Error codes are almost the last thing that you want to see in an API response. Generally speaking, it means one of two things — something was so wrong in your request or your handling that the API simply couldn’t parse the passed data, or the API itself has so many problems that even the most well-formed request is going to fail. In either situation, traffic comes crashing to a halt, and the process of discovering the cause and solution begins.

That being said, errors, whether in code form or simple error response, are a bit like getting a shot — unpleasant, but incredibly useful. Error codes are probably the most useful diagnostic element in the API space, and this is surprising, given how little attention we often pay them.

Today, we’re going to talk about exactly why error responses and handling approaches are so useful and important. We’ll take a look at some common error code classifications the average user will encounter, as well as some examples of these codes in action. We’ll also talk a bit about what makes a “good” error code and what makes a “bad” error code, and how to ensure your error codes are up to snuff.

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