Elementor Talks #60: How Caching Works

Jean-Baptiste Marchand, Co-founder & CEO of WP Media, explains to us what caching is, shares three steps to make your site faster, and describes how WP Rocket became a leading solution in the WordPress community.

Jean-Baptiste Marchand Arvier, Co-founder and CEO of WP Media and his partner, Jonathan Buttigieg, is responsible for 2 of the most successful WordPress plugins — WP Rocket and Imagify, both help to accelerate page load time and thus, improve site performance.

By 2013, as JB asserts, he and Jonathan had gained expertise in the field of web performance. However, they could not find a performance solution that is easy to configure. Harnessing their knowledge, they set out to create their own solution — a premium caching plugin. And in 2013, WP Rocket was born. 

01

What Is a Caching Plugin

Caching is one of those topics, where a lot of people are aware of it and even talk about this plugin or that plugin. But, I’m not sure if they know what it means. So, can you give us, you know like the layman’s terms of what is caching the difference between browser caching?

“Yeah, that’s the thing is most of the people don’t know what is it ,caching. And I would ask you, do you have an easy definition of what is caching in the software in general.

So, now I have another question for you: can you say, can you give me the result of 234 multiplied by 564?

You don’t know. In order to know what, what the answer is, you are going to open your calculator. And so, by next time if I’m going to ask you the same question, you will know it because you still have in your memory, and this is basically what is caching is — storing an information which usually need to be delivered. We do calculation and to store it temporarily, because tomorrow we will forget about it. But, in two minutes you will be able to give me that number. And so, this is basically what we are doing with software caching. You are storing any information like an image, JavaScript, a CSS into a browser.

The server is giving the information to the browser to say, 'okay, you need to store this information for like two days, one month in your cache.' So, next time you are going to visit the website, you don't need to reload it again because an image usually doesn't change. This is what we called browser caching.

So, this is what we call browser cache. And this is the things that expire easily. The server is giving the information to the browser to say, okay, you need to store this information for like two days, one month in your cache. So, next time you are going to visit the website, you don’t need to reload it again because an image usually doesn’t change. So, this is what we called browser caching. 

This is usually quite easy to understand but can be complicated. And, this is usually when you say, ‘Hey, have you cleared your cache? Because I don’t see the new image or I don’t see the new website’. This is because the browser still has the asset into the cache. So, this first one and one of the other biggest we do is the WP Rocket, is what we call static cache. 

So, basically when you go into WordPress website, WordPress is going to call a lot, do a lot of MySQL request to say, ‘Hey, I need the content of the homepage. I’m a user connected. Okay. If yes, display me as extra.” And so, the WP Rocket or any other static caching plugins store this information, so all the results or the HTML result, which has been done thanks to PHP and HTML. And store it as a static file, a simple HTML file.

And next time when you are going to the website again, it is going to deliver you directly this file. So, there is no need to do any kind of PHP, MySQL, which can be slow. Next time, it’s a static file which is delivered.”

02

3 Steps to Make Your Site Faster

What should the average website owner or builder know in terms of performance?

“To me, I mean not everybody is going to agree, but in terms of performance, I would definitely go on simplicity and to the core of the things. Very basic at the end, which means that, first you need a good website, but I mean a good website is a good theme, which has been created by someone who knows the performance. 

Like, I buy themes that I need. I would say like not displaying like tens of CSS files or not, not creating tons of CSS files and in a good way. So, this is really the basic having a good theme. If you don’t know about it, it’s can be complicated because I mean you need in a way to be an expert to see if a theme is good or not.

You know, that's the beauty and sometimes the difficult things with WordPress, everyone, everybody's using it. That can be my mother. That can be someone who is very techie or someone who doesn't know at all about performance, about coding. And so, they just install the plugin, and in the end, they want a fast website."

Next thing, you need a good hosting because you can do whatever you want on your website. If, your hosting is very poor and the quality’s not good at all, your website will be always slow. So, that’s why we tend to recommend like managed hosting dedicated to WordPress because they are good, they are really optimized for WordPress and they do have great results on your website, and next thing which can be sometimes difficult is not having so many plugins.

Of course, I know some website with hundreds of plugins, which is crazy fast, but usually it’s not a number. It just the quality of the plugins because sometimes you have poor plugins which are going to make your website very slow, but, and that’s what we see with our users. They don’t really know about it. 

You know, that’s the beauty and sometimes the difficult things with WordPress, everyone, everybody’s using it. That can be my mother. That can be someone which is very techie or someone who doesn’t know at all about performance, about coding. And so, they just install the plugin and at the end they want a fast website.”

03

How Does Imagify Work

So, how Imagify goes into that, that does it integrate with WP Rocket? Does one need that as a sole solution? How does it work, exactly?

“Before launching Imagify, we thought, ‘Okay, maybe that could be interesting to have that into WP Rocket.’ And I have only one product which would do everything but we thought it was not the best idea and we wanted to separate things, we need to focus and to limit the things we can do. So, we had a lot of feedback from our customers of WP Rocket. They were saying, ‘Okay, I’ve improved my website but I see that my images are too big or not enough optimized. How? What can I do?’

And, after like 50 customers saying that we said, ‘Okay, maybe there something which could be interesting for them.’ So, we dug a little bit into the subject and we have released Imagify, which is a product in one click. They are able to optimize the images and convert them as WebP, as information WebP’s format, an image format created by Google which allow you to reduce size of the image, even better than JPEG. But the only issue is WebP is not all browser can read them. Of course, Chrome can do it and Firefox. But, Safari isn’t able to read WebP, which means that if you are displaying a WebP to Safari, it will be blank.

We had a lot of feedback from our customers of WP Rocket. They were saying, 'Okay, I've improved my website but I see that my images are too big or not enough optimized. How? What can I do?' And, after like 50 customers saying that we said 'Okay, maybe there something which could be interesting for them.' So, we dug a little bit into the subject and we have released Imagify, which is a product in one click.

So, Imagify does detect what is a browser. And depending on the browser, it will display the WebP or the original JPEG. And, your question about integration and the WP Rocket. So, it’s completely separated. You can use both. And we recommend using both because basically our mission at the WP Media is to help you have the faster website. So, we are developing a different solution to help you, but we don’t want people to use all our products.

Of course, it’s better if they do of course, but if they want to use only Imagify or WP Rocket with any kind of competitors, they can. And, we know where we recommend them. I mean, test what you prefer and if you prefer another competitors, that’s great. But, if you can give us the feedback in order for us to improve and to make it better, that would be even better.

And so, they can use both. They are not linked at all. One is only for image optimization, Imagify, so basically you we are connected to WordPress and each time you upload a new images, it’s going to be able to optimize automatically. WP Rocket is for performance directly. Like all the caching and all the front-end optimization.”

04

Making It Simpler for Our Users

Image optimization and caching plugins — I think the market is quite saturated these days with competitors. How do you stand out above this competition? What do you offer your users?

“For us, I mean we can describe where the core of our products and how we see products and I believe this is different of what our competitors are providing. One of the core things is first to have something simple and every day our mission when we are developing WP Rocket and Imagify is to figure out how we can make that more easier for our users. The second thing is, how to make it work. So, basically how to improve the performance. So, we are doing a lot of research on how to make things faster.

One of the core things is first to have something simple and every day our mission when we are developing WP Rocket and Imagify is to figure out how we can make that more easier for our users. The second thing is, how to make it work.

What is the new technology on the Front End, how we can improve that. At the end of the day, to simply make the website faster and another thing, I think we are one of the only ones, especially on the performance side, to provide an extremely good support and we are investing a lot of time, a lot of people, a lot of energy into providing an experience of support because when you have an issue and you will have an issue with your websites and could be related to the WP Rocket and Imagify you’re going to contact the support and the support is the voice of the company and so, if the voice of the company is not good, you won’t have a good vision of the company. 

For us, it’s really important and we are investing a lot and we can do that because we are a premium plugin and there is maybe one or two other premium caching plugin which, and they are still small and it’s difficult for them to provide the same level of support as what we do.”

05

How WP Media Managed to Extend Their Audience beyond the French Market

When you just started, how did you get the initial traction to get the base clients and reputation? And how did you break out from the French market? 

“So yes, at the beginning, whereas you have guessed with my strong accent, I’m from France. And when we launch ourselves in France and only in France at the beginning, we were quite known in the French communities. So, it has been quite easy to market the WP Rocket and to have some traction.

But after, I mean we were no one outside of France and it was really complicated for us. So, what we did was basically two things: first, I think it’s the best product possible or bringing all other things we could do to improve the product and having the wage reports we have, which means that we’ve seen that all the customers we had, were really happy. 

And people liked the approach and they started doing a lot of reviews of WP Rocket and because the product was good, the reviews were good. So, if you don't have a good product you cannot do that, people will test and won't like your product and won't promote it.

And, we’re talking about WP Rocket outside in WordCamps or somewhere else. And you have seen that people were talking about WP Rocket in WordCamps, we never knew that, so, that’s cool. And another things is, and this did work very well, is we manually contacted so many bloggers, so many people who are talking about WordPress advertisement so we were just saying, ‘Hey, we just launched or we launched like a few months ago, the WP Rocket. It’s a premium caching plugin. It’s a bit different from what you are using.’

‘Do you like to test? If yes, this is a, this is a free version if you would, if you can provide some feedback on your blog post, I do giveaway, otherwise it’s okay. And people liked the approach and they started doing a lot of reviews of WP Rocket and because the product was good, the reviews were good. So, if you don’t have a good product you cannot do that, people will test and won’t like your product and won’t promote it. So, we did that at the beginning and did work very, very well.”

About the Author

Matan Naveh
Matan Naveh
Matan is Elementor's Magazine editor. Starting his career as a Radio Broadcaster, he worked as a content manager and Editor-in-Chief for over 10 years. Matan enjoys psychological horror movies and 80's Chinese restaurants.

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