Here’s an example of the quests UI interface from Glitch. You can’t just tell users to do ‘anything.’ You have to answer the question of ‘what kind of anything can I do?’ That’s why the quests UI is effective in guiding you towards a direction.
LinkedIn has an example of these ‘quests.’ Once you sign in, there’s a progress bar. Then, they tell you that if you complete a series of tasks (like adding a picture, adding a recommendation), you get more percentage points for your progress bar. In the process of doing these quests, you learn how to use the product.
Yammer is yet another example. After you log in, there is a ‘to-do’ checklist at the bottom of the page. Doing those things teaches you what you should be using Yammer for.
Games do a great job of doing this. They teach you controls as part of the gameplay—the first thing is always ‘go left,’ or ‘go right’ and try it out. In Super Mario Galaxy, the first task is to jump over ten bunnies, which is fun. You don’t even realize you’re being taught because you’re so immersed in it.
Tumblr has used some of the above game mechanics. They teach you step by step—first, name your blog. Next, try posting a quote and then post a photo. Bam—now go and check out your blog—you have one!
(thanks Jeff H. for the tip!)