My previous post was a broad overview of SvelteKit where we saw what a great tool it is for web development. This post will fork off what we did there and dive into every developer’s favorite topic: caching. So, be sure to give my last post a read if you haven’t already. The code for this post is available on GitHub, as well as a live demo.

This post is all about data handling. We’ll add some rudimentary search functionality that will modify the page’s query string (using built-in SvelteKit features), and re-trigger the page’s loader. But, rather than just re-query our (imaginary) database, we’ll add some caching so re-searching prior searches (or using the back button) will show previously retrieved data, quickly, from cache. We’ll look at how to control the length of time the cached data stays valid and, more importantly, how to manually invalidate all cached values. As icing on the cake, we’ll look at how we can manually update the data on the current screen, client-side, after a mutation, while still purging the cache.

This will be a longer, more difficult post than most of what I usually write since we’re covering harder topics. This post will essentially show you how to implement common features of popular data utilities like react-query; but instead of pulling in an external library, we’ll only be using the web platform and SvelteKit features.

Unfortunately, the web platform’s features are a bit lower level, so we’ll be doing a bit more work than you might be used to. The upside is we won’t need any external libraries, which will help keep bundle sizes nice and small. Please don’t use the approaches I’m going to show you unless you have a good reason to. Caching is easy to get wrong, and as you’ll see, there’s a bit of complexity that’ll result in your application code. Hopefully your data store is fast, and your UI is fine allowing SvelteKit to just always request the data it needs for any given page. If it is, leave it alone. Enjoy the simplicity. But this post will show you some tricks for when that stops being the case.

Speaking of react-query, it was just released for Svelte! So if you find yourself leaning on manual caching techniques a lot, be sure to check that project out, and see if it might help.

Setting up

Before we start, let’s make a few small changes to the code we had before. This will give us an excuse to see some other SvelteKit features and, more importantly, set us up for success.

First, let’s move our data loading from our loader in +page.server.js to an API route. We’ll create a +server.js file in routes/api/todos, and then add a GET function. This means we’ll now be able to fetch (using the default GET verb) to the /api/todos path. We’ll add the same data loading code as before.

import { json } from "@sveltejs/kit";
import { getTodos } from "$lib/data/todoData"; export async function GET({ url, setHeaders, request }) { const search = url.searchParams.get("search") || ""; const todos = await getTodos(search); return json(todos);

Next, let’s take the page loader we had, and simply rename the file from +page.server.js to +page.js (or .ts if you’ve scaffolded your project to use TypeScript). This changes our loader to be a “universal” loader rather than a server loader. The SvelteKit docs explain the difference, but a universal loader runs on both the server and also the client. One advantage for us is that the fetch call into our new endpoint will run right from our browser (after the initial load), using the browser’s native fetch function. We’ll add standard HTTP caching in a bit, but for now, all we’ll do is call the endpoint.

export async function load({ fetch, url, setHeaders }) { const search = url.searchParams.get("search") || ""; const resp = await fetch(`/api/todos?search=${encodeURIComponent(search)}`); const todos = await resp.json(); return { todos, };

Now let’s add a simple form to our /list page:

<div class="search-form"> <form action="/list"> <label>Search</label> <input autofocus name="search" /> </form>

Yep, forms can target directly to our normal page loaders. Now we can add a search term in the search box, hit Enter, and a “search” term will be appended to the URL’s query string, which will re-run our loader and search our to-do items.

Search form

Let’s also increase the delay in our todoData.js file in /lib/data. This will make it easy to see when data are and are not cached as we work through this post.

export const wait = async amount => new Promise(res => setTimeout(res, amount ?? 500));

Remember, the full code for this post is all on GitHub, if you need to reference it.

Basic caching

Let’s get started by adding some caching to our /api/todos endpoint. We’ll go back to our +server.js file and add our first cache-control header.

setHeaders({ "cache-control": "max-age=60",

…which will leave the whole function looking like this:

export async function GET({ url, setHeaders, request }) { const search = url.searchParams.get("search") || ""; setHeaders({ "cache-control": "max-age=60", }); const todos = await getTodos(search); return json(todos);

We’ll look at manual invalidation shortly, but all this function says is to cache these API calls for 60 seconds. Set this to whatever you want, and depending on your use case, stale-while-revalidate might also be worth looking into.

And just like that, our queries are caching.

Cache in DevTools.

Note make sure you un-check the checkbox that disables caching in dev tools.

Remember, if your initial navigation on the app is the list page, those search results will be cached internally to SvelteKit, so don’t expect to see anything in DevTools when returning to that search.

What is cached, and where

Our very first, server-rendered load of our app (assuming we start at the /list page) will be fetched on the server. SvelteKit will serialize and send this data down to our client. What’s more, it will observe the Cache-Control header on the response, and will know to use this cached data for that endpoint call within the cache window (which we set to 60 seconds in put example).

After that initial load, when you start searching on the page, you should see network requests from your browser to the /api/todos list. As you search for things you’ve already searched for (within the last 60 seconds), the responses should load immediately since they’re cached.

What’s especially cool with this approach is that, since this is caching via the browser’s native caching, these calls could (depending on how you manage the cache busting we’ll be looking at) continue to cache even if you reload the page (unlike the initial server-side load, which always calls the endpoint fresh, even if it did it within the last 60 seconds).

Obviously data can change anytime, so we need a way to purge this cache manually, which we’ll look at next.

Cache invalidation

Right now, data will be cached for 60 seconds. No matter what, after a minute, fresh data will be pulled from our datastore. You might want a shorter or longer time period, but what happens if you mutate some data and want to clear your cache immediately so your next query will be up to date? We’ll solve this by adding a query-busting value to the URL we send to our new /todos endpoint.

Let’s store this cache busting value in a cookie. That value can be set on the server but still read on the client. Let’s look at some sample code.

We can create a +layout.server.js file at the very root of our routes folder. This will run on application startup, and is a perfect place to set an initial cookie value.

export function load({ cookies, isDataRequest }) { const initialRequest = !isDataRequest; const cacheValue = initialRequest ? +new Date() : cookies.get("todos-cache"); if (initialRequest) { cookies.set("todos-cache", cacheValue, { path: "/", httpOnly: false }); } return { todosCacheBust: cacheValue, };

You may have noticed the isDataRequest value. Remember, layouts will re-run anytime client code calls invalidate(), or anytime we run a server action (assuming we don’t turn off default behavior). isDataRequest indicates those re-runs, and so we only set the cookie if that’s false; otherwise, we send along what’s already there.

The httpOnly: false flag is also significant. This allows our client code to read these cookie values in document.cookie. This would normally be a security concern, but in our case these are meaningless numbers that allow us to cache or cache bust.

Reading cache values

Our universal loader is what calls our /todos endpoint. This runs on the server or the client, and we need to read that cache value we just set up no matter where we are. It’s relatively easy if we’re on the server: we can call await parent() to get the data from parent layouts. But on the client, we’ll need to use some gross code to parse document.cookie:

export function getCookieLookup() { if (typeof document !== "object") { return {}; } return document.cookie.split("; ").reduce((lookup, v) => { const parts = v.split("="); lookup[parts[0]] = parts[1]; return lookup; }, {});
} const getCurrentCookieValue = name => { const cookies = getCookieLookup(); return cookies[name] ?? "";

Fortunately, we only need it once.

Sending out the cache value

But now we need to send this value to our /todos endpoint.

import { getCurrentCookieValue } from "$lib/util/cookieUtils"; export async function load({ fetch, parent, url, setHeaders }) { const parentData = await parent(); const cacheBust = getCurrentCookieValue("todos-cache") || parentData.todosCacheBust; const search = url.searchParams.get("search") || ""; const resp = await fetch(`/api/todos?search=${encodeURIComponent(search)}&cache=${cacheBust}`); const todos = await resp.json(); return { todos, };

getCurrentCookieValue('todos-cache') has a check in it to see if we’re on the client (by checking the type of document), and returns nothing if we are, at which point we know we’re on the server. Then it uses the value from our layout.

Busting the cache

But how do we actually update that cache busting value when we need to? Since it’s stored in a cookie, we can call it like this from any server action:

cookies.set("todos-cache", cacheValue, { path: "/", httpOnly: false });

The implementation

It’s all downhill from here; we’ve done the hard work. We’ve covered the various web platform primitives we need, as well as where they go. Now let’s have some fun and write application code to tie it all together.

For reasons that’ll become clear in a bit, let’s start by adding an editing functionality to our /list page. We’ll add this second table row for each todo:

import { enhance } from "$app/forms";
<tr> <td colspan="4"> <form use:enhance method="post" action="?/editTodo"> <input name="id" value="{}" type="hidden" /> <input name="title" value="{t.title}" /> <button>Save</button> </form> </td>

And, of course, we’ll need to add a form action for our /list page. Actions can only go in .server pages, so we’ll add a +page.server.js in our /list folder. (Yes, a +page.server.js file can co-exist next to a +page.js file.)

import { getTodo, updateTodo, wait } from "$lib/data/todoData"; export const actions = { async editTodo({ request, cookies }) { const formData = await request.formData(); const id = formData.get("id"); const newTitle = formData.get("title"); await wait(250); updateTodo(id, newTitle); cookies.set("todos-cache", +new Date(), { path: "/", httpOnly: false }); },

We’re grabbing the form data, forcing a delay, updating our todo, and then, most importantly, clearing our cache bust cookie.

Let’s give this a shot. Reload your page, then edit one of the to-do items. You should see the table value update after a moment. If you look in the Network tab in DevToold, you’ll see a fetch to the /todos endpoint, which returns your new data. Simple, and works by default.

Saving data

Immediate updates

What if we want to avoid that fetch that happens after we update our to-do item, and instead, update the modified item right on the screen?

This isn’t just a matter of performance. If you search for “post” and then remove the word “post” from any of the to-do items in the list, they’ll vanish from the list after the edit since they’re no longer in that page’s search results. You could make the UX better with some tasteful animation for the exiting to-do, but let’s say we wanted to not re-run that page’s load function but still clear the cache and update the modified to-do so the user can see the edit. SvelteKit makes that possible — let’s see how!

First, let’s make one little change to our loader. Instead of returning our to-do items, let’s return a writeable store containing our to-dos.

return { todos: writable(todos),

Before, we were accessing our to-dos on the data prop, which we do not own and cannot update. But Svelte lets us return our data in their own store (assuming we’re using a universal loader, which we are). We just need to make one more tweak to our /list page.

Instead of this:

{#each todos as t}

…we need to do this since todos is itself now a store.:

{#each $todos as t}

Now our data loads as before. But since todos is a writeable store, we can update it.

First, let’s provide a function to our use:enhance attribute:

<form use:enhance={executeSave} on:submit={runInvalidate} method="post" action="?/editTodo"

This will run before a submit. Let’s write that next:

function executeSave({ data }) { const id = data.get("id"); const title = data.get("title"); return async () => { todos.update(list => => { if ( == id) { return Object.assign({}, todo, { title }); } else { return todo; } }) ); };

This function provides a data object with our form data. We return an async function that will run after our edit is done. The docs explain all of this, but by doing this, we shut off SvelteKit’s default form handling that would have re-run our loader. This is exactly what we want! (We could easily get that default behavior back, as the docs explain.)

We now call update on our todos array since it’s a store. And that’s that. After editing a to-do item, our changes show up immediately and our cache is cleared (as before, since we set a new cookie value in our editTodo form action). So, if we search and then navigate back to this page, we’ll get fresh data from our loader, which will correctly exclude any updated to-do items that were updated.

The code for the immediate updates is available at GitHub.

Digging deeper

We can set cookies in any server load function (or server action), not just the root layout. So, if some data are only used underneath a single layout, or even a single page, you could set that cookie value there. Moreoever, if you’re not doing the trick I just showed manually updating on-screen data, and instead want your loader to re-run after a mutation, then you could always set a new cookie value right in that load function without any check against isDataRequest. It’ll set initially, and then anytime you run a server action that page layout will automatically invalidate and re-call your loader, re-setting the cache bust string before your universal loader is called.

Writing a reload function

Let’s wrap-up by building one last feature: a reload button. Let’s give users a button that will clear cache and then reload the current query.

We’ll add a dirt simple form action:

async reloadTodos({ cookies }) { cookies.set('todos-cache', +new Date(), { path: '/', httpOnly: false });

In a real project you probably wouldn’t copy/paste the same code to set the same cookie in the same way in multiple places, but for this post we’ll optimize for simplicity and readability.

Now let’s create a form to post to it:

<form method="POST" action="?/reloadTodos" use:enhance> <button>Reload todos</button>

That works!

UI after reload.

We could call this done and move on, but let’s improve this solution a bit. Specifically, let’s provide feedback on the page to tell the user the reload is happening. Also, by default, SvelteKit actions invalidate everything. Every layout, page, etc. in the current page’s hierarchy would reload. There might be some data that’s loaded once in the root layout that we don’t need to invalidate or re-load.

So, let’s focus things a bit, and only reload our to-dos when we call this function.

First, let’s pass a function to enhance:

<form method="POST" action="?/reloadTodos" use:enhance={reloadTodos}>
import { enhance } from "$app/forms";
import { invalidate } from "$app/navigation"; let reloading = false;
const reloadTodos = () => { reloading = true; return async () => { invalidate("reload:todos").then(() => { reloading = false; }); };

We’re setting a new reloading variable to true at the start of this action. And then, in order to override the default behavior of invalidating everything, we return an async function. This function will run when our server action is finished (which just sets a new cookie).

Without this async function returned, SvelteKit would invalidate everything. Since we’re providing this function, it will invalidate nothing, so it’s up to us to tell it what to reload. We do this with the invalidate function. We call it with a value of reload:todos. This function returns a promise, which resolves when the invalidation is complete, at which point we set reloading back to false.

Lastly, we need to sync our loader up with this new reload:todos invalidation value. We do that in our loader with the depends function:

export async function load({ fetch, url, setHeaders, depends }) { depends('reload:todos'); // rest is the same

And that’s that. depends and invalidate are incredibly useful functions. What’s cool is that invalidate doesn’t just take arbitrary values we provide like we did. We can also provide a URL, which SvelteKit will track, and invalidate any loaders that depend on that URL. To that end, if you’re wondering whether we could skip the call to depends and invalidate our /api/todos endpoint altogether, you can, but you have to provide the exact URL, including the search term (and our cache value). So, you could either put together the URL for the current search, or match on the path name, like this:

invalidate(url => url.pathname == "/api/todos");

Personally, I find the solution that uses depends more explicit and simple. But see the docs for more info, of course, and decide for yourself.

If you’d like to see the reload button in action, the code for it is in this branch of the repo.

Parting thoughts

This was a long post, but hopefully not overwhelming. We dove into various ways we can cache data when using SvelteKit. Much of this was just a matter of using web platform primitives to add the correct cache, and cookie values, knowledge of which will serve you in web development in general, beyond just SvelteKit.

Moreover, this is something you absolutely do not need all the time. Arguably, you should only reach for these sort of advanced features when you actually need them. If your datastore is serving up data quickly and efficiently, and you’re not dealing with any kind of scaling problems, there’s no sense in bloating your application code with needless complexity doing the things we talked about here.

As always, write clear, clean, simple code, and optimize when necessary. The purpose of this post was to provide you those optimization tools for when you truly need them. I hope you enjoyed it!

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