Whenever I make a change to a website, and then email back my client that the change is done, I always tell them to refresh the page. I am often asked why. The answer is that while CASH is a web designer’s best friend, CACHE is his worst enemy. Cache is a collection of all the files from web pages that you visited that are stored locally on your computer. The way web browsers work is that when you visit a web page, a local copy of the HTML file, images, and other files such as a Flash and resource files are stored locally on your computer. Most people visit the same websites frequently, so in order to speed up download time, the browser pulls this copy from your local computer when you visit the web page a second time. This way, instead of downloading the files from the Internet, it just loads them directly and quickly off your hard drive.
The web browser’s refresh button tells the browser to reload the page by looking for the latest version on the server. This will usually update the page and bring the newest version of the content into cache and clear out the old cached information. When I do a change on a clients’ website, and they look at the page without refreshing, they will most likely still see the old version prior to my update and wonder why they don’t see the latest changes. Learning from experience, I now always tell clients to refresh the page when emailing that a change was done.
Sometimes even a refresh won’t properly clear out the cache. This is especially true with flash files or images that have the same filename as before. In these instances, the only way to resolve the matter is to do a process called clearing cache. Clearing cache flushes your locally stored downloaded Internet files, and starts all over again. Any files stored locally from your browser will be gone, and your browser has to get a fresh new version of all the pages. Clearing cache is also important if you want to remove your digital footprint from any of the pages you visited, since without clearing cache, every page you visited and every image you browsed will be stored locally on your computer.
Every browser has its own method of clearing cache. For a good reference, going through a step-by-step process for each browser and version, view this Wikihow web page.
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