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I Make Changes and Nothing Happens

Things are going great. You have figured out how to write a post, how to make a few categories, and maybe even add a plugin or two. Then you notice that you've make a few changes in your WordPress content or your design and when you view your WordPress site, you notice that nothing has changed. Your fix isn't fixed. Your change isn't changed.

This can be frustrating.

A number of common factors can cause this behavior, including browser caching, server-side caching, caching plugins, changes being made in incorrect locations in the file system and more.

The Browser Cache

Did you know that a computer is supposed to make your life easier? Less complicated? It is supposed to save you time and energy and actually improve your life. No? Well, maybe not, but your Internet browser does its best to try to make your life a little easier.

When you first visit a web page, it often takes a while to load, right? But the next page you visit within that site doesn't take so long to load. This is because, in an effort to be helpful, the browser stores the information on your computer so it reloads it from your computer, not from the actual site. This is called the cache and it is meant to speed up your Internet browsing.

The term cache may sound familiar. Remember the pirates and thieves of old who would stockpile their treasures in a cave, hole in the ground, or somewhere "safe". Called the cache, the Internet browser stores files and information for the browser to reuse when the page is refreshed or viewed again.

The problem comes when you make a small change to your site and the browser doesn't recognize it as a significant change, so it reloads the same page you just looked at. The solution is to clear or empty your browser's cache.

Clearing the Browser Cache

Normally, to see the changes on your page, you click the Refresh button on the browser toolbar or press the F5 key on your keyboard. In many cases, this simply reloads the page without clearing the browser's cache. Here are some techniques to wipe clean the browser's cache so you will see the changes when your page reloads.

The way you clear the browser cache depends on the particular browser you are using. Here is how you clear the cache on common browsers:

In addition to clearing the cache, each browser may have a way of stopping or minimizing the caching of web pages. Using this technique will definitely slow down your web page viewing, and it isn't a perfect solution because some caching may still occur, but it does help. Check your Internet browser's help files for the specifics on how to turn off the cache feature.

Server-side Caching

Be aware that some web hosting services use caching plugins on the backend without letting the user know explicitly. You may be able to turn this off via your webhost's configuration panel. To be sure, you can ask a support member for your webhost if any caching plugins are used, and request that they be turned off if needed.

This situation may also occur if you are using a Managed WordPress hosting plan. Many Managed WordPress hosting plans use server-side caching. If you are using a Managed WordPress service from your hosting provider and you are seeing this issue, you may want to see if they have an option to manually flush the cache. In many cases, your changes will immediately show up after flushing the cache.

If you are using a caching HTTP reverse proxy such as Varnish on your web server, edits to your files may not appear right away. Edits may become visible after some length of time when the cached version expires. You many need to tune your caching system in order to eliminate this issue.

A WordPress Cache Plugin

Some WordPress plugins also add cache functionality to your WordPress site. This helps your site load faster because WordPress can retrieve the pages of your blog from the cache instead of generating them all over again.

All good cache plugins will clear the cache when a post, page, or comment is published. However, if you make other changes (e.g. to your theme), the cache may not be cleared and the old version may still appear. In this case, check the plugin's instructions to find out how to clear its cache.

Note that WordPress does not come with a cache by default, so the above would only apply if you installed a cache plugin yourself.

Check Your Source

You know, even the very best web page designers, developers, and programmers screw up. It's the little details, the forgotten semi-colon, the misspelled tag, the lack of attention to a detail that screws things up. If the best do it, then it's very possible you have overlooked a little detail. And if you did, well, welcome to the club. It's a part of the process. Let's look at some of the most commonly overlooked details that happen when you aren't paying attention.

Check the Address

Is the name and folder for the file you "fixed" the same as the one you are viewing? Look at the following two addresses (URLs).

  • wordpress/wp-content/themes/yourtheme/style.css
  • test/wordpress/wp-content/themes/yourtheme/style.css

In this case, you can probably see the difference, but when viewed in an address bar or in a text editor, you might miss the word test that sets the folder.

Pay very close attention to the difference between style1.css and stylel.css if you are using different style names, too. The first filename is style followed by the digit one, while the second filename is style followed by a lowercase L. If you are working with different but similar files, make sure you give them distinctive names like style-red.css and style-800.css so you can clearly see the difference.

Check the Template

If you're editing a template, are you sure the page you're viewing is being generated from that template? Remember that many templates have very similar text on them; for example, a post header may appear on a single post page, index page, search page, archive page, and others.

See Template Hierarchy if you're having trouble figuring out which template is in use.

Check Your Upload

When you make a change in a file, it is often on your computer's hard drive and you have to upload the file to your host server in order to view it on the Internet. Did you actually upload it? Did you put it in the right folder? Is it really there? When over-writing the exact same file, it doesn't always do a complete over-write, so consider deleting the original on the host server and then uploading the new version to make sure the right and whole thing is there.

Test Yourself

If you still can't see the changes you made, and the file is in the right place with the right name, and you are sure it's the right file, then go through these steps:

  1. Make a backup of the file you are working on and check that the backup is in a safe place.
  2. Make a big change (such as setting the background in your style.css as #ff0000 or even red).
  3. View the changed web page in your browser. Make sure you clear the cache to be sure you have the new version.
  4. If nothing changes, delete the file (and only that file) from the server and try to view the file again. If nothing continues to change, you and WordPress are looking at completely different files. It's time to get out your detective hat and start tracking down what is going on and where your files went to.
  5. Check your URL settings in your Options Panel and also in the database, and if this continues to be unsolvable, post a note explaining what you've done and what's the result on the WordPress Forum and let the experts step in to help.

I've tried everything above and my changes still aren't displaying

You can check out the following resources for more help:

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