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special report

Building Better Apps

Nextgov has asked private software application developers and experts to weigh in on a number of government apps and tell us what works and what doesn’t. They consider the purpose, user interface, design and functionality of each app. Their ratings offer insight into what agencies are doing well and where they need to improve. We’ll be updating this report regularly with new app reviews.


What a Government Game App Should (and Shouldn't) Look Like

September 27, 2013 CDC’s Solve the Outbreak app makes the grade but NASA’s Comet Question doesn’t.

State Department’s Smart Traveler App Should be Left at Home

July 19, 2013 The app is weighed down by design flaws, reviewers said.

Thinking About a Foreign Service Career? This App Could Help You Decide.

July 19, 2013 Our reviewers found the DOS Careers app pairs good content with great design.

CDC’s Flu App Suffers from Too Many Bugs of its Own

April 2, 2013 The influenza app for doctors takes too long to load and doesn’t display information well.

Postal Service Mobile App Tracks Packages, Locates Mailboxes

March 29, 2013 Overall, our reviewers gave the software high marks.

Would you rather check the weather in space or sort data?

January 24, 2013 Either way, NASA has an app for you.

NASA’s space weather app has great images but lags on engagement

January 24, 2013 The agency could do more to publicize major space events and appeal to kids, our reviewers say.

NASA’s Satellite Insight gaming app isn’t educational or fun

January 24, 2013 The game doesn’t teach users much and it can’t compete with Bejeweled and Tetris.

Apps aim to help citizens sort through complex economic data

December 5, 2012 Mobile tools allow users to find student loans, track unemployment and more.

America’s Economy app is as mixed as the economic indicators

December 5, 2012 There’s a lot of useful information but some of it is tough to digest. provides loan info on the fly

December 5, 2012 This mobile site delivers good data, but the graphics are distracting.

GSA’s per diem app does one thing well, but it doesn’t do enough

November 28, 2012 A quick Google search yields the same information.

FBI’s child ID app provides an insurance policy for concerned parents

November 28, 2012 Developers capitalized on a clear mission.

Smokey Bear’s official app is close but no campfire

November 27, 2012 The forest fire fighter’s tool is heavy on text and light on innovation.

What do Smokey Bear, traveling feds and children have in common? Their own federal apps.

October 1, 2012 Three experts offer up some advice for government application developers.