Our site offers some good information, but it can be confusing for new users. It has a different structure than traditional discussion forums. It happens frequently that a new user finds the site, has something to say, and writes it into the most obvious field - the field reserved for new answers. Many times, what the user writes is not a thing which is considered an "answer" by our strict rules. The community edits or removes the post, mentioning the broken rule to the user. This annoys and confuses the new user, who just wanted to participate and was "chastised" (from his/her point of view) for doing so.
We have several places which contain a collection of rules. The [faq] contains some considerations the user should take into account before asking a new question. But even users who have read it are sometimes confused about which reply should be posted where. The Privileges page explains all tools available on the page, how they should be used, and when they become available. But they are like any tool explanation - they are sorted by the solutions they provide, not by the problems for which they provide a solution, and so very hard to comprehend for newbies. Also, they are not immediately visible to the new user. Meta has lots of discussions which set rules, but it is practically impossible for a new user to wade through all of these, even if they had the inclination to do so.
The practical result is that many users go through an unpleasant phase of adapting to our rules before becoming part of the community. I remember going through it myself - I snivelled for a question of mine to stay open because I felt strong about it. Months later, as a moderator, I went back and closed it because it was indeed off-topic. Today, I have accompanied a good number new users through this phase. Many of them perceived our deleting/removing/downvoting of their misplaced posts as rude and left before integrating into our community. But even the ones who later stuck around and became valuable contributors went through a period asking for more guidance than I could easily provide.
I want to present two such cases from recent times.
First Sunishta's experience, explained in a chat room: http://chat.stackexchange.com/rooms/7770/room-for-sunishtha-singh-and-jefromi. Note that before this conversation happened, we had deleted some of her answers for being off-topic, using the canned response "this should have been a comment". So obviously, she tried to do it "right" by writing an off-topic comment this time. It got flagged and I had to delete it. She considered it rude, and I can understand this. We are doing what she perceives as a punishment, and when we give her hints about what behavior would be correct, they turn out to be misleading (mostly because the situation is different, but we have not provided her with the tools to recognize different situations).
Second SAJ14SAJ's experience, with a representatvie example documented at Get list of reference meta questions added to FAQ. This user went on to achieve 10K rep in about two months, which is a record for our site. They were very eager to earn the rules in their first days here, and I am sure that they found any easily available information before posting on Meta. The fact that they requested a better source of information on the rules tells me that the one presently available is not good enough. It is a bit hard to discover, but even after discovering, it requires a lot of effort to wade through it.
And I have also seen countless users write a few answers, only to get disheartened after the first few downvotes/deleted answers and just leaving the site forever.
Question to the community: How do we create a welcoming process which does not frustrate new users the way the current one does?