SharePoint 2013 introduces a centralized hub called “Design Manager” for managing all aspects of branding a SharePoint site. The Design Manager generates HTML snippets that can be used by any web design tool. The site design can be created using the existing expertise in HTML, CSS, and Javascript and once it is ready, it can be uploaded to Design Manager to convert the HTML file to an ASP. net master page which can then be applied to the SharePoint site.

Two new branding features from SharePoint 2013 that stand out are “Composed Looks” and “Device Channels.” Composed Looks is a simple way to create a theme using master page, a color set, a font and an image. The Composed Looks feature gives the user the ability to select the font or color palette regardless of the master page that is created for them. You can also create multiple Composed Looks for multiple regions (e.g. Portal, Collaboration site etc.)

Device Channels are a way to apply a certain look to a certain device. A device can belong to multiple channels. Publishing sites in SharePoint 2013 are optimized for mobile development, and the Device Channels feature can be used to fine-tune how mobile users experience the site. Device Channels also leverage the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) capability.

Both of these features can be leveraged by users for designing either Intranet or Internet web sites. They ensure that Internet sites will also cater to the growing mobile audience using smartphones and tablets.

Our Take: There is some controversy among SharePoint pundits around the new Design Manager feature, and how mature and easy it is to use. The new branding model is not proven, and early reviews still call branding activities cumbersome. However, there are some solid benefits that will become more evident as use of Design Manager matures.
Designers can still use master pages if they choose to, so Microsoft has not deprecated that functionality. We are seeing designers use a combination of old and new design features. The out-of-box rendering, particularly for mobile views, is still somewhat weak
and requires custom development.

Stay tuned as we release more of this 11-part series from our whitepaper on SharePoint 2013′s newest features right here on our blog for your reading pleasure. But, why wait? You can download the whitepaper in its entirety now.

Let us know your comments, questions and conerns as you read through the document.

Microsoft SharePoint 2013: An Overview