making requests. Upon receiving the code “Found (303)”, a separate request must be issued if the client needs to access the resource, as opposed to “Moved Permanently (301)” which allows for a single request.

As with most debates on structure and status codes, opinions vary regarding which one is better: “Moved Permanently (301)” or “Found (303)”. Those arguing in favour of “Moved Permanently (301)” believe it makes for more efficient communication between browser and server by requiring fewer requests. Proponents of “Found (303)” point out its usefulness in certain security-sensitive situations. For instance, when users provide sensitive data such as payment information, it is common practise for websites to employ so-called “HTTP POST/Redirect/GET”. This approach involves redirecting after a POST request via the 303 status code instead of 302; under some circumstances this helps avoid malicious interception and data tampering attacks while still providing an understandable UX.

Whichever side you may choose in this debate, it is important to remember that each is suited for its purpose and both have their place within web development. As you move forward in understanding HTTP Status Codes, keep an open mind and consider how each type could work within your system. No matter what your approach, programming for these status codes will play a crucial role in troubleshooting your website.

Programming for HTTP Status Codes

When programming for HTTP status codes, it is important to understand the essential differences between the different categories of responses. The 303 (Found) code is especially useful as it is used to inform a client that the requested resource can be found elsewhere—essentially acting as a redirect.

Proponents of such codes may argue that they provide a more efficient user experience. By responding with a redirect, the new location can be retrieved more quickly than introducing additional steps to indicate an alternate location in the response body. Furthermore, most modern browsers automatically catch and follow a 303 redirect which would lead to fewer broken links and present your content in the most desirable way. Finally, due to its classification as a “redirection,” search engines are less likely to index 303 pages which allows website owners more control over their content.

On the other hand, opponents of using this status code may cite potential security risks. This is because certain web browsers may mistakenly follow 307 redirects which could potentially open up vulnerabilities for users of those browsers if proper website security measurements are not taken. Additionally, without supporting infrastructure, there is no guarantee that proxies or caching systems will handle them properly. Finally, there are some user agents or software that do not recognise this type of redirect at all which can be confusing for some users who are expecting redirection behaviour when using certain tools or interfaces.

Overall, while the question of whether or not to use HTTP status code 303 (Found) remains somewhat debatable, it can still have its advantages when used appropriately with other security precautions in place. Developing good website architecture including robust user authentication and rigorous testing should always remain priority when programming for HTTP status codes; keeping these practises in mind will help ensure safe and secure operations for your site’s visitors.

Last Updated on March 21, 2023

Matt Jackson

E-commerce SEO expert, with over 10 years of full-time experience analyzing and fixing online shopping websites. Hands-on experience with Shopify, WordPress, Opencart, Magento, and other CMS.
Need SEO help? Email me for more info, at info@matt-jackson.com