Regular content updates and product and image uploads on a website are essential to engage with your users, stay relevant in your industry, and for your SEO strategy (rankings in search engines).

However, there can be instances where you make changes, publish your work, and are unable to view the updates you’ve made.

This can be a cause of frustration as you check your work but is perfectly normal – changes to your website can often take a short while to appear.

Looking for a quick solution?

While we go into detail below, if you can’t see your changes, you can clear your browser’s cache by holding the Shift key while clicking Reload. This works in most browsers including Google Chrome. If this doesn’t work, try again in one hour before becoming concerned.

Why do delays happen and what does it mean?

Once you understand the reasons why there may be a delay, it can reduce your frustration and help you to schedule in website updates with plenty of time.

Cached content

Although search engines like Google are looking for regular content updates, they are also checking your website’s page speed as a ranking factor. Therefore, in order to deal with both regular updates and keeping your page speed down, many websites incorporate something called website caching.

What does caching do?

Caching helps to “store” all the code that is being generated and to reduce the overall requests being made to your website. In turn, this aids with page speed and makes your website more search engine friendly, which can improve rankings.

This has become more of a standard as more and more web traffic moves to mobile devices, which require faster interaction due to limited data reach or reduced internet connections.

Are there drawbacks to website caching?

There can be drawbacks to serving compressed website caches. In storing the information, new updates and changes can be delayed from showing instantly.

This is why in some instances you may notice the changes you have just made and are checking are not showing. Most websites that incorporate caching do have optional settings to automatically clear the cache when a new page or post is updated, however this can be restricted depending on how the website is built and any additional functionality.

What different caching options are available to you?

Although web caching can be set up within the website itself, there are actually multiple different locations where caching can be set. Some you can clear yourself, and others you can’t.

Browser caching

All web browsers maintain their own caching and have their own options and settings which you can customise individually, or which come active as standard.

These are usually set to reduce the amount of requests being made to the website so that the browser can load pages more quickly. These can be manually cleared by clearing your browser cache or hard refreshing (Shift+Reload) on most devices.

This should then make the browser initiate a new request from the website and show the latest changes. However, this all depends on what settings you have active on your browser.

Web application caching

In order to avoid rendering pages over and over again, your site may employ some caching on the server within the application itself. This is normally cleared whenever something changes, and is generally disabled on pages which show user specific content.

This type of caching aims to prevent the server from being overloaded by a sudden increase in traffic. This cannot be bypassed from the browser.

Occasionally, these caches need manually clearing from within the WordPress dashboard.

Caching proxies

Proxies act as a “gateway” between the user and the server fetching the content from a website. When a user attempts to access content from your site, the proxy will see if it has a recent version of it on hand.

Normally these only cache static resources such as images, documents and stylesheets, not rendered html pages (e.g. from WordPress).

Often, this service is provided by a third party (such as Cloudflare) who employ a CDN to further improve performance and even provide local points of presence for content to prevent latency due to geography or network topography.

Generally the best way to avoid updated documents being cached is to change the filename to reflect the change.

From time to time it may be necessary for a developer/administrator to clear this cache. Once again, this cannot be bypassed in browser.

Internal network level cache

Some companies will use a local proxy in the building to allow users to access websites and servers on the internet.

In addition to intercepting internet requests and responses like intermediary proxies, a firewall will also monitor incoming traffic and determine what traffic and sites are allowed.

This intercepts any new requests and loads what it has on record, meaning if anyone on the network has viewed the same page, they will not be able to see any updates.

Again this allows web pages to load instantly, but means any updates are not easy to view. The only way for these changes to come through would be to change the url slightly (appending a ? to the end) or for the IT department in charge of your internal network to flush the cache.

Summary

As long as you remember to clear your browser cache when you need your changes to show, or are happy with your changes to show when the system naturally updates after several hours, then you will not have any issues with seeing your changes on site.

Unfortunately there is no way to combine clearing the cache and setting automatic updates easily as you do require a high cache time to be set online, otherwise this can affect your SEO as the search engines will see your pages as temporary pages.

At the moment, it’s a balancing act to maintain both a fast loading site and the ability to view changes instantly.

Our services

Get in touch with our development team for a no-obligation quote to improve the performance of your own website, or to enquire about an optimised web build.

Call 01403 261491 or email info@britweb.co.uk.

Posted in Content, User Experience.

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