Cache 101: Why Your Changes Aren’t Showing Up

Cache 101: Why Your Website Changes Don't Show Up Right Away

Cache. Maybe you’ve heard this term before, or maybe it’s completely new to you. Regardless, if you’re a website owner, it’s important to know what exactly it is and how it affects you. So let’s jump right in!

What Is Cache, Anyway?

So, website owners, I’ve got a question for you: have you ever been messing around in the back end of your account, making changes to your website that you thought you saved, but when you visit the front end of your site, you notice that nothing is different?

Your changes just straight up aren’t showing up.

That, my friends, 9 times out of 10, is due to cache.

Caching is the process of creating static versions of your website content.

It is this static version that gets loaded when visitors view your page.

Think of it like this: every time someone visits a page or post on your website, queries are sent to and from your database. This takes time, and it also uses up resources on your website’s hosting server.

If a static version of that post or page is served to that visitor instead, it reduces the number of queries, thus reducing the server load and the loading time for the visitor.

Since you won’t be updating most posts or pages on your website everyday, this process usually works out quite well! However, there are times when cache interferes when you need to make important changes on your website.

Let’s keep going to learn a little more about that….

Types of Cache: Browser Cache

You know how sometimes, you visit a site once and it takes a while to load, but the next few times you visit, it shows up super fast? This is due to your browser cache.

The first couple of things I do when changes I make on websites aren’t showing up is:

  • Refresh the page a few times. Sometimes, it takes more than one refresh for new changes to show up. If that doesn’t work, I move on to…
  • Clear the browser cache. How to do this varies by your internet browser and/or device. (Here are instructions on how to clear your cache for the following popular browsers: Google Chrome, Safari, Firefox)

Types of Cache: Site Cache via WordPress Plugin

If you’re using WordPress, pay attention!

Cache functionality is not native to WordPress, however, there are several popular plugins that can add it in.

If you’ve installed a caching plugin (such as W3 Total Cache), make sure you follow the plugin’s instructions to find out how to clear its cache.

Most plugins automatically clear the cache when a post or page is published or edited, however, for other changes (like modifications to your theme), you may need to do it manually.

What is Cache?

Types of Cache: Server-Side Cache

Because cache can drastically reduce the load on your server, it is beneficial for web hosting companies to utilize caching. However, many hosts do this without explicitly telling you. This is extremely common if you have a managed WordPress hosting plan.

Sometimes, you can login to your hosting control panel and clear the cache; however, not all web hosts give you this option. You may want to contact your hosting company’s support department to inquire more about the cache used on your server and how you or they can clear it or turn it off.

(And just a side note: some WordPress plugins can add server-side cache options to your website, too.)

Caching Best Practices

  • When in doubt, clear your browser cache. This is the first place to start!
  • Be knowledgable about the plugins you have installed and what they do. Many optimizer plugins, for example, have cacheing options built into them if you start digging into the configuration settings.
  • Disable the cache plugin if you are doing lots of work on your website. Just remember to turn it back on when you’re done!