My dad told me months ago that he had visited my website and thought it was running super slow. I realised it was indeed a little slow and decided to investigate on what the problem might be. That’s when I found out about page caching, which isn’t something that I had ever heard of before. I’d worked almost primarily with static website building in school. I knew what caching was, and that browser cache needs to be deleted once in a while and especially when you’re seeing something on your screen and your co-worker sees something completely different even though it’s the same url. But that was it. We hadn’t learned about website caching. I had to put on my big girl pants and learn on my own.
W3 Total Cache
On my little research into this fascinating new (to me!) subject, I found out about a plethora of plugins that would do the job of clearing my WordPress website’s cache. The one that was touted as being the best (free) caching plugin in the industry was W3 Total Cache, undoubtedly the goliath of the caching plugins.
From its WordPress Repository page:
W3 Total Cache improves the SEO and user experience of your site by increasing website performance, reducing download times via features like content delivery network (CDN) integration.
The only web host agnostic WordPress Performance Optimization (WPO) framework recommended by countless web developers and web hosts. Trusted by numerous companies like: [redacted] and tens of thousands of others.
Why is W3 Total Cache better than other caching solutions?
It’s a complete framework. Most cache plugins available do a great job at achieving a couple of performance aims. Our plugin remedies numerous performance reducing aspects of any web site going far beyond merely reducing CPU usage (load) and bandwidth consumption for HTML pages alone. Equally important, the plugin requires no theme modifications, modifications to your .htaccess (mod_rewrite rules) or programming compromises to get started. Most importantly, it’s the only plugin designed to optimize all practical hosting environments small or large. The options are many and setup is easy.
I tried to optimize the plugin to hell and back with different settings, to no avail. My website was sluggish. I gave up, but kept the plugin anyway because I hadn’t found a better one yet.
WP Super Cache
I hadn’t found WP Super Cache yet. Yet just a few days ago, I was updating my plugins and theme when I noticed that somehow my site was broken. Images weren’t showing up, some css wasn’t doing what it was supposed to. I did the old trick of disabling all plugins and reactivating one by one to find the culprit. In fact, no, I didn’t disable all plugins. Just W3 Total Cache, because I had an inkling that its minifying features were borking the display of images.
It was the culprit. Page load was actually a bit faster without W3 activated.
What the hell?
I went online, trying to find out whether other people were suffering the same issues. I did find a few from last year or so, but nothing recent. I did some more dorking around with settings. Again my images disappeared. I disabled the minifying feature. Still borked. I dorked around some more. And then I gave up.
I went online and searched for another caching plugin. I’d heard about WP Super Cache relatively recently but had been on the fence about trying it because “it’s the best on the market”. Or something like that. But I’d read that WP Super Cache “does everything W3 Total Cache says it does, but better”. It seemed too good to be true, but what the hell, W3 was failing me so why not.
From its WordPress Repository page:
This plugin generates static html files from your dynamic WordPress blog. After a html file is generated your webserver will serve that file instead of processing the comparatively heavier and more expensive WordPress PHP scripts.
Well guess what? The site loads faster now. And this plugin is quite a bit more intuitive to navigate than W3’s.
So I’ll be sticking to my guns for now. All hail WP Super Cache!