There are several ways to do a page refresh or redirect it to a new one. It can be done in the client side, with HTML or a script language, or in the server side with PHP or in the server configuration directly. The most simple way is using the HTML to tell to the browser what to do, using a meta tag. Besides, the are many simple hosting services that don’t support server side scripting or don’t let clients to change the servers configuration (in apache this can be done with an .htaccess file).
This feature can be very helpful, besides it’s very easy to use. Imagine that we have a website with several languages organized in a folder structure with the language codes. We’ll need to redirect the visitor to the default language. This can easily be done with meta tag refresh.
META tag syntax
The syntax of the refresh META tag is very simple.
<META http-equiv=”refresh” content=”<time>[;URL=<new url>”]>
- The time, in seconds, represents the time that the browser will wait before refresh the page or redirect it to another one. If you set it to 0 (zero), the browser will redirect to the page without waiting. This use disable the back button of the browser, it behave like there is no initial page and only the one that we redirect the visitors to;
- The url is an optional parameter. With this parameter we can define the URL of the page that will be loaded by the browser, this is the page that you want the visitor to redirect;
- Using the META tag to refresh or reload the site every one minute (60 seconds)
<meta http-equiv=”refresh” content=”60″>
- Using the META tag to redirect to a new page without waiting.
<meta http-equiv=”refresh” content=”0;url=en/index.html”>
- Using the META tag to redirect to a new page after 2 minutes (120 seconds).
<meta http-equiv=”refresh” content=”120;url=en/index.html”>
Things you must be aware
This META tag is an easy way of doing a refresh or a redirect. However, it has some disadvantages.
- Using this method to redirect a page to another the crawlers, like Google bot, won’t keep your page rank in the new page. To do that you need to send a 301 redirect either with server script or the server configuration;
- If the time defined in the META tag refresh is too small, some old browser with a slower connection can disable the browsers back button, even if you don’t define 0;
- The use of the META tag refresh to reload or redirect a page should be done carefully in terms of usability. Some visitors may think that your site can be a security threat or simply be hungry about seeing the page reloads while he is reading it.
If you are developing a website according to the standard XHTML 1.0 you’ve to use the tag like following:
<META http-equiv=”refresh” content=”<time>[;URL=<new url>”] />