Tips for leveraging browser cache
Browser cache refers to the files that are stored temporarily on your computer when you visit websites. Such files may include HTML files, graphic images, and other multimedia content. When all these files are cached, you may not have sufficient space and this causes the website to load slowly.
Leveraging browser caches involve specifying for how long your browser files are stored locally, meaning that your websites load faster. To leverage browser cache is a simple task that can be applied to different file types.
How do you leverage browser caching?
The server and the visitor’s browser interact through a cache mechanism that allows the visitor’s computer to store copies of files or strings of code from the server. The visitor can then access this information directly without having to request it from the server. This ensures faster access to information, and it greatly speeds up page load times.
Although you can also speed up the loading of your website by using one or more cache mechanisms, the following leverage browser caching mechanisms are most potent for different web files.
Caching via .htaccess file
By adding a small snippet to the .htaccess file, you can check your browser caching. This can be done through two ways:
Mod_Expires is a cache header that gives a specific time or date for the expiration of a cached file or resource. Several codes can be added to your .htaccess file to change the access time and type of file to suit your needs.
For instance, Expires: Mon, 13 May 2019 09: 00: 00 GMT indicates that the cached files expire on Mon 13, 2019, at 9:00 am GMT.
Ensure that the mod_expires module is enabled on your server by checking with your host or by the following command through SSH access: sudoa2enmod expires
Add the following code to the .htaccess file and edit the file types and cache access time as you like. (The following are varying access times)
For one hour
Header set Cache-Control “max-age=2500, public”
For one month
Header set Cache-Control “max-age=2588000, public”
For one week
Header set Cache-Control “max-age=486400, public”
No caching any files
Header set Cache-Control “max-age=0, no-store, private, no-cache”
Enable the Mod_headers module on your server by running the following command via SSH access: sudoa2enmod headers
How to set different caching times for different file types?
Caches times may seem odd depending on the site you are using. Considering that there is no ideal length of caching time, setting caching time depends on how often content changes for you (although the files usually cached should not change frequently). If your content changes on a daily basis, then a 24hour expiration may suit you better. However, base decisions on caching times on what works best for you.
Cache-Control header basics
The cache-control header field is used to specify caching directives in both requests and responses. Most caching directives are unidirectional, meaning that both the request and responses are not similar.
How it works
Each resource can define its caching policy via the Cache-Control HTTP Header. HTTP headers allow the visitor and the server to pass additional information with the response or request. Cache-control directives also determine how and for how long the browser can cache responses. To optimize performance, generating requests that do not need to communicate with the server by using local copies allows you to get rid of network latency and extra data charges.
What are the common caching issues?
Some cached files and images can ruin a user’s experience by serving outdated code that is inconsistent with recent programming changes. The following are common caching issues:
• Web browser cache for a specific user- This saves web files from previously visited web pages on a local machine for future reference, but this may retain outdated information that may result in an unintended user experience.
• Network-wide issues- Caching on the user’s local network becomes a problem if there is poor network connectivity.
• Specific issues with caching plugins- You need to ensure that caching plugins settings are set up correctly or else your plugins won’t work.
The ability to cache and reuse previously loaded content is a very critical aspect of optimizing performance. Fetching information from the network can be slow and expensive as there are delays experienced when the server is processing responses and browser delay before uploading your request.
Knowing how to leverage browser cache will, therefore, go a long way in saving you money and time as well as giving you the ultimate user experience that you crave.