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DevSecOps

What is "Cache Control" and why do you need it on your website?

What is "Cache Control" and why do you need it on your website?

There are many reasons why you would want to control the caching of your website. Even with the increasing speed of internet connections, users will visit websites that have content that is more time-sensitive than other pages. For example, a news website might only have articles available for anonymous users, but have details and images available to logged in users. Therefore, it’s important that you understand what caching is and how you can use it on your own site to improve its performance. 

The first thing you need to understand is what “cache” means in this context. Caching simply means storing copies of webpages so that they are instantly accessible when someone visits them again. The idea behind this is to make the user experience faster by producing cached versions of pages whenever possible rather than recreating them from scratch each time.

You will also hear this term used when talking about webpages: the URL or Uniform Resource Locator . This is a way of specifying where a webpage should be located on the internet so that it can be reached by different locations or devices. For example, if someone goes to your website then changes their location or switches devices then their URL needs to change too so as not to confuse visitors who follow the same link from different locations or search engines.

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Learning Objectives

What is Cache Control?

Cache control is a feature of HTTP which allows the website owner to specify an expiration date for cached versions of pages. For example, you might want to store a cached version of your homepage and automatically delete that cached copy after three days. This would mean that people who visited the URL before those three days would see the most recent version of your homepage.

This is important because it means you can have multiple URLs for the same webpage and have different expiration dates for those URLs. You might have one URL live on a social media platform and another live on your website. The cache control feature means that the cache from one URL won't be accessible if someone visits the other page first.

Another way that cache control can be used is in conjunction with caching. For example, when someone visits your homepage, you could set an expiry date of one month rather than keep it permanently cached like before. This gives visitors an instant access to their preferred content while still allowing them to check out newer content on your site at any time they want in future.

Cache Control example

Why is Cache Control Important?

Cache control can be very important in a number of ways, but the two most significant reasons are to improve performance and to make your website more search engine-friendly. For example, if you have a website that contains a lot of content, you might have to write that content multiple times. If there is too much content on one page, then it will not be possible for the visitor to see everything without being redirected through several pages. This is where cache control comes in handy; by designating what information should be cached (this would ideally be just text), then when the visitor comes back later they will only need to recreate the cached version instead of making them go through all of the steps again.

For another example, if someone is searching for your business on Google and they find your website as one of the first results then they will be less likely to click on your webpage because it’s one of many results. By having cache control set up correctly, you can tell search engines which pages should not show up in these results and ensure that only relevant information gets found so that visitors find what they're looking for faster.

Why is Cache Control on websites important?

Cache control can have a serious impact on the performance of your website. The first thing that happens when a visitor comes to your site is that they see a cached version of the page instead of an original one. This is why it’s important to have cache control features in place so that cached pages can be created automatically in seconds and visitors don’t have to wait for new content to load.

The feature will also help prevent users from being redirected or lost when they visit your site from different locations or devices. If someone follows a link on their desktop computer, then logs into their mobile device as they are browsing then it would cause any other visits from search engines or other visitors on their mobile device to be redirected from their desktop computer.

This is why having cache control enabled is helpful and what you should consider if you want the best possible experience for your users.

How to use cache control on your website

There are types of cache control that you need to be aware of:

  1. How long your website will stay cached for
  2. Whether or not you can control what the page is cached as
  3. No-store
  4. Store

The first option is how long your website stays cached for, which you control via max-age. This determines how long a cached copy of a webpage will be available on the internet before it expires and needs to be regenerated from scratch. The other option is whether or not you can control what the page is cached as, which you would specify in expires headers. The header specifies when the webpage should expire and then needs to be regenerated from scratch again so that visitors don’t receive outdated content.

You can use the no-store directive when your website does not require visitors to download content from your server before viewing it, since this is not necessary for proper content rendering. However, if you do need visitors to download content (such as images or CSS), then you'll want to use the store directive.

The options for a store directive are limited by its originator, which can only specify one variant: public, private or no-cache.

This directive is typically used when all users of a site share a common cache and follow the same rules for caching based on whether they're logged in or not (e.g., private).

Using Cache Settings in WordPress

One of the most important ways to understand how caching works is by understanding the cache settings in WordPress. There are three different options for cache settings; these settings can be found on your WordPress Dashboard under Settings > General.

The first option is called “Do not cache” and it will prevent any cached versions from being created. This is useful if you want to keep your website fresh every time a visitor visits it.

The second option is called “Cache everything except user login” and by default, this setting will only cache the home page and posts. This setting can be changed so that it caches all pages, which can be helpful if you have smaller websites with less content available to visitors.

The third option is called “Cache everything” and this will allow cached versions of all pages and posts. Most webmasters choose this setting because it saves time by enabling caching immediately after a page or post has been updated rather than having to re-cache the entire website when new content is added or edited.

Conclusion

Cache control is a web programming technique that ensures that all content is delivered to users without delay. The cache control files are often found in the css and js directories of the website and allow users to view and use content without interruption.

It’s a very important setting because people who visit your website might not be able to see it right away. The website might need to be refreshed, or users might need to refresh the page in order to see your content. By adding the appropriate cache control settings, your website will load faster and be more user-friendly.

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