Before you “Leverage Browser Caching”… read this
Like everyone, I want to make my Web site faster. And like most of us, I’m absolutely flummoxed when it comes to making that happen. Here’s a cautionary tale from the files of “I Was Stupid So You Don’t Have To Be”.
I decided this summer that I would make my site faster. I found helpful advice from a Webcomics.com guest post from 2011:
Useful tools for monitoring and analysing your page load speed are pingdom.com and a thepagespeed Firefox plugin (yslow is also handy, but it hates Wibya, and will mark you down for using it). Pingdom tests your site from a server in Europe, so if your host is in the US it might show slower results than if you tested with Webpagetest with its multitude of locations to choose from – but Pingdom is useful as a benchmark. — From this Webcomics.com post.
Pagespeed indicated that I had not specified expirations on my image files (under Leverage Browser Caching).
Setting up expiration dates was a simple matter (after a little Google Fu), so I did it. Simple fix, right?
Next thing I know, readers think I’ve quit Evil Inc because their browser keeps showing them the comic from the day I established expiration dates on my images.
See… that expiration date I programmed applied to the image files of my individual strips. And I has set a one-month expiration date. So the strip that was present when I set those expiration dates was going to stay planted on my home page — for 30 days — no matter how many times I updated the site with a new image file!
AND THE ONLY WAY TO FIX THE PROBLEM WAS ON THE USER’S SIDE!
Even though I eliminated the expiration dates, those dates had already been stored in my users’ browsers. And there was only one way to fix that: Communicate the fix (and the need for a fix) to each one of my individual readers. Until then, they would assume that there were no more new Evil Inc strips until thirty days later (if they still bothered to look).
I made my announcement as big and loud and gaudy as I could.
But no matter how glaring I made the announcement, many readers missed it.
I continue to get messages from former readers who — to this day — assume I quit, moved on, died, or some combination of the three.
I’m still experimenting with ways to make my site faster. But, until I have a lot better understanding of setting expiration dates for image files, I’m going to leave it just as it is.
Needless to say, I’ll be posting my findings — good and bad — here.