When we are contacted about issues with websites, we often find that important details haven’t been provided at first, and asking for more detail is better than trying to jump into dealing with the issue. That far too often runs into another issue, people managing websites think they know what needs to be done, even though they don’t know how to do that, and don’t want to provide more details.
A recent example of the first part of that occurred when we were contacted by someone we had previously done work on a Zen Cart based ecommerce website for. They now had an issue where when adding some products to the shopping cart a message, “Whoops! Your session has expired.”, was being displayed, while others were added normally. While doing an initial assessment of what was going on, it looked like some pages were being cached from one session were then being displayed for others visiting the website.
They also had mentioned in the initial message that when editing products, they were not looking the same on the frontend as it was on the backend. We further inquired about that and the response made it sound like caching was in place on the website, as they described that there was a delay between changes being made to products and those showing up on the frontend. If we had known that at the beginning, we could more easily determined what was at issue. Once we inquired if there was any caching enabled, they were able to take care of that, and got their issue fixed with no charge from us.
Caching built in to web software or as an addon for said software is generally designed in a way that avoid these types of problems. When that is done in other places that isn’t always true and people managing websites don’t necessarily know the caching is occurring, much less would they understand the implications of that. We see problems because of that most often with web hosts providing caching, but we also sometimes see it with security services that also include caching.
That is a good reminder that service providers should be more careful about caching usage, but also that talking to someone with more expertise and answering the questions they asked can lead to a better result than going it alone or dictating how something should be handled that you don’t have expertise in.