Internet Cache

When working with website developers you will at some point hear about the terms cache or caching. If we have pointed you in the direction of this blog then it is with the purpose of explaining a tech subject which even the most experienced online designers can struggle to understand sometimes.

One of the most memorable explanations of caching we have heard was a speaker at a WordPress conference. The speaker queried the audience “What’s 3,485,250 divided by 23,235?” The crowd were silent as expected. Some in the audience dove for their smartphone calculators to work this out, and eventually, someone shouted out the answer after a minute or so. The speaker then repeated the question. The second time around, the entire audience immediately called out the correct answer. This is a great metaphor for the concept of internet caching.

The initial process was done once, painstakingly slowly, but then after this first time, the same question was asked and the answer was readily available immediately. When applied to the circumstances of your website, this explains to the capacity to deliver a web page with a super-fast loading time without having to do all the time-consuming processing, every time the particular web page is asked to load.

The first visitor to a particular page on your website is “asking the question” and the “answer” is provided by the website’s server. The next time this person visits the same page, and “asks the same question”, your server can store the answer, the web page, much quicker. While working on your website, we will change the code and when this is done, we have effectively changed the question and therefore changed the answer.

The problem then surfaces that it is not so easy to convince a room full of people that the answer they knew before has now changed. To add to our problems some of the people in the room have passed on the old answer to their peers. Peers that are not present in the room that we have no control over. What we mean by “other people” is that your own computer’s browser will also save cache information and will continue to show your site from the previous version.

So, this is the situation we have, where we have changed the code on your website, confident we have completed work on the site, yet you may not be able to see any evidence of that work. Refreshing the browser a few times can often be the solution but sometimes caching is stubborn and it may just be a case of waiting.

Can’t we just turn it off?

Regrettably, the downside of caching is something we must tolerate; simply because the mild inconvenience of changes not being immediately evident is far outweighed by the increased speed and performance of your website and server. We hope that helped you to understand this a little bit more.

What caching is and how it affects what you see on websites?

Here are some other resources which may help you out:

How to clear your browser cache

How to clear your browser cache, cookies and history

A techie explanation of caching