Thanks to the power of open data and APIs, federal agencies can now register their mobile native apps and websites on the Federal Mobile Products Registry and have them appear on the USA.gov Federal Mobile Apps Directory (formerly USA.gov Apps Gallery) almost immediately.
When we launched the USA.gov Apps Gallery in 2010 there were less than 15 apps. To register an app, an agency would contact us with app info, download screenshots and create a “page” for that app. The data was not open to the public and there was no API.
The Federal Mobile Products Registry was created via the Digital Government Strategy in May 2013 to feed the Federal Mobile Products API, the authoritative source for federal mobile products and to allow agencies to promote their mobile products. However, as they say in the open data biz, “we weren’t eating our own dogfood”—the API wasn’t feeding USA.gov. Now that agencies have created over 250 native apps and mobile websites, adding and updating existing apps in a timely fashion becomes nearly impossible.
We worked with the USA.gov team to make this happen. The change is not only open government driven, but it also incorporated USA.gov user feedback. USAGov and USAGov en Español (formerly known as GobiernoUSA.gov) user testing showed that users expect to be able to download an app when they click on a link, not to be taken to an interim product-description page with no download functionality. So instead of the one app, one page approach of the USA.gov Apps Gallery approach, the redesigned and mobile Web-friendly Federal Mobile Apps Directory lists agency mobile products and allows for sorting by platform, category and agency. Also don’t need to worry about broken URLs or loss of SEO, as all individual app pages have been redirected to the new API-driven page. Now when an agency submits (or updates) public-facing English and/or Spanish mobile websites and native apps on the Federal Mobile Products Registry, the mobile products are automatically included in the Federal Mobile Products API, which feeds the Federal Mobile Apps Directory (formerly USA.gov Apps Gallery) and USAGov en Español’s Directorio Federal de Aplicaciones (Apps) Móviles page.
Agency mobile products registered here are also eligible to be featured in an article in the DigitalGov.gov mobile channel. Every Thursday on DigitalGov we feature a mobile website or native app produced by a federal agency that is available on the Federal Mobile Apps Directory.
The API is available for third party development and we’ve prototyped some ways agencies can use the API to create widgets of apps to put on their digital properties.
But in order to be part of the magic, you have to register your mobile product to share your your app data in the API. For agencies looking at open data and API approaches to DigitalGov, take it from us, just do it!