First, please read what my friend Marc Anderson has to say about it. More, and More and even more. Also, my friend Asif Rehmani has some views on it as well.
They bring up some important points, but in short, everything that allows for Visual Editing of pages, is gone! And anything that concerned visual editing, (and there are many such scenarios), is now gone.
What is the practical upshot of all this?
In SP2013, they have lowered the barrier to some basic design customization - so if an organization wishes to put their colors on a SharePoint site, while still being okay with the site itself look SharePointy that exercise is quite trivial now.
It is clear to me that in thinking of SP2013 they have discouraged the fact that making it look non-SharePointy is one of the biggest requirements of a SharePoint project.
I see the problem split in two halves - one for WCM sites, and another for everything else. The WCM sites, design manager is a good start, but I doubt it takes you all the way to full success. Secondly it only works for some very simplistic cases, and requires you to adhere to a certain discipline when authoring your templates and applying them to SharePoint. Sure you're not learning master pages here, but you're still learning some SharePointeze. Consider the barrier lowered here somewhat.
Now the design manager is cool and all for WCM, but where things become difficult are when you need to customize the collaboration area, and make that non-SharePointy. That in my opinion has gotten 10x more difficult. And I really doubt that most organizations would be okay with letting SharePoint look like SharePoint. :). That is the part where we still need lots of insights, lots of guidance from industry leaders. For instance, making stuff work with MDM is almost essential for SP2013 experience, and that certainly needs a developer or developer like skills.
This is what has me worried. For SP2010, a pure UI guy could stretch themselves, and teach themselves developerish stuff and make SharePoint master pages. That skill bar has now I think been raised quite a bit. I doubt if traditional UI designers will do this anymore, and I wonder how developers will work and communicate with turtleneck designers. Interesting few years ahead of us I guess.
As a summarization, for SP2013,
- Don’t fight SharePoint UI, embrace it. You can do the low-barrier customization easily, and that will keep your SPLife easier. This is the #1 best advice I can give to any customer – don’t fight SP, embrace it. You don’t teach your dog to meeow either, do you?
- UI customization is one thing, but a number of scenarios that the design view was critical for, are now simply undoable. I think many power users will miss that.
- The replacement for those power users will now be a developer. While one view can be that this is more work for developers. In reality, it is extra work for the same output as far as the customer is concerned. Which leads me to show you the international symbol of an SP consultant
So, yes, the missing design view in SPD2013 is somewhat of a big deal.