Have you ever noticed that the first time you visit a site it might be a little slow to load but the next time you visit it, it loads quickly?
While there are many reasons for a slow-loading site, I want to address caching (pronounced CASHING).
What in the world is caching? No, it has nothing to do with money.
In its simplest form, caching is the process of storing data on your hard drive in a cache. A cache is a temporary storage area. Why does that matter?
When you pull up a web page, the files get stored in a cache directory. Then when you return to the page you’ve recently looked at, the browser can grab the files from the cache rather than the original server.
Having a local copy of a web page makes for very quick loading on your next visit. This is because your computer doesn’t have to download all of that same information from the Internet again.
The result is it saves you time (the data is pulled up quicker) and it saves the network the burden of additional traffic.
Sometimes things look quirky (a technical term meaning something that is strange/not normal). It could be because you’re pulling up old information.
When this happens, clearing your Internet cache (history) often resolves the issue. Doing so forces your browser to retrieve the newest copy available from the website.
To determine how to clear the cache for the particular browser you use, check out this article.
Now that you have a basic understanding of what caching is, let’s turn our attention to WordPress websites.
The object of caching is to store dynamically generated data (using PHP) in a static format (using HTML) so you can retrieve that data again without further processing.
Since WordPress is an application that calls a database to retrieve content for your users, caching your content is a helpful way to speed up the performance of your server.
As the traffic on your site goes up, the efficiency of your server goes down.
Even though your site might not have a huge amount of traffic right now, it is best to prepare for a growing user base by implementing a caching strategy. You can do this by using a caching plugin, such as using WP Super Cache or W3 Total Cache, as soon as you can.
To show you an example of how this might work, I recently updated the header of a website and noticed that the new header showed in Firefox, but the old header was showing in Internet Explorer, Chrome, and Safari.
The browsers were pulling from the cache memory, which of course had stored the old header. Clearing the cache in the plugin solved the issue.
It’s a good practice to turn off and purge the cache when changing the template or design of your site. This ensures that you’re seeing the latest version of the page and not a cached one.