CMS 101: What does clearing your cache mean?

A big part of any website design is clearly the way that it looks to visitors.

However, something that shouldn’t be underestimated is the part of the website that visitors don’t get to see; its back-end or content management system (CMS).

This is the part of the site that allows you to edit content and add images or other elements onto the site and at UpriseVSI, we’ve developed our own content management system, thinkCMS.

It was vital that the back-end CMS was as easy to use and navigate as the front-end of the site, which is why we built it based on responsive website design, which allows admin users access on any device, whether mobile, tablet or desktop.

Knowing your CMS

We’ve already explored some of the questions you should ask when choosing a CMS in a previous blog but we thought it would be useful to explore the functionality of a CMS in more detail.

We’ve decided to put together a series of blogs to help people who manage their company’s website and offer them a few tips on how you can get the most out of your CMS.

In this CMS 101, we take a look at a phrase that you may have heard once or twice; clear your cache.

What is cache?

Put simply, and in relation to websites, cache (pronounced cash) is temporarily stored data that relates to the website you are visiting.

Broadly speaking, there are two types of caching:

Browser caching

Browser caching allows your browser to store the content, images, menus, Javascript files, stylesheets, fonts and other data that relates to a website page.

Server caching

Server caching is the same process but it’s the server that stores the data and then serves these to the browser.

We won’t necessarily look too much at the technical details behind the specifics of each but while the process is complex, the principle behind both is effectively the same and relatively straightforward.

Cache is king

Caching is a vital process that ensures website visitors have a smooth and seamless user experience. It can be summed up (pun intended) by this example:

When you perform a simple sum, such as 4 x 3, you’ll know that the answer is 12 without calculating it. This is because, hopefully, you’ve already worked it out so many times before that you simply remember the answer.

That’s similar to how caching works. The first time you visit a website, the browser or server will perform some complex calculations to ensure that you can see everything from the header to the footer and everything in-between exactly how it was designed to be seen.

If you were to revisit that website, rather than repeating the laborious process of retrieving the same information, when caching is enabled, the browser or server will package up the cached data from your last visit and deliver that instead.

Since website speed is exceptionally important, ensuring that visitors can access your page as soon as possible is vital.

If the content on the page hasn’t changed, then the caching process is great. But what if the content has changed?

Cache for questions

We’ve established that website caching is an important process for improving user experience and reducing the load speed of a page.

However, if you need to make changes during the editing stage of writing a blog post or when updating a web page, you’ll want to see those changes without the cache delivering a previous version of the page.

Understandably, you’ll want to know how to bypass the cache process and reload the page so that you can see the most up-to-date version of it.

However, it’s worth remembering that caching is specific to the device that you are on when viewing the page, so new users to a website will always see the newest version of the page when they first visit it.

Cache in hand

Here are a few ways that you can clear the cache on a website page.

Basic browser refresh

While you’re on the web page in question, simply press F5. This is a shortcut to reload your web browser. In many cases, this will be enough to refresh the cache of the page.

If you have a Mac, the equivalent of pressing F5 is the shortcut, Command + R.

Hard browser refresh

You can also click on the refresh icon of your browser while holding down the control button on your keyboard. This will perform a hard refresh for the web page.

If you have a Mac, Shift, Command + R should perform a hard refresh.

URL browser refresh

You can also refresh the cache of a webpage by simply adding some characters to the end of the URL.

For example, you can refresh the cache on this page by simply adding ?nocache=1.

This will work on any web page and deliver a no-cache version of the same page.

Cold, hard cache

Understanding how caching works can allow you to manage and edit pages of your website more effectively. It also means that you can see any changes that you make instantly.

We’ll sometimes have customers calling our website support team, worried that they can’t see the changes they made to the page that they just edited.

Thankfully, it doesn’t happen often because our own content management system, thinkCMS, actually prevents browser caching while it’s enabled. This means that it will disable caching while you are working on one of our websites.

Hopefully, this blog has shown that with a bit of cold, hard caching, you can manage the content of your website without any more worries.

If you’d like to find out what else our content management system could do for your website, give us a call now.

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