Getting Up to Speed: How Blockchain Projects Can Better Support Developer Onboarding

Blockchain is often hailed as a breakthrough technology destined to disrupt countless industries. But for many developers, their journey into blockchain begins with a sobering reality check – it’s really hard to learn. Concepts like cryptocurrency wallets, consensus protocols, and decentralized apps can be daunting for those new to the space. Unfortunately, many blockchain projects do little to smooth out this steep learning curve for developers trying to get started.

A lack of effective onboarding resources plagues much of the blockchain ecosystem. Developer relations teams often assume too much pre-existing knowledge, failing to provide adequate materials for complete beginners. From incomplete documentation to the overuse of jargon, projects erect barriers that frustrate new developers. This leads many to give up before they can ever make meaningful contributions.

For blockchain to gain mainstream traction, attracting and supporting new developers is a must. Projects serious about growth need to design better onboarding experiences and simplify the path for beginners. Here are some ideas that could help in that mission:

Start With Clear, Jargon-Free Materials

Too often, introductory materials throw around buzzwords and specialized terminology without explaining them clearly. Even simple terms like “block” and “chain” should not be assumed as common knowledge. Beginner content needs to use plain language, avoid or properly define jargon, and provide relevant analogies that connect new concepts to what learners already understand. Short, digestible guides focused on fundamentals are best for onboarding.

Create Interactive Tutorials

Reading dense documentation rarely sticks for new learners. Interactive tutorials that let developers get hands-on with code provide much quicker comprehension. Leading developers step-by-step through concepts like setting up a wallet, writing a smart contract, and querying a blockchain via an API gives real experience to build on. Catering the lessons to mainstream languages like JavaScript also lowers barriers.

Simplify Development Environments

New developers struggle with complex tooling and setups required for blockchain work. Projects should strive to streamline their development environments as much as possible. Using lightweight containers and web-based IDEs can remove friction. Providing one-click installers, preconfigured VMs, and automated scaffolding for typical project structures also helps developers hit the ground running.

Start Local, Think Global

Even fundamental blockchain terminology can have different meanings across various protocols. Onboarding materials should first focus on specifics for that project before bridging into “global” blockchain concepts. And using network-specific terminology without explaining more general definitions adds extra layers of confusion. Meet developers where they are, then broaden the picture.

Promote Active Forums

Developers learning blockchain need venues to ask questions without judgement. Active forums and chat channels with responsive team members provide safe spaces for beginners to fill knowledge gaps without feeling inadequate. These social channels also build community and support networks valuable for retention and progression.

Offer Live Mentorship

Personalized guidance accelerates learning for developers new to any technology. Projects should consider pairing new members with mentors who can provide live coaching and feedback. These mentors can identify knowledge gaps to improve onboarding content. And their mentorship converts newcomers into knowledgeable advocates.

Develop Robust Training Programs

In-depth training programs take onboarding further for developers who want to truly master blockchain. Structured curriculums including video lectures, exercises, real-world projects and tests can make experts out of beginners. Certifications can validate skills and even provide career advancement opportunities that incentivize completion.

Simplify Key Management Early

The complexities of managing cryptographic keys and signing transactions scares many newcomers away. Projects need to avoid hand-waving about wallets and develop very clear, step-by-step key management guidance tailored to beginners with no assumptions. Making this incredibly foundational concept intuitive should happen on day one.

Focus On Community Building

Connecting new developers into a supportive community gives them motivation to power through challenges. This sense of belonging can be the difference between persevering or giving up. Social events, mentorship programs, forums and networking opportunities are all key community builders to emphasize early on.

The path into the blockchain space will never be completely frictionless. But projects investing in smoother onboarding can unlock contributions from many more developers. Taking the time to ramp up beginners and make them feel welcome pays dividends. The ideas here provide a roadmap to make that learning curve just a bit more manageable.