Well… if you have 2 friends…
I would start by putting all of you in cheapish “glass cannon” frigate setups. The Tristan, Atron, Merlin, and Rifter all come to mind.
A “glass cannon frigate” is basically: a Microwarpdrive, a Warp Scrambler, a Stasis Webifier, the second biggest “frigate level” turrets you can find, a weapon enhancement module (e.g. Heat Sink, Drone Damage Amp, Magnetic Field Stab, etc).
Fit everything in that order!
Anything you can fit past those modules is up to you. You can add tank, more speed… whatever.
Now… you may ask, “but Fluffers… what is the point of this? I want to be able to kill stuff and mitigate the risk of death!”
The point behind using cheapo frigates in this manner is…
your inexperience guarantees that you are going to die (sorry… but it is true. We have all been there). So you might as well go for “full-tilt murder-mode.”
frigates are relatively cheap compared to other ship classes. This means you can take more chances!
frigates pretty much use the same mechanics as larger classes of ships. Larger ships are simply slower and require more invested skillpoints and player experience to reach their full potential.
(expanding on the last point) by fighting (and dying) in frigates you learn what ships are good at killing smaller ships (like frigates) and which have trouble dealing with smaller ships.
Taking all the above points together: You are effectively experimenting a bit to see what lives longer, what deals more damage, and/or what is more survivable… meanwhile you are trying new things and sharpening your preferences for what you like to do.
Additionally, by flying and fighting as many ships as you can (win or lose) you are exposing yourself to different tactics and fits that other player use… which you can incorporate (or counter) in your own fits/tactics.
Once you have mastered frigate level combat I would suggest that one of you move up to a cruiser while the other two stay in frigates. Cycle around to see what setups work for you.
My personal recommendation?
One person flies in a Stabber (or a Stabber Fleet Issue) equipped with Dual-150mm Auto-cannons and a Shield tank (don’t forget to equip a Microwarpdrive and Warp Disruptor!)
Have the two frigates run down and pin targets until the Stabber can get in range and bring its firepower to bear.