Edited excerpt from Building your growth model and Ladder of Engagement by Josh Elman:
As you think about your product and what it takes to become an expert, I like to break this down to steps into something I call the “Ladder of Engagement”. You should be able to break down your product into specific skills or tasks someone needs to understand to get the most out of your product. Not all users will (or need to!) make it to the top of the ladder to get value out of it. But you should understand what tasks in your product require more understanding of your product.
This might be easier with an example I created for Twitter when we were just starting the growth team. This was the Twitter Ladder of Engagement: (1) Understand what a Tweet is, (2) Start following people you are interested in / friends with to make a basic timeline, (3) Start checking and reading your timeline to see what’s new, (4) Make sure you have mobile apps installed so you can go back and forth with the web app, (5) Begin to engage and participate — @ reply, retweets, favorites and even Tweet yourself, (6) Run your first searches and see what other people are saying on Twitter. (7) Learn to build your following (we didn’t expect most users to get here, but we expected power users would care and want to).
This ladder was valuable for us as we built the growth and onboarding flow. We focused primarily on 1–4 to get people going, and then step 5 as users were more prepared. It helped us decide which areas of the product to focus on, and helped us explain the product to users in a more stepwise fashion.