As an internet user, chances are you’ve heard the term “clearing your cache” before. But do you know what a website cache is? And why caching is so important when you’re setting up a website? Let’s take a closer look at what clearing your cache does.
What Is a Website Cache?
A website cache is a temporary storage location on your computer that saves data from the websites you’ve visited. When you first visit a website, your web browser will store certain information about the website in the cache, including logos, images, scripts, and fonts.
When you next visit that website, your web browser will load the information from the cache, rather than from a server potentially thousands of miles away.
What Is the Purpose of Caching?
Caching helps web pages load faster. This is because the website information is stored locally and so is easier to retrieve than if your computer was to try and load information from a server at the other side of the world. Let’s look at an analogy to explain.
When you make pancakes for the first time, it can take some time. You need to look up a recipe, read the recipe, and follow each of the steps. But if you were to memorise the ingredients and steps, you’ll whizz through the process much faster next time. Similarly, caching memorises the information of websites you’ve visited so that when you next visit them, the pages load much faster.
Caching in Terms of Website Design
From a web design perspective, there are a few reasons we want our website to load as fast as possible. First, it improves user experience (UX) and can increase traffic to your website. After all, 50% of Google users who visit a website will leave if it takes more than three seconds to load. A website’s loading speed is also a contributing factor to a website’s ranking in search engine results pages (SERPs).
For those using WordPress, there are several plugins you can install to optimise the speed of your website through caching. This involves storing your website’s information in a server cache for other users to make use of, rather than on your own computer so that it just loads faster for you.
Caching and WordPress Plugins
Autoptimize is a free WordPress plugin that optimises your website’s loading speed. It comes packed with settings and features that allow you to minify and optimise your code, along with image optimisation too. But the kind of caching Autoptimize offers is a little different to the kind of caching your web host might offer. It doesn’t cache HTML files, and instead only caches optimized code.
WP Rocket is another popular caching plugin for WordPress. 80% of WP Rocket’s best practices are automatically applied without any coding required. There is also a tech support team available if you have any questions. Licences start at around $49 per year. WP Rocket does cache HTML, which can lead to faster page speeds than if you just use Autoptimize.
These are just two examples of the many WordPress caching plugins available. While these plugins are an investment (either in terms of time, money, or both), particularly when you’re first starting out, they can really improve your website’s loading speed and SERP rankings. However, always check with your web hosting provider as they might already offer a caching solution, and plugins can interfere with this.
While caching usually works to our advantage, it can occasionally cause some web design issues.
What Does Clearing Your Cache Do?
Clearing your cache empties it of any saved files or code. Caching can sometimes cause problems from a web design perspective. For example, when you make changes to your website, they may not be visible when you first go back to your website.
This is because the browser is pulling the older saved version of the page from your cache, rather than downloading the updated version of it from the internet. The good news is, there’s an easy way to fix this and that’s by clearing your cache.
What Happens When You Clear Your Cache?
Clearing your cache deletes all the websites and information stored in your browser. So, when you then navigate to a website, your browser will load from the internet like you’re visiting it for the first time.
While this may initially make the loading time for web pages a bit longer, it will refresh the website information and allow you to view any changes you’ve made to your website.
How Do You Clear Your Cache?
The process you use to clear your cache will depend on your browser and whether you’re using a PC or a Mac. However, it only takes a few seconds to do regardless of what device you use. Here’s how you clear your cache on Chrome and Firefox.
How to Clear Your Cache on Chrome
On a PC:
- Click on More…, in the top right corner of Chrome
- Click More tools > Clear browsing data
- Select a time range, or select All time to delete everything
- Check the boxes next to Cookies and other site data and Cached images and files
- Click Clear data
On a Mac:
- Press Shift + Command + Delete
- This will open a new browser window
- Check Cached images and files
- Click Clear data
How to Clear Your Cache on Mozilla Firefox
On a PC:
- In the Menu bar, select Firefox > Preferences
- Click on the Privacy and Security panel
- In the Cookies and Site Data section, click Clear Data
- Check the box next to Cached Web Content
- Click Clear
On a Mac:
- In Firefox’s main menu, select History then Clear Recent History
- Select a time range from the dropdown box or Everything
- Click on the arrow next to Details and check the box next to Cache
- Click Clear now
So, if you have any problems viewing changes next time you’re updating your website, you now know what to do!
If you want to read more about other website creation topics, read out other articles here.