What is a caching plugin and why should you use one?
On most websites, a majority of the content is static.
This means that a given page presents the same content and layout to each and every user, regardless of who is viewing it. (E.g. when Susan who lives in Detroit and Bob who lives in Houston pull up yourdomain.com/about-me/, they see the same thing.)
There is actually a fascinating and very lengthy series of steps that WordPress executes behind the scenes, each and every time a particular URL is loaded, to generate the page that is ultimately served to the user. The challenge is that, particularly as your website becomes increasingly busy, this process begins to tie up an ever larger share of resources with each visit.
A caching plugin is designed to recognize that, with few exceptions, these pages do not need to be rebuilt each time around; rather, the output can simply be saved and re-issued to the next visitor.
Which caching plugin should you use?
Here at Webster Park, we install and activate Litespeed for all of our hosted clients. However, Litespeed requires use of the Litespeed web server, which many mainstream hosts do not offer. Before switching from Apache to Litespeed, we relied upon WP Rocket.
Both Litespeed and WP Rocket make it easy to:
- Cache all user-facing pages, posts and custom post types.
- Automatically refresh the cache whenever relevant content (e.g. pages or posts) are updated.
- Concatenate and minify all of your external scripts (CSS, JS, etc.).
- Avoid caching dynamic or member content (for example, a shopping cart or an account page containing user details).
- Optimize your database, removing unneeded data.
- Quickly improve your scores in page speed utilities like GTMetrix, Pingdom or Google PageSpeed Insights. (Note: we use these services ourselves and find them helpful but recommend that you don't lose sleep over them; it isn't always practical or even possible to achieve perfect scores without unacceptable compromise.)
- Use Litespeed if your host offers it; otherwise, use WP Rocket.