If you have a WordPress website, it goes without saying that you will want to increase the traffic on your website. So, to accomplish this you will go all out and market your product/service/blog in order to spike the traffic on your website and create a digital imprint of the brand you are trying to create. But, the important thing to understand is that this ideally should be step 2. Step 1 should include building the means to handle this spike in traffic when it eventually does happen.
This is important because, without the appropriate resources, increase in visitors on your website is inversely proportional to the speed of your website. A dip in the speed of your website would translate into loss of visitors just as fast as you got them. One very effective means of addressing this issue is Caching. In WordPress Caching can be done using a caching plugin.
What Does a Caching Plugin in WordPress do?
A caching plugin in WordPress saves dynamically created content as a static page on the web server. So, on every consequent request, this page is rendered from the web server, without any additional processing on the database.
Features to look Out for in a Caching Plugin
- Page Caching, Database caching and Object Caching
The foremost and most essential feature your plugin must support is page caching, database caching and object caching. While page caching is available in most caching plugins, it is database caching and object caching that you should look out for. These two features will be exceptionally helpful if you you have a highly dynamic site, for instance an eCommerce site, which needs to deal with complex database queries which are expensive to regenerate.
- Exclude Pages from being Cached
Every good caching plugin in WordPress should have a feature to exclude pages from being cached. This is important because while some pages might not need to be refreshed on every load, pages like ‘My Cart’ on an eCommerce site need to be refreshed on every load. Caching of dynamic pages can lead to stale data being rendered to the user. So using this option you can add a list of pages which you wish to be excluded from caching.
- CDN Support
One important feature you should look out for while deciding on a caching plugin for your WordPress site is that it should support the CDN you are using. If you are wondering what CDN is, then here it is, CDN is Content Delivery Network. Still clueless?? Don’t worry! CDN is a network of data servers that renders cached data to web users from a server which is nearest to the user.
As I have explained above, an increase in traffic on your website leads to an increase in the amount of processing on your web hosting server. This results in a decrease in the speed at which a page from your website gets loaded. This is where a CDN comes into the picture. If you are using a CDN then static data from website is cached on all the servers in the CDN. Now, every time a user makes a request for a page on your website, a cached copy is sent from a server nearest to the user. So, if your CDN has a key involvement in delivering cached data I would say it is rather important to have CDN support in your caching plugin. While there are separate plugins available for CDN support I would say avoid the overhead.
- Cache Rebuild
The plugin should provide a feature to purge the cached content periodically and rebuild the cache so that a user is able to get updated content each time he visits the site.
Another feature to look out for while choosing a caching plugin is ‘Minify’. This feature essentially compresses your static file thereby saving valuable space on your server and saving on costly bandwidth. Hence having this feature in your caching plugin is an add-on. Well, the reason I am saying add-on is because, in case this feature is not available in your caching plugin then you can always choose from the many minification plugins available. If I would be you I would avoid the overhead for myself and my website.
- Browser Caching
Browser caching mainly deals with saving your CSS, logo and other resources which have been downloaded when your web page was displayed. You can set the amount of time you want this downloaded content to be saved on the users system. But don’t set the time for the content to be cached for say like 6 months or 1 yr cause this might result in users getting web pages which have not been updated at some later point in time. This feature allows us to decide the amount of we want our webpage to be cached on the user’s machine thus making us independent of the user’s browser cache settings.
Caching Plugins Available in WordPress
If you run a search in the plugin directory of wordpress.org you will be swamped with a plethora of caching plugins. Don’t get perturbed by the never ending list. The two plugins that will stand out in the list are W3 Total Cache and WP Super Cache. Even if you are not technically inclined you can downsize these two solely based on the number of downloads. Technically speaking the key differences are listed below.
|W3 Total Cache||WP Super Cache|
|Too many configuration settings||Few configuration settings|
|Has an option to minify||Does not have an option to minify|
|Supports Browser Caching||Does Not support Browser Caching|
|Supports Database and Object Caching||Does not Support Database and Object Caching|
Caching Plugin in WordPress: Before and After
Below is a real time example of the loading time of our website ‘wisdmlabs.com’ before and after the use of caching Plugins as tested on Test Web Page Speed
|Load Time Without Caching Plugin||Load Time with WP Super Cache||Load Time with W3 Total Cache|
However having given the difference between the features and performance of the two plugins on ‘wisdmlabs.com’ I am not implying that one is better than the other. We are currently using W3 Total Cache on our site. But that is because it works for us. The performance of these plugins depends on factors such as host, server and infrastructure being used by your website. So take these into consideration while deciding on a plugin.
Final Word on Caching Plugin in WordPress
In my opinion a caching plugin should definitely be used in your website. But, it should not be used indiscriminately. All static pages and blog pages of the website should undoubtedly be cached. So, pages like the Homepage, Contact page, About Us page and Blog pages should be cached. However, pages in which the content is refreshed on every request should not be cached as this could lead to incorrect historical data. Hence, it follows that pages such as ‘My Cart’ on an eCommerce site should not be cached. If caching plugins are used aptly then they can serve as a very powerful tool in your websites performance while dealing with increasing traffic.
You have any other views?? Please feel free to let us know in our comments sections 🙂
Also, watch this space for more on caching plugins. A post on configuration settings for W3 Total cache will be coming soon.