“Why doesn’t my site look right?” “I don’t see the latest changes.” “What’s going on?!”
I hear these questions regularly. I even ask them myself sometimes. You or I have updated your website but you’re not seeing the changes.
Did you know that your browser is a hoarder? Technically, it’s called ‘caching’ and that’s the culprit here. I’ll show you how to stage an intervention, deal with your browser’s hoarding, and see your updated website in all its glory!
If we’ve been working together for any length of time, then you would have heard me say “Clear your cache.” I might even have provided instructions on how to do that. But I guess we should back up a bit here. What is a “cache?”
A “cache”, in computer lingo, is a storage location for items that your browser downloaded previously. Caching has been around for a long time and was particularly important when we connected by dial up (remember this sound?). Having files (like images) in a cache means that your browser doesn’t need to download them again and this speeds up the display of web pages.
This sounds pretty good doesn’t it? It is, except for when it isn’t! Let me explain.
Caching is a valuable part of browsing even now in the age of much faster Internet connections. Modern websites have so much more going on so they still need every boost they can get. But what’s the problem? Caching can prevent you from seeing changes on the website. You login to your site, and make some changes but the browser is still showing the old, cached version of the page. The solution is to clear the cache.
Frequently, you can do a ‘hard reload’ to try clearing the cache. This is done as follows:
On a Windows browser hold down Ctrl and then press F5
On a Mac browser hold down Cmd and Shift and then press R
Done a ‘hard reload’ and still not seeing the change? This may not have removed the files you needed gone. Next, try deleting all the files in the browser’s cache. You can follow these instructions to clear the cache on desktop and mobile browsers.
Let’s say you’ve cleared your browser cache but you’re still not seeing the expected changes. This happens because there are multiple caches – some of which you control, like those on your computer or phone, and many others that you don’t, such as on the website itself or at your Internet Service Provider.
Here are a few things to try, in this order:
- Use a different browser that you haven’t used before to visit this site. Using Chrome? Try Firefox or Edge, etc. (We’re bypassing the browser cache.)
- Try a different device. (We’re bypassing the device cache.)
3. Use a different Internet connection. If you have data on your phone, switch off WiFi and use your data connection. (We’re bypassing the Internet Service Provider’s cache.)
4. Use a third-party tool that will give you a snapshot of the site. I like GT Metrix for this. It will give you a snapshot of the top part of the page which might be enough in some cases.
At this point, we’ve exhausted the options on your devices. What’s next?
- Clear the cache on the website. Either you or your web developer can clear the cache on the site.
6. If using Cloudflare or equivalent, you can temporarily bypass its cache so that you can see what’s happening.
Hoarding Caching is an incredibly important part of providing fast web browsing but sometimes the solution itself can be the problem. The steps above can help you to troubleshoot this situation and see your website the way it should truly appear.
Photo credit: Diane Diederich at iStock Photo