Conversion Wednesday – What Errors Mean

By Dan G


Have you ever navigated a site and found what you might consider to be a dead end? One of those Blank, White Pages with a single line the says “404”. If you have, you might also have wondered what these errors means and for that matter, what do any of those errors mean? Just one of these errors could spell doom if you get one on your website.

In today’s video, we’ll go through a list of the most common website errors and how you may be able to resolve and prevent them on your site.

Okay, Let’s say you open a browser, and start surfing your site. Oh dear, you’ve encountered an error message.

If it’s:

400 Bad File Request: This means the Web server (running the Web site) thinks that the data stream sent by the client (e.g. your Web browser) was ‘malformed’ i.e. did not respect the HTTP protocol completely. So the Web server was unable to understand the request and process it. Sometimes this can be resolved by clearing your cache or Retyping the URL, paying close attention to letter case and special characters. But typically, this means there is a low-level problem in the client or the Web server or both. 95% of the time this is because of a problem on the client system. For example, there might be something unstable on your PC running the Web browser. Make sure you scan your system for spyware and viruses as well.

401 Unauthorized: This error means that the request from the browser to the server requires authentication. More than likely, this indicates that a username and password was required to access the page, and you didn’t enter the correct pair or that one or both of your user ID and password were invalid for whatever reason.

403 Forbidden: The request from the browser to the server was understood, but the server has been instructed not to respond with a Web page. So the 403 error is equivalent to a blanket ‘NO’ by the Web server – with no further discussion allowed. More than likely, there is a server permission issue – and that can be a conundrum for the ecommerce business owner, particularly if he or she is also a novice Web server administrator. The resolution to this problem is to go to the server, select the file in question and give global users read and execute permissions. For those of you with UNIX knowledge, you’ll want to chmod your file to 755.

404 File Not Found: This is probably the most common error you’ll see in your lifetime. This error means that the server understands what you’re requesting, but it can’t find it. This could mean that you’ve mistyped the URL or it could also be that you put the file in another folder on the server from the one you are requesting.

408 Request Timeout: This error means that the server got your request, but what you’ve requested is just too darned big to deliver in a timely fashion. Sometimes, this error message displays when the server itself is too busy, and unable to respond with Web pages in a timely fashion. To fix this, check the file size of your images or other files you are serving up and see about trying to minimize their file size by saving them in a different format or picking certain ones to remove altogether.. You can also check with your hosting provider to see how many sites are being served-up along with yours on a particular server. If the problem continues, you might want to consider a dedicated server.

Okay, So now let’s say you open a browser, and start surfing your site and you encounter another error message …

If it’s:

A 500 Internal Server Error: This is the mother of all error messages. It requires a server administrator because it signifies a configuration issue between the site and server. Unfortunately, the error could signify just about anything, but if you happen to be a DIY (do-it-yourselfer) sort of entrepreneur, there is a way to get more details:
If you’re using Internet Explorer, open Tools ? Internet Options ? Advanced Options and Uncheck the “show friendly HTTP errors” setting.
One thing is for sure: This error doesn’t display because of some HTML error. This is a server problem caused by configuration and triggered by any number of things including a script, application, scheduled job, process, etc.

501 Not Implemented: This signifies that a Web server doesn’t support a feature you’re trying to access or execute. Examine the page in question, and contact your Web host. Let them know what’s on the page, in terms of functionality and code, and they’ll likely be able to tell you quickly whether or not what’s on that page is supported.

502 Service Temporarily Overloaded: This error message is the equivalent to big-city traffic. The server is being hit and hit hard. It would serve the customer best to come back at a different time. If your site is not on a dedicated server, check with your host provider to determine which site on the server is getting trafficked heavily. If this happens more frequently you may want to consider a dedicated server.

503 Service Unavailable: This Could be a number of things, including a busy server. More than likely, it indicates that the user has lost his or her Web connection. Try surfing to another site to make sure you still have Web access. Visit a site you haven’t been to in some time to make sure that it’s not merely being loaded into your browser via cached memory.
Those are the most common numbered errors. Other common Internet errors include:

File Contains No Data: This is a common error, and it probably reflects something awry in your HTML. First thing to check is your table code. Have you closed all of your tags? Does every TR have a /TR? If you’re sure that’s not it, then look at your header code to see if anything out of the ordinary exists there.

Connection Refused By Host: This means you don’t have permission to access the site. Contact a server administrator.

Network Connection Refused By The Server: This is similar to the 502 Error. This means the server is busy. Not much you can do in the short-term except to consider more bandwidth and/or a dedicated server if you’re not hosting your business on one at this point.

So there you have it. Those are the most common Website Errors you can encounter on the web. Now that you are aware of these errors and how to deal with them. Is there any assistance you might want in finding them on your site, or redirecting the ones you have so that your customers don’t see them? If so, consider utilizing our testing program.