I added a new feature to commitcheck.com that allows users to check the status of their PR. For security reasons, users should only have access to status pages that they are authorized to see. I handle authorization using GitHub’s API, but I wont cover that now. The thing I want to talk about is the UX for unauthorized requests.

Good UX

There are two reasons why someone would hit the unauthorized page: they don’t have access or they are not signed in.

If the user doesn’t have access then the user journey is pretty simple. The user requests the status page and get redirected to an error page, either 404 or 401.

devise unauthorized flow

The journey for a logged out users is a little more complicated. The user requests the status page and gets redirected to an error page (ideally the error page should advise them to login). When the user logs in they should be redirected to the page they originally requested.

devise unauthorized flow login

For example, the user requests commitcheck.com/status/rails/rails/123 and gets redirected to an error page. When the user logs in they should be redirected back to commitcheck.com/status/rails/rails/123.

If the user is trying to request a page they don’t have access to, they will continually be redirected to the error page.

Redirecting to unauthorized page with Devise

I’m using Devise to handle authentication in CommitCheck. Devise doesn’t provide this UX out of the box but it’s simple to implement.

The first thing I did was ensure that unauthenticated requests hit the error page. To do that I created a custom failure app in lib/custom_failure.rb:

class CustomFailure < Devise::FailureApp
  def redirect_url

  def respond
    if http_auth?

And added it to config/initializers/devise.rb:

  config.warden do |manager|
    manager.failure_app = CustomFailure

I also added lib to my Rails autoload path, in config/application.rb:

  config.autoload_paths << Rails.root.join('lib')

Next I defined the page_unauthorized route that I’m calling in CustomFailure:

get '/401', to: 'home#page_unauthorized', as: :page_unauthorized

Finally, I wrote the new controller action in HomeController that serves the 401 page:

  def page_unauthorized
    render file: 'public/401.html', status: :unauthorized

In my case the 401 page has the usual CommitCheck styling and displays an error message, which prompts the user to login:

devise unauthorized flow page

Redirecting to previous resource with Devise

In this section I’ll explain how I achieved the second user flow with Devise. The aim is to redirect the user back to the path they originally requested, after authenticating.

Devise has a method called stored_location_for(resource) which redirects the user back to a stored location. Devise stores a location automatically when a request is marked as unauthenticated. To implement, I updated HomeController#page_unauthorized to redirect to the stored location:

  def page_unauthorized
    if user_signed_in?
      redirect_to login_redirect_path
      render file: 'public/401.html', status: :unauthorized


  def login_redirect_path
    stored_location_for(:user) || admin_path

That’s it. Devise makes it simple to build a nice “unauthorized -> login -> redirect” user journey.