Modules labeled "Experimental"

Photo by Goh Rhy Yan on Unsplash. The word 'Caution' is written on the ground.

As a Site Builder, it is imperative to understand the extent of the authority and permissions you've been granted with your site(s). The nature of your role gives you considerable access to the inner workings of not just SiteFarm but the underlying framework of Drupal as well. This includes the ability to enable any number of modules yourself.

In many cases, enabling modules is a recommended course; the training documentation we offer explicitly instructs you to do so and provides directions on their configuration and recommended use. In other instances, the list of modules included in the Extend section will include modules labeled "Experimental" and we strongly recommend avoiding these unless you only plan to explore it in a sandbox setting.

What is an "Experimental" module?

Modules with this label are very early draft or "alpha" versions of what the final module might look and feel like. These modules are released for a variety of reasons: share code in case other developers want to contribute time to helping improve them, allow for some early showcasing, get feedback from users, and so on. Experimental modules are incomplete, buggy, and subject to change.

Why are "Experimental" modules included?

You would think it would be wiser to not add them, yes? The Drupal community, which emphasizes community-driven, open-source development, shares early work to show its progress on major community initiatives and bundles them with major Drupal releases. You'll note that we hide modules and the ability to enable or disable them from everyone except Site Builders. This is to help safeguard your site's integrity and discourage enabling something that might have a negative influence on your site.

If SiteFarm has enabled a module labeled "Experimental" it is only after considerable testing and efforts to integrate it into the entire platform to work with our code and branding theme.

Why you should avoid "Experimental" modules

In short, enabling modules that labeled "Experimental" or that aren't specifically mentioned in our documentation introduces a level of instability and risk that could endanger your entire site and its content to a degree that we would consider it unrecoverable. If you must explore a module that meets this description ONLY do so in a sandbox site you never plan to launch to the web, and don't do so on a site already live without extensive testing.

An Example

A client submitted a ticket to the SiteFarm team reporting that block titles and their relative positions were behaving oddly. We eliminated a variety of possible causes (custom sub-theme, a recent patch release, platform issues, console bug messages) but only after a combined total of three hours of developer time did we discover the person had used their Site Builder permissions to enable the Experimental Layout Builder module on a site they would eventually intend to go live to the web. The Layout Builder module, while technically stable, relies on underlying dependencies that are still labeled "Experimental". And, we have not yet done any of the necessary work to integrate this code into the SiteFarm platform; it won't work natively just by turning it on.

By enabling the module, the client unknowingly affected the following areas of their site:

Entity form display
    block_content.sf_basic.default
    block_content.sf_focal_link.default
    block_content.sf_focus_box.default
    block_content.sf_hero_banner.default
    block_content.sf_image_banner.default
    block_content.sf_marketing_highlight.default
    block_content.sf_marketing_highlight_horizntl.default
    node.landing_page.default
    node.sf_article.default
    node.sf_event.default
    node.sf_page.default
    node.sf_person.default
    node.sf_photo_gallery.default
    node.webform.default
    taxonomy_term.sf_article_category.default
    taxonomy_term.sf_branding.default
    taxonomy_term.sf_event_type.default
    taxonomy_term.sf_photo_gallery_categories.default


Entity view display
    Basic block custom blocks
    Focal Link custom blocks
    Focus Box custom blocks
    Hero Banner custom blocks
    Image Banner custom blocks
    Marketing Highlight custom blocks
    Marketing Highlight - Horizontal custom blocks
    Article content items
    Event content items
    Basic Page content items
    Person content items
    Photo Gallery content items
    Article Categories taxonomy terms
    Branding taxonomy terms
    Event Category taxonomy terms
    Photo Gallery Categories taxonomy terms 

Without realizing it, they had borked almost every single element in their site. Sadly, it was irreversible and we had to delete the site and instantiate a new one for them. 

Your Site Builder role includes considerable access; please use it thoughtfully and with caution. If at any point you have questions about a module in the list you're interested in using, we're always on hand to assist and clarify. Submit a ticket to the SiteFarm team and we'd be happy to help you.

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