As a marketing ninja and website designer, I offer website maintenance as a service. And as being/offering all of those things to small business owners, I also often become their one stop for all-things-tech. I am sure you could only imagine the “quick questions” I get. One of the more common ones is that the website isn’t working or loading. I can totally relate to how scary and panicky this could make business owners feel, as I have been there too.
Remember in the “old days” (except you young whippersnappers) when our computers (before laptops and high tech mobile devices) would “go down” or something wonky (technical term lol) would happen, and the response would always be…. Restart your computer? Times have changed.
Clear your cache, cookies & history
So now, we have more to do, because remember I said, back in the old days? Well, we aren’t there now and with all these more advanced technologies, things change, so must we. Ugh, I KNOW! So, clear them puppies. Restarting your computer doesn’t do this. And keep in mind, that clearing these things on your laptop doesn’t affect your phone, as it’s a different device and likely a different browser on top of that. Your tablet, yep, clear that one too. Can’t hurt to restart your phone, tablet, laptop or desktop either. Plus, you likely have updates to do and most of those require restarting too.
Let’s look at all of the “moving pieces” to help you understand the point of this blog – so stick with me, it’ll make more sense.
A browser is a software application that allows you to view web pages on the internet. Examples of this are: Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, (IE – dear God, just don’t), DuckDuckGo, Mozilla Firefox, Safari, etc.
Browsers provide a user interface for accessing and navigating web pages, displaying media such as images and videos, and executing scripts that make web pages interactive.
As an aside – let’s not confuse this with search engines which is a web-based tool that enables you to search for information on the internet. Search engines index and categorize vast amounts of information on the web and allow users to enter search queries in the form of keywords or phrases to find relevant content, in fractions of a second. We can only imagine how much storage Google has in order for all this to happen, right?
I just searched “underwater basket weaving” and received “About 2,680,000 results (0.55 seconds)”. Just imagine storing all of that data?
Back to browsers – the steps of action:
- parsing the URL – when you enter a URL in the address bar or click on a link, the browser first parses the URL to determine the domain name of the website and the specific page you want to access.
- establish the connection – connect to that web hosting with security (http v https)
- sends a request – your default browser sends a request to the server for the web page you want to access. The request includes information such as the type of browser you’re using, the language you prefer, and other details.
- rendering the page – the browser then starts rendering the web page by parsing the HTML code and creating a Document Object Model (DOM) tree. The DOM tree is a representation of the page’s structure and allows the browser to render the page correctly.
- display the page – once the DOM tree is created, the browser uses the CSS styling information to apply the appropriate layout and formatting to the page’s content. Then the browser displays the web page on your screen. FINALLY, right??
My point – A LOT happens… lots of code, lots of computer language stuff back and forth. Browsers are complex pieces of software that rely on a variety of technologies to provide users with a seamless web browsing experience.
Cache & cookies
Real quick, it’s not cash, but sounds the same and cache is a means for storing your web data to allow it to be quickly served back to you later. Which, the irony of the thing, is that it allows for your browser to load that page quicker the next time and not having to download it from the server and all those steps above. So, imagine how much searching you do and how much your browser is storing.. which could in turn slow things down, catch 22 right?
Cookies are little files that are stored on your browser from the websites that you visit. They are little reminders of your personal preferences, pages you visited, products you were interested in, what you put in your cart, interests and etc. This could also include some more personal information which is why it isn’t a bad idea to clear this often to help protect your privacy.
Benefits of clearing “all the things”
So, with all that happening behind the scenes and such, it likely makes more sense. But it isn’t just to drive you crazy with extra things you need to do, but there are benefits.
Those benefits are to help to improve your browsing speed, protect your privacy, and ensure that you are seeing the most up-to-date content on websites, including yours.
When you visit a website, your browser stores some of the data from that site in its cache, which is essentially a temporary storage area. This includes images, scripts, and other elements of the page that can be loaded more quickly on subsequent visits. However, over time, this cache can become clogged with old data, which can slow down your browser’s performance and make your online experience less efficient.
Protects your privacy
When you visit websites, your browser keeps a record of the pages you have visited, as well as any login credentials or other sensitive information you may have entered. If someone else gains access to your device, they could potentially use this information to access your accounts or steal your identity. Clearing your history can help to prevent this from happening by removing this sensitive data from your browser. Plus, hopefully you have some sort of security, passwords and such on your devices.
Up to date content
Finally, clearing your cache and history can ensure that you are seeing the most up-to-date content on websites. Websites can change frequently, and if your browser is using outdated information from its cache, you may not see the latest updates. Clearing this history can help to ensure that you are seeing the most recent version of a website, which can be particularly important for news sites or other sites that are updated frequently.
Clearing history to view your website
To further the point above about up to date content and speed, clearing your history can render the most up to date version of YOUR website to you. You are likely on your website many times throughout the month, making updates, adding blogs, updating your plugins, monthly back ups and etc, so to ensure you see the “best version of your site”, clear your cache!
Think of it this way, your home – you want the best version of your home, naturally. You live in it daily and thus, it sometimes gets dirty, but it’s still the same house, but we need to clean it up from the dust, dirt, soap scum, food, crumbs, etc as we live in it daily, to show the best version of it… that make a little more sense?
The more versions of our website we store, our browsers may have a hard time figuring out which version it needs to show. Clear your cache and you’ll see the most recent, the most up to date version.
Hopefully that has been helpful in understanding some browser maintenance and knowledge so you can see what you want to see most, and quickly. Should you need a website built, need to make quite a few changes on your website, or just want regular upkeep, please contact me as I’d love to help you.
Meghan Monaghan says
You made a very complicated topic much easier to understand, so thanks for that! I don’t clear my cache often enough. The truth is…I’m lazy and don’t want to have to re-login. In fact, I don’t even like closing my browser or rebooting my laptop, that’s how lazy I am. Maybe it isn’t laziness as much as it is that I don’t feel like it’s a priority. Anyway, you provided lots of solid reasons for doing some maintenance tasks, so I’m convinced!
Kristen Day says
Girl.. that is IT! So true. I don’t think you are lazy but so many websites make getting in such a hassle. Login, are you sure you are who you are, let’s ask you some questions and then let’s send you an email and now let’s send you a text… and for everything we log into and do… a PAIN IN THE REAR.
So I, like you.. don’t do it unless something isn’t working and I need to be sure it’s not broken, it’s just the browser.
Quick tip, if it works on incognito or another browser, it’s not broken and it needs to be cleared. And ahhhh, what a pain. Thank you!