Getting to Grips with 301 and 404 Errors
In the world of web design there is always going to be a point where pages have been moved or changed and yet individuals visiting the website find themselves being pointed back to the old pages. However, thankfully there are things in place that makes those errors seem less of a problem thanks to the way in which they are able to explain to the visitor what is going on.
By doing this, it makes it less likely that the individual visiting your website is even going to be aware of something going on or, at the very least, they are not going to be too annoyed that the page they were trying to visit appears to have either been deleted or moved.
So, what are these things in place that we are talking about? Well, they might sound a bit boring and non-descriptive but they are known as 301 and 404 errors and we should perhaps explain a bit more about them.
If we can start off with a little bit of more technical stuff because basically a 301 error is the Http response status code that indicates a page has been permanently moved. Now that the technical part is past we can now get on with really explaining what is going on.
This error is also a redirect in that it then sends individuals to the new page and indeed it is regarded as being the best way of redirecting individuals on websites although we need to perhaps provide an example of how this error can work.
Say your ‘About Us’ page used to be at .com/aboutus and yet it has now been redesigned or perhaps you have changed your entire website so the page that contains information about your company is actually now at .com/ourcompany. Now, the individual visiting your page could type in the first option but of course it is no longer there so a 301 error picks up on this and redirects them to the new page. It makes the changes seem less annoying and you also do not miss out on the individuals finding the page and going off elsewhere so you can understand why this is so important.
301 errors can be used on any webpage that has since been moved or altered and you should see it as something that takes you by the hand when you are lost and redirects you to where you want to be. It is essential that any website that has made changes has this implemented as it does make the website seem more professional.
The other type of error that we are talking about are 404 errors and, once again, we need to start off with some technical stuff before we provide an easier to follow explanation.
From a technical point of view, a 404 is an Http standard response code for when an individual has been able to communicate with the server that the website is on but the server is unable to complete whatever it is that they have asked of it. However, in this instance you will receive a 404 error when it is something that the individual has done wrong at their end rather than something that is wrong with the website.
In most occasions, it will happen because the individual has types in the wrong URL and the server is basically telling you that the page that you are trying to reach does not exist on the server. It may have once been there but now it has been deleted and they have just not updated their bookmarks or changed the URL that they are typing in.
However, the pages that they then see that contain the 404 error can often be customized so that there are graphics and messages on there telling them what has gone wrong. Some companies make light hearted comments on there so that the individual is not frustrated at getting a 404 error and then there are attempts to get them to go elsewhere on the website.
In other words, there is a bit of an apology from the website for the error even though it is down to a mistake by the individual visiting and this 404 error is like a polite notice just informing them of something that has gone wrong.
So, as you can see both 301 and 404 errors do play an important role in keeping people aware of what is going on with websites when changes have been made or the visitor has made an error when trying to access a page. They are not just useful things to have but rather they are essential pieces of kit that are able to explain to the visitor what has gone wrong rather than them just being given a completely blank page. After all, if you just provided them with no information then why on earth would then then continue to another page of your website? The answer is that they wouldn’t so thanks to these errors that will never be a problem.