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Cache and Cookies: A Guide for Manual Exploratory Testers
Cache and Cookies: A Guide for Manual Exploratory Testers

This article will discuss cache and cookies' functions, interactions, and significance in manual exploratory testing.

Charlie avatar
Written by Charlie
Updated over a week ago


To become a successful manual exploratory tester, it is crucial to have a comprehensive understanding of cache and cookies. Pay attention to the details, prepare to handle any issues, and explore this guide thoroughly to become an expert in cache and cookies.

Developer tools are readily available in most modern web browsers, which allow for the analysis of cookies and caches. You can learn how to use these tools here.

Cache: Storing for Speed

A cache is a mechanism that stores copies of frequently accessed data for quick retrieval. In the context of web browsing, a browser cache stores various resources such as images, stylesheets, scripts, and even entire web pages. When you visit a website, the browser downloads these resources and stores them locally on your device. The next time you visit the same site, your browser checks the cache first. If the resource is present and hasn't changed on the server, the browser uses the cached version instead of downloading it again. This results in faster loading times and reduced bandwidth usage.

Manual exploratory testers need to understand how cache works to identify potential issues. Common issues include:

1. Stale Content: Cached resources might become outdated or ❝stale❞ if the website has been updated. Testers should clear their browser cache regularly to ensure they're viewing the most recent version of a website.

2. Bypassing Changes: When changes are made to a website, testers need to ensure that the changes are reflected in the browser by either clearing the cache or using developer tools to turn off caching temporarily.

3. Testing Performance: Cache plays a vital role in website performance. During performance tests, testers should assess how the website behaves under different cache settings and network conditions to ensure optimal user experience.

Cookies: Personalization and State Management

Cookies are small pieces of data that websites store on a user's device. They serve various purposes, including tracking user interactions, remembering login sessions, and personalizing content. When you visit a website, it can send a cookie to your browser, which is then stored and sent back with subsequent requests to the same site. This enables websites to remember information about your preferences and activities.

For manual exploratory testers, cookies present several testing considerations. The most frequent are:

1. User Authentication: Cookies are often used to manage user sessions and authentication. Testers should verify that users can log in, log out, and access different parts of the website seamlessly.

2. User Consent: If the website implements cookie consent banners, testers should verify that user preferences are correctly respected.

3. Cookie Expiry: Cookies can have an expiration date. Testers should verify if an expired cookie might be the root cause of a bug.

Testing Considerations for Cache, Cookies, and Sessions

In website testing, both regular browser mode and incognito (private browsing) mode serve different purposes and help ensure comprehensive web application testing. Here's why it's essential to test in both ways during manual exploratory testing:

Regular Browser Mode

Incognito Mode


Regular mode testing helps identify how caching affects user experience and data updates.

Incognito mode testing helps reveal whether the application can provide real-time data and features without relying on cached content.

Session Management

Regular mode testing ensures that user sessions are maintained adequately across different parts of the website.

Incognito mode testing helps identify issues where session-specific data might not work as expected due to a lack of persistent session information.

Cookie Handling

Regular mode testing involves verifying that cookies are managed correctly and that features relying on cookies, such as user preferences, work properly.

Incognito mode testing helps identify any issues with functionality that rely heavily on cookies.

Tracking Mechanisms

Regular mode testing checks the functionality of tracking mechanisms, analytics, and user behaviour tracking.

Incognito mode testing helps uncover issues related to user privacy, tracking rejection, and ensuring core functionality remains intact even without tracking.

Testing in both regular browsers and incognito modes ensures a more comprehensive assessment of how the application manages caching, sessions, cookies, and tracking features.

Hence, it is essential to have a comprehensive understanding of cache and cookies mechanisms to ensure high-quality, efficient, and secure web applications. Testers who possess this knowledge can identify potential issues, verify user experiences, and contribute to the success of a web project. By considering the implications of cache and cookies, exploratory testers can excel in their roles and help deliver web applications that offer users a smooth and safe browsing experience.

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