"In thinking about structured tasks, it looks like this might be a big question: should workflows be more aimed toward teaching newcomers to use the traditional tools, or be more aimed toward newcomers being able to do easy edits at higher volume?"
Why should only newcomers have it easy? This particular structured task is easy because it involves creating a link with one link. Something I have been begging the developers and WMF staff to return to the standard editing toolbar for years. One has to go all the way back to the 2006 editing toolbar to be able to create internal or external links with one click. The 2017 editing toolbar is good because it is sticky, and will not roll offscreen. But it removes one-click bolding and italics. By burying them in a menu. So it seems developers are making things even harder.
But I am glad some WMF staff are finally trying to make wikitext editing easier again.