How are Websites Used During Development and What are the Implications for the Coding Process?

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Websites are frequently used to support the development process. This paper investigates how websites are used when writing code and programmers’ perceptions of the potential impact of this on their behaviour and the quality of the resulting software. We interviewed 18 programmers (13 students enrolled in undergraduate computer science courses, and 5 experienced professionals), and analysed the data thematically. The findings were used to develop a survey, which was distributed to 276 programmers (251 students, 25 experienced professionals). The results indicate that use of websites, especially Stack Overflow, is viewed as an essential part of programming by both students completing coursework and professionals developing code in industry.

We also found that developers have experience of encountering a diverse set of problematic code snippets online, that copying code from websites without checking its quality or understanding how it worked is common, and that using online resources in this way had a potentially counter-productive effect on learning. Based on these findings, we make a number of recommendations, including better consideration of online code reuse in taught programmes, co-development and code-reuse practices in professional settings, and software licensing training for professional developers.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Systems and Software
Early online date21 Jul 2023
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 21 Jul 2023

Keywords

  • Stack overflow
  • Online code snippets
  • Problematic code
  • Human memory
  • Computer science education
  • Professional practice

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