Blog

Using AI to improve development efficiency & innovation.

Date

20th December 2023

Read

10 min

Creator

Becca Anderton

How AI is revolutionising development processes.

Working at a digital agency, efficient development processes are pivotal to our success and sustainability as a business. The industry is highly competitive and we’re often found competing with other businesses in areas such as product features, user experience and time-to-market. 

Having efficient development processes enables us to deliver high-quality products and solutions much faster than we would otherwise be able to. It also directly contributes to our cost-effectiveness as we manage to optimise our workflows, lower our bottlenecks and ultimately reduce our development time. 

The pace of innovation within our industry is rapid. Technologies and frameworks are constantly evolving, and it’s crucial that we stay current. Having efficient development processes in place ensures that we can adapt to these changes and leverage new opportunities.

Enter AI. 

Artificial intelligence has played a hugely transformative role in revolutionising development practices across the industry. 

There are several areas within the industry where AI has had a key impact. These include enhancing code quality with tools that analyse code for potential errors and adherence to code standards, automating testing and quality assurance, and intelligent code completion.
AI has already had a significant impact on all areas of our development practices and has improved the efficiency, quality and creativity of our software development.

The need for efficiency in development.

One important part of software development and ensuring code quality is writing tests. Doing so allows a developer to be confident that their work is meeting the desired criteria and working as expected. But it can often be a hugely time-consuming part of the process, slowing a developer down and leading to inefficiencies in the process. 

Achieving comprehensive test coverage is a common challenge – writing a test case for so many potential scenarios takes a long time and is difficult to achieve (especially in complex systems). 

‘If we were able to streamline – or even automate – processes like producing tests, then the full lifecycle benefits.’

In addition to writing tests in the first instance, developers are also required to maintain the test suites to ensure they evolve alongside the code and continue to work. Pair this with the fact that developers often find themselves working against tight deadlines to deliver within a specified timeline, and often, the result is a trade-off between code quality and meeting deadlines.

If we were able to streamline – or even automate – processes like producing tests, then the full lifecycle benefits. We would be able to consistently ensure code quality without any trade-off or compromise on meeting deadlines, and developers would be able to dedicate less time to what many consider a ‘boring’ task and focus more of their efforts on innovation and creative digital solutions. Clients would not only consistently receive their work on time, but they’d also have the guarantee of a high-quality and effective solution.

The new role of ChatGPT in app development.

So where does AI come into this? 

As we reach the tail-end of 2023, there are a huge number of valuable AI tools on the market. Probably the most well-known at this stage is ChatGPT. ChatGPT is a free, natural language processing tool driven by AI technology, which will allow the user to have ‘conversations’ with the chatbot. The language model used can answer questions and assist with tasks (such as writing code).

‘By automating certain tasks, tools like these have a fantastic ability to help reduce repetition and ease the burden on developers.’

In addition to ChatGPT, there are other options on the market, such as Github Co-Pilot – a tool for developers which can greatly enhance developer efficiency. There’s Cursor IDE, which is an integrated development environment (IDE) that brings AI directly into the developer’s environment. Claude acts as a virtual assistant and can be used for things like document reviews and handling. 

By automating certain tasks, tools like these have a fantastic ability to help reduce repetition and ease the burden on developers. Code completion features allow developers to rapidly produce code and, in the instance of writing tests, these tools can allow an entire test suite to be produced on the fly instead of the developer having to manually write each test from scratch. 

Github Co-pilot & Cursor IDE  are very similar to ChatGPT in the way they can aid and assist developers. They both provide AI-Drive code assistance, which use AI to suggest relevant code snippets based on context to aid in code completion. They can also both provide auto-complete style suggestions, which gives developers a more efficient coding experience. 

Both tools maintain an understanding of the context of the code being written, allowing more accurate suggestions to be made. They both learn from the coding patterns they encounter and will adapt their suggestions over time to suit the preferences of the developer using them.

Using these tools alongside AI-powered large language models like ChatGPT has the potential to significantly impact coding efficiency by giving developers advanced AI-drive assistance and language understanding. ChatGPT complements Co-pilot and Cursor nicely. Developers can interact to seek explanations and get assistance with complex problem-solving. It can also be used as a valuable educational tool, helping developers understand the rationale behind coding practices and complex concepts.

‘AI tools have the potential to create a powerful ecosystem that enhances coding efficiency and supports developers in a multitude of aspects of the software development lifecycle.’

Together, these tools can result in accelerated development by offering quick and accurate code suggestions, completions and on-demand assistance. They reduce the developer’s cognitive load, allowing them to focus on high-level design decisions and critical problem-solving instead of routine and repetitive tasks. 

AI tools have the potential to create a powerful ecosystem that enhances coding efficiency and supports developers in a multitude of aspects of the software development lifecycle. But it’s important to balance automation with human creativity and decision-making to achieve optimum results. 

Our tip: If you want to start considering AI options but don’t feel ready to dive straight in with Co-pilot and Cursor IDE (which can be costly), there are cheaper and simpler ways to integrate AI into development workflows. Most IDEs now offer a wealth of AI plugins (Tabnine, for example), which are free to use, and integrate seamlessly with a developer’s IDE, while offering many of the same features as Co-pilot & Cursor, though they may not be as extensive or accurate.

Real-world applications: improving client features.

Since introducing AI as part of our development workflows at hedgehog lab, we’ve seen consistent improvements across speed of delivery – meaning we’re more likely to deliver our client’s work on time while maintaining the level of quality our clients have come to expect. AI has allowed us to deliver more features to clients, keep the code quality high with the use of tests, and ensure outcomes are robust and consistent. 

We’ve been able to leverage these tools to develop innovative new features for our clients. We recently recommended ChatGPT integration to improve the platform search functionality for one of our clients. A name is passed in as a search key, and a number of URLs and articles are returned. By implementing ChatGPT here, we’ve been able to more accurately assess whether the data returned is relevant to the name originally passed in, providing the users with more valuable information. This feature has added a lot of value both to our client and their users. 

‘AI has allowed us to deliver more features to clients, keep the code quality high with the use of tests, and ensure outcomes are robust and consistent.’

We’ve also been able to suggest potential new features to some of our global clients, allowing them to bring their brand to life for their fans in other countries by using AI to create a realistic animation to take part in a Q&A with fans. The AI would be able to mimic personality, speech patterns and knowledge based on existing interviews, statements and information, making the AI instance completely authentic to the brand. This will allow our clients’ users to receive a uniquely personal and interactive experience whilst increasing our client’s brand awareness and giving them an opportunity to drive sales of their new product range.

Future implications and suggestions for AI in app development.

AI has the potential to revolutionise development processes across an array of industries, offering a wide range of benefits and enhancing efficiency in a number of ways. 

In addition to the benefits we’ve discussed, AI can also contribute to predictive analytics, where algorithms can analyse historical data to make accurate predictions about potential issues, project timelines and any resource requirements, enabling better project management and risk mitigation. 

‘We can strategically incorporate a number of AI approaches for businesses to not only meet but anticipate our client’s evolving needs.’

There are a number of AI-driven testing tools that can enhance the efficiency of testing processes. Regression and performance testing can be performed more comprehensively and quickly than manual testing using automated testing options with AI. Similarly to this, AI can also assist in detecting and fixing bugs by assessing code patterns to identify potential vulnerabilities – allowing a proactive approach to maintaining a stable and reliable codebase. 

We can strategically incorporate a number of AI approaches for businesses to not only meet but anticipate our client’s evolving needs. Using predictive analytics, as mentioned earlier, we can analyse historical data to predict features or content that a user may be interested in. 

There are also options to implement chatbots or virtual assistance with AI providing real-time assistance and gathering user feedback. It’s also possible to use AI to analyse user behaviour within an application so that we can understand how users interact with existing features, allowing us to identify patterns to suggest features tailored to evolving client needs.

The future of AI tools in software development.

At this time, it’s impossible to deny that AI tools like the ones discussed here are revolutionising development practices by introducing new capabilities and efficiencies into development lifecycles. AI tools in software development are transforming the way developers write, review, and collaborate on code. By leveraging the full potential of AI, we’re able to enhance productivity, improve code quality, and create a more collaborative and efficient environment.

In summary, AI-driven approaches not only improve efficiency by automating tasks but also play a crucial role in fostering innovation. By leveraging AI capabilities, development teams are empowered to anticipate future client needs and deliver innovative features that set their products apart in a competitive landscape.

How AI can help your development teams.

The key to delivering impactful solutions to our clients lies in harnessing the transformative power of AI-based development tools.

Explore the possibilities these tools can bring to your teams, and use them to streamline your workflows and boost productivity, leaving you and your teams more time for creativity and problem-solving instead of focusing on the mundane and repetitive tasks that currently make up a large proportion of development lifecycles. 

In this industry, staying relevant means embracing change. By adopting AI tools, you can position yourself at the forefront of innovation and make yourself indispensable in a landscape that demands constant evolution. 

The future of development is AI-driven. And the possibilities are limitless. Embrace these tools, experiment fearlessly, and let AI empower you to create solutions that redefine what’s possible. 

To discuss how we can help deliver your next web or mobile app project, get in touch.