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Learning Curve


Contributors may not feel confident about successfully participating in your project, especially if they believe that they need some expert knowledge in order to contribute.


Potential contributors are considering joining the project, or have just joined and are trying to understand how to contribute.


Signpost contributors to the simple ways they can make useful contributions immediately, which will help develop their understanding of the project as they go. Have a ‘start small’ philosophy and explain this to the contributors.

Even contributors with little experience can make valuable contributions early on and there are many ways of contributing something valuable to the project.

First time contributions to the project should be as simple as possible: ‘starting small’ will help build confidence and will be of more value to the project. Contributors will learn as they go and be confident in their submissions, which will make them more likely to keep contributing.

Contributors don’t usually know where to start on a project unless there is good signposting. It is therefore crucial to have highly visible start points.

  • Clear navigation
  • Clear calls to action
  • Explicit labeling (buttons, steps, actions…)

Even if all contributors are experienced/expert, projects should still provide guidance as they may be unfamiliar with the schemas and entry structures.

There are several patterns that can be employed at this stage depending on the type of project and tasks:

Think carefully about how you give encouraging feedback to new members of your community, even if their first contribution cannot be accepted immediately.

Related patterns

Suggested Edits

Records in the dataset are incomplete but could be improved through some small additions.

Explain Fields

New contributors do not have a comprehensive understanding of your data model and can feel overwhelmed by the new concepts and terminology.


Maintaining a mature database involves carrying smaller repetitive tasks that may be less engaging for contributors

Onboarding Process

New project contributors may be unfamiliar with some of the language used and be unsure of how to use the tools. This can make it difficult to make good-quality contributions.

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