3 Ways to Help Onboard New Developers to a Project

With long-term software development projects, and even sometimes short ones, it’s inevitable that new developers will join your project. Diving into a large ongoing software project can be overwhelming, particularly for less experienced developers. New team members are often subject to the “firehose” of information. That includes understanding who the client is, what their needs are, and the background of the technical choices we have made up to this point. It also includes the architecture and design patterns important to the project. All of it is a lot to take in. Let’s look at ways to onboard new developers to a software project and make it less painful.

The Tour

First, introduce the technical documentation, including README files, architecture diagrams, API documentation, and onboarding guides. Next, help set up the new developers’ local environment. This involves installing the necessary software, configuring the development environment, and ensuring they can access the necessary repositories, tools, and dependencies. A well-prepared local environment is crucial for new developers to start working on the project effectively.

Now, we can start at the top and review the high-level architecture. Diagrams help visualize the architecture, which may include databases, external integrations, and critical workflows. This is an excellent time to provide context about the project, including its purpose, goals, and key stakeholders. This context is not only important for understanding the project but also for fostering a sense of belonging and shared purpose among the team members.

Next, we can start to walk through some of the code. Explore how the repositories are structured, identify core modules and their responsibilities, and locate configuration files. It’s helpful to walk through some sample workflows by looking at how to navigate the code and identify coding standards and practices for the project.

Bugs and Small Stories

Assigning bugs and small user stories is a practical way to onboard new developers onto a new software project. For instance, a bug could be a minor issue in the user interface that needs to be fixed, or a small user story could involve adding a new feature to the project. This provides a gradual learning curve with a manageable scope and helps prevent feelings of overwhelm. It provides hands-on practice while allowing them to feel like they are making meaningful contributions early on, helping to boost their confidence and provide a sense of ownership. It also exposes them to project processes like testing and creating pull requests.


Pairing a new developer with an experienced team member is a powerful strategy in the onboarding process. It creates a supportive learning environment that accelerates onboarding, enhances understanding, and fosters team bonding. This approach provides the opportunity for immediate feedback, helping new developers correct mistakes and adopt best practices quickly. It also encourages the knowledge-sharing and collaboration essential for building a strong and cohesive team.

Onboarding New Developers with Ease

Onboarding a new developer onto a software project can be daunting, but leveraging these strategies can significantly ease the process. These methods provide a supportive, collaborative learning environment that accelerates the new developer’s understanding of the code base, tools, and development practices. A well-structured onboarding process ultimately benefits the entire project, leading to higher-quality code and more efficient development cycles. Investing time and resources into thoughtful onboarding pays off in building a stronger, more capable team ready to tackle any challenge.


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