Server errors handling

Let’s face it: who likes errors? We don’t want them in real life nor in our dig­i­tal lives. But they do exist and will always do. It’s a mat­ter of how we react to them and make the most of their exis­tence — in some cas­es, they are the nec­es­sary evil to guard against things break­ing too badly.

In this arti­cle, we will walk you through the mean­ing of dif­fer­ent types of errors that you may encounter while deal­ing with a Word­Press web­site. We will also try to offer you some steps to tack­le them.

500 Internal Error – The Hidden One

The 500 Inter­nal Error it is actu­al­ly a gener­ic error. It is like a mask for the real error, and this is quite great since on the web there are times when masks are mandatory.

Usu­al­ly, every serv­er error has a code and a mes­sage. How­ev­er, if this mes­sage is pub­lic, it means that any­one who sees it can eas­i­ly find out your website’s vulnerability.

To enjoy a safer web, the major­i­ty of the web host­ing providers kick-off their clients’ sites with some­thing that is called a pro­duc­tion envi­ron­ment. It just means that every block­ing error code and mes­sage is replaced with the 500 Inter­nal Error. In this case, only the system’s admin knows the real prob­lem behind the scenes and can fix it in due time.

Solution

Every time you send us a sup­port ques­tion about a 500 Inter­nal Error you should be aware that we know as much as you do.

The source of the truth lies in the serv­er errors, and if you don’t know what that means, then you have to con­tact your host­ing provider and ask them for a help­ing hand. In oth­er words, it doesn’t mean that we don’t want to assist you, is more that we can’t do any­thing use­ful in this context.

4xx Errors — The Public Ones

Now it’s time to shed some light on the sit­u­a­tions when the errors are pub­lic or when we have access to our wp-config.php file, and we can enable the WP_DEBUG fea­ture (to make them public).

400 Bad Request

Most of the time this means that your host­ing serv­er is down. We don’t have much to do for you to get rid of it and you should con­tact your host­ing provider.

401 Unauthorized

This error cov­ers a bunch of cas­es since the autho­riza­tion can come from dif­fer­ent lev­els such as:

  • Plain sim­ple HTTP autho­riza­tion – some­times a link can require authen­ti­ca­tion and your set­up might not allow for it
  • File per­mis­sions – a file can be behind this error if the serv­er asks more than it can handle
  • Brows­er Cache – if your page is cached and the tokens or nonces are expired you will def­i­nite­ly turn into a 401 error because the “pass­word” changed. Some­times, you get this error with Cloud­Flare, and a sim­ple clear cache solves the struggle.

A gen­er­al solu­tion can be explored on this link.

403 Forbidden

Usu­al­ly, this means that you end­ed up in a for­bid­den place. A web serv­er can define where and under what con­di­tions a URL shouldn’t be acces­si­ble. This is why in most tuto­ri­als on the web you find a ref­er­ence to the .htac­cess file.

How­ev­er, some­times a mis­con­fig­u­ra­tion of the .htac­cess file (or the Nginx con­fig) can lead to unex­pect­ed 403 For­bid­den errors. On top of that, wrong file per­mis­sions can lead to the same effect but with a dif­fer­ent cause: you sim­ply can­not access that file.

Some tips and details about this man­ner can be found on this link.

404 Not found

The most famous error in the his­to­ry of the web usu­al­ly appears when the serv­er can­not find what you are look­ing for.

404 Not found error can pop up when you are look­ing for a lost gem, like a removed page, post or any unknown URL.

Some­times is just con­fu­sion, espe­cial­ly when there is a prob­lem with the con­fig­u­ra­tion of the perma­links in use, and the serv­er can­not under­stand the dif­fer­ence between your About page and your About post.

One impor­tant thing to know about perma­links is that they are intense­ly cached by Word­Press, so if you install a plu­g­in that defines new link routes on your web­site (like e-com­merce or mem­ber­ship) you may get 404 Errors until you flush the perma­links from the Set­tings → Perma­links Word­Press Dash­board page.

You can read more about this error on this link.


Try to have an in-depth under­stand­ing of these errors and you will be able to inves­ti­gate them cor­rect­ly. You will not only find the right solu­tion for each one, but you will also be more con­fi­dent while main­tain­ing a sol­id Word­Press web­site in the long run.

Never let errors intimidate you

As a clos­ing remark, you should not let an error ruin your day. There is always a solu­tion for every­thing, even if this requires a google search, an email to your host­ing provider or to us at hello@pixelgrade.com.

Updated on July 25, 2017

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