What Does a 403 Forbidden Error Mean and How To
Fix It

5.5 min. read

There's a great number of errors that can appear on your website. Apart from 410 Gone, 400 Bad Request and 404 Not Found errors that we discussed in our previous posts, a 403 Forbidden error is another common status code that can appear when attempting to access a web page or resource.
Having a 403 error on your site without resolving it on time can be devastating for your business. Today, the average user has no patience for a page that takes too long to load. A page that loads in 10 seconds has around 40% page abandonment.

Imagine what will happen if a visitor finds that your webpage isn't usable. If your page isn’t working for any reason, it will negatively affect the expectations of your visitors. Your visitor will leave your site in less than three seconds and continue their search on your competitor's site. Meaning, a visitor won't convert to a paying customer, and you'll lose both traffic and revenue. 


If you want to see fewer people leaving and more people arriving on your site, you should learn everything there is to know about the error 403 and how to fix it. Let's dive in!


What Is a 403 Forbidden Error?

The 403 error is part of the 4xx status codes group. These status codes are client-side errors, meaning that generally, something on the client-side of things is the issue. 

Apart from client-side errors, you can also encounter server-side HTTP status codes, including:


The 403 error specifically occurs when a user tries to access something that they don't have access to. For some reason, a specific resource or page is forbidden. The 403 error code is, in a way, an error message that tells the user: "Leave and don't come back."

What Causes a 403 Forbidden Error?

A 403 Forbidden error can happen for a range of reasons. It can be something on the side of the visitor, such as unclear cache. In some cases, to access a specific resource, the visitor needs to log in to a website. If the visitor failed to do so, it can result in a 403 error. 


The error can also be something the website owner has done incorrectly. This can include incorrect file or folder permissions.


How Can a 403 Error Appear?

The 403 Forbidden errors can be displayed in all browsers and on any operating system. 

They can be labeled in different ways, such as:

  • 403 Forbidden error

  • 403 Error

  • Error 403

  • Error 403 - Forbidden

  • HTTP 403

  • HTTP 403 - Forbidden


When you come across a 403 error, you'll see the following screen:


Some websites have gone the extra mile and designed their own 403 and 404 error pages to make the irritating experience an engaging and fun thing for their visitors.
by Zach Graham for Dropbox Design

How Do I Fix a 403 Forbidden Error?

Tips for visitors

If you're a visitor of a site and came across a 403 Forbidden error, here are three things you can do to resolve the issue:

Solution #1: Check for URL errors

Check to make sure you're requesting an actual web page file name and extension, and not just a directory. Many websites are configured to disallow directory browsing. So, if you request to see a folder instead of a specific page, a 403 Forbidden error is likely to happen.

Solution #2: Clear your browser cache and cookies

Try clearing the cached version of the page. It's possible that that's what causing the 403 error. 


Also, be sure to enable cookies in your browser for this website. Especially if you often log-in to the site.

Solution #3: Log in to the website

A 403 HTTP status code could sometimes mean that you need to log in to a website in order to access the page or resource. If it's possible, log in to the website to gain additional access.

Tips for website owners

If you're the owner of the site, here's what you can do to resolve the 403 error issue:

Reset file and directory permissions

Every file that's stored on your website has file permissions. These file permissions control who can access files and folders on your site. This might be one reason why your visitors are encountering a 403 error message. It's bad permission for your files or folders. 


If you want to prevent 403 errors in these cases, enable directory browsing in your web server software. If you don't feel confident doing it yourself, get in touch with a developer or your hosting company.

Contact your hosting company

If you're not the most tech-savvy person, don't hesitate to get in touch with your hosting company. Explain to them the issues you're facing and let them check what's the root cause of the issue. Maybe they'll discover that the issue is on their end, or they can guide you on how to fix the error yourself.

Final Word

Website owners have to go above and beyond to ensure their visitors are getting the best user experience. Especially in today's market where competitors are lurking from every side, it's crucially important to invest in proper web design and website maintenance services. From mobile-friendliness to website speed, you must continually improve your site to retain your visitors. 


HTTP errors are critical in retaining your visitors. From 301 Moved Permanently to 404 Not Found, knowing what they mean is crucial for the health of your online business. That's why we've put together this comprehensive HTTP status code cheat sheet that you use to learn about the different types of status codes and their meaning.

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