It seems like seldom a week goes by in our business without at least one “I can’t see it” problem.
Have you ever had your web developer tell you that they’ve implemented a change to your website and then not been able to see it? It’s a common occurrence and it’s most frequently due to browser caching.
What is cache?
Cache (pronounced “cash”) is temporary storage used by computers to speed things up. Caching as it relates to websites is most commonly associated with the web browser on your local computer. All the popular browsers (Chrome, Firefox, Safari, etc.) cache webpages, meaning they store, on your computer, copies of webpages you have viewed to make your future viewing of those pages go faster. For example, let’s say you visit webpage A and then click on a link that takes you to webpage B. Your browser (on your local computer) will most likely cache a copy of webpage A so that if you hit your back button from webpage B, the browser can load the stored copy of webpage A instead of having to send a request to the web server (over the internet) to resend webpage A back over the internet (which takes much longer).
Where are webpages located?
In order to understand caching, it helps to understand where webpages come from. When you click on a webpage link or enter a new URL on your browser, the browser will first check to see if it has a cached copy on your computer. If a copy exists, it will load the copy and you will most likely see it very quickly. This is how caching really helps. Otherwise, if the browser does not have a cached copy, it will have to download the webpage from the internet. Sometimes webpages contain a lot of text and images and sending all that information over the internet can take a long time.
Why don’t I see updates to my website?
If your browser has stored a copy of a webpage the way it looked when you last viewed it, recent changes that your web developer made may not show up. Simply put, you’re looking at an old version. To see the new changes to your webpage you may need to clear your browser cache, thereby deleting all copies stored there. Instructions on how to clear the cache for the browser you are using are readily accessible via Google searches.
What if I’ve cleared the browser cache and I still don’t see updates to my website? Sometimes websites use caching too. If you’ve cleared your browser cache and you still can’t see recent changes, you may need to ask your web developer to clear the website cache for you.
In a nutshell, caching is used by your browser and possibly by your website to allow you to view webpages as quickly as possible. Although caching is very useful, it can also be inconvenient at times. But, when managed properly, the pros outweigh the cons.