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While the headlines are dominated by how your site is ‘supposed’ to look, clued up site owners know speed is the key. If your site doesn’t load and serve pages fast, visitors won’t be in a position to look at your design. Though, if you leverage browser caching within WordPress, you have a good opportunity to keep users around.

There are lots of ways to leverage browser caching. Of course, WordPress being the platform it is, plugins are going to be your first port of call. The good news is there are lots of solutions to help you, although hard-coding a solution is also an option.

In this post, we’ll show you how to leverage browser caching using plugins. First, let’s clear up the difference between server and browser caching.

The Difference Between Server Caching and Browser Caching

For the unaware, a ‘cache’ is a portion of memory that stores often-used data. The idea is that the cache recalls the data rather than loading it fresh every time. The end result is an application that runs faster, without compromising functionality.

As you might expect, there are a few different types of caching that can be implemented. The two broad categories are server caching and browser caching. There are similarities with both, inherent to the caching process:

  • The cache looks for data and information you use on a regular basis.
  • It stores the data away for when you need it next. In other words, when you access a website, the cache servers its files.

Of course, there are inherent differences in each too:

  • A server cache deals with the data under the hood of a website. This involves databases, PHP scripts, content, and more. It uses a separate server to store these elements for next time.
  • A browser cache is also called a ‘client-side cache’. This is because it stores files on your computer, and the website’s code determines how long it’s kept there. It’s a way to serve front end elements faster

Caching in general can be a complex issue, and its efficiency depends on lots of different factors. Your server type, its specifications, your site’s software, design elements, coding structure, and more go into how well a site is cached and how pages are served back to you.

Why You’d Want to Leverage Browser Caching

The main reason you’d want to leverage browser caching is for the User Experience (UX). An end user won’t need to think about caching much. It’s more of a site owner responsibility, but one that affects the UX in a direct way.

It’s long been known that site loading times affect traffic figures, bounce rates, and income for almost all sites. As such, employing some form of caching will let you keep those loading times down.

Though, speed isn’t the only benefit to gain when you leverage browser caching. It’s a prominent reason to use it, but there are other positives too. For example, you can use resources in a more efficient way because there’s less strain at each point of the chain.

There will be other more minor benefits, but for most sites, speed and resource optimization will be reason enough to leverage browser caching. In the next section, we’ll discuss the most straightforward way to get the job done.

How to Leverage Browser Caching Within WordPress

Before we get into the plugin approach, it’s worth talking about the manual method. It involves using Secure File Transfer Protocol (SFTP) to access your site’s server, customizing your .htaccess file. From here, you’ll set a few different options using code.

It’s a solid approach, and one we would still recommend you investigate. Even so, you’ll often have a caching plugin installed on your site, and it will include the functionality you need to leverage browser caching. Because of this, we’ll skip over the manual approach, and show you how to do this through a plugin instead.

Browser Caching Plugins

Of course, you also need to know which plugins have the right functionality. It’s fantastic that almost all of the major players can leverage browser caching. For example, WP Rocket, W3 Total Cache, WP Fastest Cache, and more all have this functionality.

It’s unfortunate that solutions such as WP Super Cache and LiteSpeed Cache either don’t leverage browser caching (as per the former), or don’t guarantee support (as is the case with the latter). If you don’t want to give up one of these plugins, you could use another called Leverage Browser Caching:

leverage browser caching

This does what it says on the tin and works alongside any other solution you have. Regardless, the process to set this up is similar between solutions, and we’ll show you with W3 Total Cache.

First, make sure the plugin is installed and activated. When you’re ready, head to the Performance > General Settings screen to check whether you’ve enabled the Browser Cache:

browser cache settings

Next, go to the Performance > Browser Cache screen within WordPress:

browser cache

This is one section of many, but for this article it’s all you need. Here, check the following boxes:

  • Set expires header
  • Set cache control header
  • Set entity tag (ETag)
  • Set W3 Total Cache header
  • Enable HTTP (gzip) compression

When you’re ready, save your changes, and this should be enough. Note that you can also adjust the header lifetime further on down this page:

header

The default value should be good enough – at 31,536,000 seconds, this equates to a whole year. It’s best not to go under two weeks though (604,000 seconds).

Wrapping Up

The experience of the user is paramount for any application. For a website, UX should be central to your global strategy. If a decision is not user-focused, you may want to reconsider it. Site speed is a massive factor when it comes to UX. Caching can help make your site more efficient and keep loading times high.

In this post, we ‘ve looked at how to leverage browser caching in WordPress. You can go with a manual approach based on your server type and setup, and it’s a worthwhile pursuit. Though, a WordPress plugin such as W3 Total Cache (among others) can get the job done in a few clicks, and let you get back to work running your site.

Do you want to leverage browser caching in WordPress, and if so, what solution will you opt for? Let us know in the comments section below!

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