I am sure that by now you have heard that the design view in SharePoint Designer 2013 has been officially removed as detailed in this post by the Microsoft team. There have been a wide range of opinions around this from some pretty well respected people including Bjorn Furuknap and Marc Anderson in addition to some lively banter on TechCenter where people are voicing their concerns.
I'm not going to get into whether this is a good thing or a bad thing. It's a complicated argument and one that is a classic wicked problem. However what intrigues me about this whole situation is more about how this is being communicated and handled, rather than why the decision was made.
Microsoft has traditionally been very good about keeping legacy functionality in products for supportability, probably to the detriment of themselves. We upgrade software, our old stuff still works and all is good. However in this case a decision was made to remove a piece of functionality that is heavily used, regardless of its crapiness or not.
In SharePoint projects change management is paramount, the same as it should be when releasing new product features to users. For those of you that feel slighted or annoyed by the decision to remove this piece of functionality, this is exactly the same feeling that most users have when we implement SharePoint without considering the potential change management issues. I want to point out how important change management is any scenario but I hope that this one resonates with those of us that are SharePoint consultants because the same pain we feel at this decision is the same type of pain our end users feel when they get SharePoint thrust upon them.
In the same way that an end user comes in one day and finds out that their homepage is set to SharePoint for some unknown reason and they have to fundamentally change the way that they work, some in the SharePoint community feel the same way about having the design view removed. What has happened is that a huge decision has been made that will change the way that people work with only minor and delayed communication from Microsoft that many view as inadequate.
Imagine if Microsoft said a year ago that this could be the direction that they were going and they wanted some feedback? Imagine if more guidance was issued beforehand to ensure that existing solutions on SharePoint 2010 were not making use of this functionality as it posed an upgrade risk? Wouldn't we all feel better?
Now think of this when you roll out SharePoint to your end users without adequate communication throughout the entire process. The same feeling of being screwed, shafted, or any other term that you can conjure happens in far too many SharePoint projects.
Lack of an alternative
Lets go back to our SharePoint end user. They come in, see that their fileshare has been locked down and now they are forced to use this new system called SharePoint (this has happened). Now there are simply things that they cant do in SharePoint or don't work as easily as it did on the fileshare (we are facing an issue with AutoCad files for a client for example). They ask their organization what they should do and the response is "Sorry that's how you have to do it now, go figure out how to make this work"
The same has happened in this design view situation. People are annoyed because there really isn't an alternative at the moment. Yes there are different technologies that could replace this (Apps and Napa for example) but without communication from Microsoft or discussion about an alternative people are feeling that they are getting this shoved down their throats.
Why not sponsor focus groups beforehand to discuss alternatives? Why not engage experts to find out if the alternatives are feasible? Taking something away from people without and alternative sucks, but what is worse is the feeling of powerlessness when there isn't an alternative.
Lack of engagement
People don't like two things when it come to change: being planned at rather than with and being surprised. In this case we got both! No one was really aware of the planned changes and when we were informed we were universally surprised.
In the same way that you have to engage your end users so that they feel that decisions that impact them are being made by them in a SharePoint project, Microsoft should of really engaged the community a little more about the issues and potential pitfalls of this decision. Most people, even if they don't agree with the decision being made, would be much more comfortable in understanding why the decision was made. Engagement with users must occur otherwise regardless of the decision made you will achieve no buy in at any level.
So whether you agree with the decision to remove the design view or not the whole thing has been handled pretty poorly, in the same way that SharePoint Change Management is handled quite poorly. For us consultants or creators of solutions on SharePoint remember how important it is to engage and communicate to your stakeholders and end users. Otherwise a small technical decision, such as this one, can have a much greater impact.
I would love to hear your thoughts since there is a lot of passion around this issue so lets hear it!!