Elevating Code Quality and Developer Efficiency

Discover GitHub Copilot Chat’s impact on code quality and developer productivity in the latest research from the world’s leading AI-powered developer platform.

GitHub, the premier AI-enhanced developer platform globally, has published fresh research on GitHub Copilot Chat. Leveraging the capabilities of natural language, developers in the study harnessed GitHub Copilot Chat to receive immediate guidance, suggestions, issue resolution, and custom-tailored solutions for their coding challenges, all within their integrated development environment (IDE).

The study revealed that the quality of code produced and reviewed significantly improved across the board when GitHub Copilot Chat was enabled, even though none of the developers had prior experience with this feature.

The key findings are as follows:

  1. Eighty-five percent of developers expressed heightened confidence in the quality of their code when using GitHub Copilot and GitHub Copilot Chat.
  2. Code reviews were more actionable and completed 15% faster with the assistance of GitHub Copilot Chat.
  3. Eighty-eight percent of developers reported that they maintained a state of flow while using GitHub Copilot Chat, as it helped them stay focused, reduced frustration, and enhanced their coding experience.

Mario Rodriguez, VP of Product at GitHub, commented on the results, stating, “We understand the distinction between speed and quality. We designed GitHub Copilot and GitHub Copilot Chat to enhance developers’ lives by aiding their focus, keeping them in the flow, and adding more joy to their work. The results demonstrate that these AI tools are accomplishing these goals and more, and we are eager to develop what comes next.”

Previously, GitHub research demonstrated that developers using GitHub Copilot wrote code 55% faster. However, speed is just one aspect of the equation. Often, there has been a traditional trade-off between speed and correctness. As AI increasingly generates code for more developers, ensuring code quality becomes even more critical.

What characterizes high-quality code?

To gauge code quality, GitHub employs a rubric consisting of five metrics, which are also consistent with academic and industry standards:

  1. Readable: Code that is challenging to read hinders maintenance, improvement, and documentation.
  2. Reusable: Code reuse is a cornerstone of collaborative development, saving time and promoting consistency.
  3. Concise: Reducing code repetition enhances readability, comprehension, and maintainability while decreasing the likelihood of bugs.
  4. Maintainable: Well-maintained code minimizes dependencies, aiding code search and reuse.
  5. Resilient: Resilient code remains functional or exhibits minimal disruption in the presence of errors, ensuring reliable performance.

The Study Correlates GitHub Copilot with Enhanced Code Quality

The research sought to determine if GitHub Copilot, including its chatbot functionality, would enhance the perceived quality of code, reduce code review time, and produce code that passes unit testing. In all respects, developers found their coding improved when using GitHub Copilot.

In summary, developers reported increased confidence as coding became easier, error-free, more readable, reusable, concise, maintainable, and resilient when using GitHub Copilot and GitHub Copilot Chat, as opposed to coding without these tools.

One study participant, a Senior Software Engineer at a Fortune 500 company, noted, “The code was so clean, I could just look at the code, know what was going on, and bring it over fairly easily to my codebase. So, I felt the code quality was very clean and easy to understand. When I was doing the pull request review using Copilot, I saw how good it was at generating proper error handling code.”

Developers acknowledged that GitHub Copilot Chat significantly improved the quality of their code during reviews, making them 15% faster. Furthermore, a higher percentage of comments from reviewers using GitHub Copilot Chat were accepted, with nearly 70% of participants embracing these comments.

These results underscore the collaborative impact of GitHub Copilot Chat and highlight its potential benefits when scaled across larger engineering teams within more extensive organizations. Reduced time spent on pull requests and code reviews allows developers to focus on higher-priority changes. Starting with higher-quality code obviates the need for later rollbacks and additional testing.

A software engineer participating in the study stated, “One of the more actionable comments I received was related to the conceptual understanding of my code. I want other developers to be able to understand what I’m doing, so this was good feedback.”

Last year’s research revealed that 60-75% of developers using GitHub Copilot experienced increased job satisfaction, reduced frustration while coding, and an improved ability to concentrate on more rewarding work. In this year’s study, 88% of participants similarly reported reduced frustration and increased focus. Staying within the integrated development environment results in less time spent on searching and more time in the coveted state of focused flow.

A Senior Systems Validation Engineer participating in the study stated, “Because I’ve had industry experience for over a decade, I usually prefer coding with a notepad or a simplistic platform, and Copilot Chat was a really useful tool for checking basic things without me needing to go to Google or Stack Overflow. And Copilot has a pretty neat syntax edition.”

The research findings from GitHub’s exploration of GitHub Copilot Chat shed light on the transformative potential of AI-driven tools in the realm of software development. By empowering developers to write better, more readable, and resilient code while enhancing their overall coding experience, these innovations pave the way for a more efficient and satisfying development process. As the technology continues to evolve and scale, we can anticipate even more remarkable advancements in the software development landscape, as GitHub remains committed to providing developers with the tools they need to excel in their craft and find joy in their work.