Caching: what is it and why does it matter?

Tips & Tricks

Take a look at your favourite website. Go on, bring it up – we’ll wait. Of course, we hope it’s our website, but any will do (you’ll be caching while you do it).

Like most websites, your favourite one will probably consist of a mix of text, images, videos and other elements. The problem is that these can be quite large. A high-quality image taken on a modern smartphone or digital camera is often several megabytes in size. That means that each time someone looks at that image they have to download a fair chunk of data.  

Now imagine if the website has lots of images on it. A person visiting that website will have to download every one of those images. But is that such a bad thing? The extra waiting time will fuel their anticipation, won’t it? Think again.

Here are 2 key reasons why you don’t want your website to be slow: 

  1. A few years back technology company Incapsula surveyed several thousand Internet users. They discovered that 35% of them would lose interest in a website if it took more than 5 seconds to load. In fact, 7% of them said they would be gone if it didn’t load for them immediately. 
  2. Google uses Page Speed as a ranking factor and will give priority in their search results to websites that load quickest. If one of your competitors has a faster website than yours, they might rank higher than yours and attract more customers than you. 

So how does caching help? 

Caching means that the website images stay in the web server’s active cache memory, which hosts the website. This way, they load faster because they don’t need to load the cache memory fully every time. Basically, it “remembers” them, so when someone views the cached website, the server can immediately display its own saved copy of the images (cached data).

This drastically reduces loading times and offers a much more pleasant experience for the website user. 

There are various different types of caching technologies but they all, in essence, perform exactly the same task. One of the most popular ones is called “Varnish”. 

So, if you haven’t already, it’s worth checking whether your own website utilises caching. And what about your favourite one that you visited earlier? If that loaded for you almost instantly, then there’s a good chance that that’s caching too.

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