Good News for SharePoint 2013 Developers: You Still Have a Job

…and you’ll get a new laptop.

Best news? You really know most of what you need to know.

SharePoint 2013 Doesn’t Change Anything

During SPTechCon in Boston 2011, I recorded a video for Christian Buckley on the one thing you need to know about SharePoint 2010. My message then was that you really don’t need to relearn everything when moving from SharePoint 2007 to SharePoint 2010.

A couple of days ago, I told Christian that if he just did a voice-over on the SharePoint 2010 parts of that video, he could republish it as my response to the one thing SharePoint 2013 developers to know about SharePoint 2013.

So, what you already know about SharePoint 2010 mostly still applies to SharePoint 2013. You still work with WSP solutions, you still have master pages, you still build taxonomies using content types, and they don’t even change that much either.

This is great news for SharePoint 2013 developers for several reasons. First, it makes the transition from developing on SharePoint 2010 to SharePoint 2013 very easy. What you already know still works. In fact, even though there are several new features and even a brand new .NET framework, Microsoft has gone to great lengths to preserve backwards compatibility.

For third tier developers, meaning those of you that spend your time in Visual Studio, you’ll be pleased to know that the Visual Studio tools also works more or less like they always have.

Of course, if you don’t like those tools, we still have to wait for Carsten Keutmann to give us a new version of WSPBuilder, but regardless of tools preference, because virtually everything that worked in SharePoint 2010 still works, the learning curve will be as smooth as a baby’s bottom.

What you shouldn’t do, however, is continue to use sandbox solutions. Or start, if you have been sensible and not used them at all. Simply put, sandbox solutions are dead, or have at least been given the last rites pending imminent departure from the land of living technology.

SharePoint 2013 Changes Everything

Yeah, I know, I’ve been using contradictory headlines a bit too much lately, haven’t I?

If nothing changes, then what is all the fuzz? Well, things that worked one way before continues to work, more or less. However, there are plenty of new things, and also some things that change. And, there’s the dreaded ‘more or less’.

Note: There’s a new interface. Not really newsworthy, now is it?

First, there’s the last paragraph above, on sandbox solutions. When sandbox solutions go away, Microsoft believes we need something to replace it, and that something is apps.

Personally, I don’t see what the deal is with apps. Essentially, apps are other web pages. Great, so now we can run web pages in SharePoint. Considering that apps aren’t really part of SharePoint at all, but instead run as completely separate applications somewhere else, it’s not really as ground breaking as some people want us to believe. Granted, there are some very cool things Microsoft has done, for example around security, licensing, and the SharePoint Store, but not enough to warrant the hype, in my opinion (which is rarely humble, by the way).

To confuse us even further, and I believe this is a huge mistake, the concept of apps now includes what we already know and have trained our users to understand, such as lists and libraries. That’s right, you’re no longer going to tell your users to add a contacts or task list, or even a document library, they’re now going to have to learn to add a contact, task, or document app. Technically, it’s virtually the same as before, it’s just that it’s suddenly a totally new thing. Everything changes.

Then, there’s the SharePoint Designer story. Have you used SharePoint Designer before? Well, it looks exactly the same, does the same thing, except now you can’t see it. That’s right, either you learn HTML and ASP.NET markup or you won’t be able to use it. There’s no visual design mode anymore, so with the exception of workflows, modifying properties, and creating artifacts like lists and libraries in SharePoint, which is still a lot more flexible in the web interface, SharePoint Designer is now gone. They really should rename it SharePoint HTML Editor with Stuff, because “Design” it isn’t. Everything changes.

Oh, but do you know why? It’s because Microsoft no longer wants you to customize SharePoint. That’s right, Microsoft has decided what you want, and they intend to make you use it their way.

I’m not joking here, I’m as serious as cancer on a cute puppy dog. I noticed this in the official announcement from Jeff Teper (almost at the end, subtitle “Great SharePoint Deployments”) on the official SharePoint blog and tweeted it. What Microsoft is now saying is that you (or really, SharePoint 2013 developers) shouldn’t modify the out-of-the-box experience, unless you have to, and then only do it well. And here I was thinking that it was recommended practice to deliver crap.

The SPYam community (which is the Yammer community for SharePoint) has had a chance to discuss this with Jeff, and he essentially confirms the message. Microsoft thinks they see that there is too much casual customization out there, much of which is done badly, so they want to take away.

Don’t mess with it, in other words. Microsoft knows best. What was formerly one of the greatest platforms for customization and development in the world has now turned into a package that comes with a “warranty void if opened” sticker on all the cool stuff.

Note: I’ve written about this previously, trying to explain what it means.

So, everything changes.

So, Why Is this Good News for SharePoint 2013 Developers Again?

You may ask why these points are good news for SharePoint 2013 developers. After all, we’re given yet-another-great-hype development model, we’ve lost a great tool in SharePoint Designer, and we’re told that our customers shouldn’t modify the platform anymore.

The latter is the easiest thing to explain from a “good news” perspective. No longer will we be burdened by clients changing what we’ve done. Microsoft clips their wings so now we can stop worrying about what happens if something changes, because we, as good developers (not the bad ones, those should stop working) are now in control. At least in Utopia.

Clients, or course, still have the need to change things, so when Microsoft takes way their ability to do so (strictly speaking they are encouraging them to not do it), they’re not scratching the itch as much as they’re tying your hands behind your back and ask you to call someone how knows how to scratch. Microsoft is looking at a symptom and tries to cure that, rather than look at the underlying causes. If customers want to customize, but suck at it, then making the customer not suck should be the cure, not covering up the want.

As for SharePoint Designer, it is a similar story. No longer will less worthy users have any reasonable chance to make their site look like they want. Either they learn HTML and ASP.NET markup or they break everything if they try to modify something. Of course, if they break it, they’ll have no chance of fixing it again, which means more consulting hours to us. It’s akin to removing the safety switch on a gun and tell people they no longer want to shoot anyone.

Finally, the fact that we have a whole new application model in apps means that there will be so many attempts at making it work that the need for SharePoint developers will skyrocket. Everyone and their grandmothers will want to have apps for everything, and we’ll be the ones to build it. Again, great news for our marketability and for our job security.

So, we’re going to be even more valuable than before because nobody else can do what we do, and Microsoft is actively encouraging our competition (meaning clients) to not get in out way. Our HTML knowledge from the 90s will finally be relevant again, and there will be so many new apps projects that we can pretty much kiss any unemployment goodbye.

None of these things, however, are good for SharePoint, nor for our clients. As such, I do hope Microsoft changes their mind.

I hope they give us back SharePoint Designer.

I hope they restore confidence in their customers and encourage them to learn how to customize rather than tell them not to do what they suck at.

I hope that you really, really consider the benefits of a new application model before you open wide and swallow whatever the hype tells you about SharePoint apps.

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Bjørn Furuknap

I previously did SharePoint. These days, I try new things to see where I can find the passion. If you have great ideas, cool projects, or is in general an awesome person, get in touch and we might find out together.

9 thoughts on “Good News for SharePoint 2013 Developers: You Still Have a Job”

  1. Bjorn,
    Well put – will it help to go kicking and screaming? I have already began to mourn for Silverlight and InfoPath.

    -Greg

  2. I’ve just begun my SharePoint journey and was just considering reading about Sandbox solutions. Happened to read this at the right time.

    Quite informative I must admit, and as advised, I shall lay sandbox to RIP.

    I’m disappointed about SharePoint Designer though.

    – Gagan

    1. Hi,

      I was happy to read your article.

      I’m learning SP 2010 since few months now and I’m preparing for the 70-573.

      It clear some doubts. It’s still best to learn 2010 before 2013. At least I’ll know the differences.

      I’m just wondering where the Web Part goes ?? Is it replacing by the App ?

      Thanks.

      Adrien.

      1. Thank you for sharing your opinion. As always it’s valuable for me.
        Recently I needed to come up with the transition plan for SP2010 to Online and ultimately to 2013.
        In order to deliver customization to sharepoint services Office 365,( which as of September 2012 is on 2010) I have no choice but use sandbox . So, in my scenario I have to use it, even though APPs are coming.
        I do see value in APPS development. It allows me find developers more easily for “SharePoint” projects. Not all developers in my team should know intricate parts of SP in order to extend UX in it.
        He is an article that I wrote recently on Sanbox vs APPs http://sharing-the-experience.blogspot.com/2012/09/sharepoint-sandboxed-solutions-are.html

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