More WebForms roadblocks and a glimpse of hope
My previous post has gotten a lot of great feedback. Thanks everybody! I got some more important roadblocks that are worth noting. I am starting to think that having outlined the traditionally hard parts in ASP.NET development and later focusing on techniques for mastering them might turn helpful to many people. OK then, here we go.
Andy Stopford started out by bringing up ViewState. Being an easy source of many performance issues is almost a non-issue. To me, ViewState is a classic example of a leaky abstraction. It tries to make you think that your controls never get unloaded and HTTP requests do not actually exist. All you have to do is handle some events and configure controls in there. Yeah, right! That abstraction does not cover a lot of scenarios and pretty soon you find yourself thrown into the pit of lost state data, odd control behavior, and hard-to-find bugs. Like it or not, ViewState is here to stay, and going through a good book or a good article series is a must for all new developers. Going through the required reading and approaching dynamic control loading with some discipline typically deals with all ViewState-related problems.
Probably the hardest thing to do in ASP.NET is MVC. The page architecture does not help much when you want to separate your application concerns. Many people will just go with the flow and end up with that 5-KLOC code-behind class. I still think you can achieve a good level of separation of concerns and realize a nice MVC-based architecture for your app... again, with some discipline.
Mike Yeaney brought up AJAX and especially how ASP.NET has never been designed with AJAX-based apps in mind. You have to jump through hoops if you want to do better at authentication and error handling, so that they work better with XMLHttpRequest calls. Things are getting better with ASP.NET AJAX. At the very least you get support for web services, working with profile data and authentication. I strongly advise that anyone trying to create rich user interfaces starts with that.
Ruffus brought up the out-of-fashion rendering of many of the built-in controls that makes it hard to create accessible pages. Accessibility is a big requirement these days and is getting harder and harder to ignore. Nevertheless, having a truly-accessible site will require that you learn the tricks of the trade and carefully craft your rendered markup. Doing this with custom ASP.NET controls or with a home-grown framework looks like the same amount of work. Still, I'd lean towards the control-based solution.
I fully agree with Wally that you have to really know what you are doing when ditching WebForms. It is highly unlikely that you are smarter than the Microsoft guys that designed the framework and, chances are, you are better off if you stick with WebForms and invest some time into learning how to extend the framework and overcome its limitations.