Just recently, I finally convinced my wife to roll and level a character with me (it only took three years). We sat down together, and as I started walking her through the character creation process, I really had trouble deciding what would be the best class for her to learn on. I wanted something simple, but not so simple that it became boring after a few levels. At the same time, I didn't want her to play a particularly complicated class like a feral druid that might overwhelm her and prevent her from enjoying the game for what it is.
As she was playing around with face and hair options, I made up a series of questions to narrow down the role and class she might enjoy, eventually deciding on a warlock. If nothing else, my main is a warlock, and I'd be able to help her in ways that I wouldn't if she'd decided on a warrior or shaman. As we entered the game world and started killing an assortment of critters for pitiful amounts of copper and silver, she asked me why I "get to chop stuff." I explained that my character was a paladin and that paladins don't hang back and fling spells like warlocks, they just hit stuff with their swords. A few seconds passed, and she said, "I think I want to chop stuff, too." So much for my little impromptu questionnaire.
What class would you recommend to a brand new player? How would you balance what you know of the player with what you know of the game and its assorted roles? Would you suggest a tank or healer class? Do you think ranged or melee DPS is easier to pick up? Would you take the safe route and suggest a druid that can do anything or a hunter that is historically held as a class that is "easy to learn but difficult to master"?