One day the mobile interface will influence everything from the way we collaborate, communicate and design. According to Gartner’s five social software predictions for 2010 and beyond, the mobile web will change the way we think about user engagement, work spaces and the PC-based web.

Going Beyond the Web

Number four on the list focuses on the design of PC-based collaborative applications. More specifically, the prediction says:

Within five years, 70% of collaboration and communications applications designed on PCs will be modeled after user experience lessons from smartphone collaboration applications.

In other words, the mobile web will influence the user interface of the future. While at first glance, this may seem unusual, we are reminded that soon there will be more than 300 billion phones in use worldwide. Mobile devices, by design, are for communicating and collaborating at anytime, from anywhere.

As smartphones become more sophisticated and user-friendly, Gartner expects “more end users to spend significant time experiencing the collaborative tools” on these devices. If Gartner’s predictions are accurate, the implications on design and usability will be significant. We examine a few of them.

Design and Accessibility

At present, the way a website looks on a mobile device is secondary to the larger screen they interact with on the desktop. Soon, however, (if not already) designers and developers will have to build sites separately or primarily for the mobile web. This means, that technology departments will have to actively testing on all advanced smartphones as well as established platforms for consistency and accessibility.

Collaboration

The mobile interface may change the way people work. As more applications are designed for mobile users to actively engage and collaborate, organizations may need to design tools that employees and customers can access more readily than a landline phone and with more features.

Exposure

Gartner points out that “for some of the world, [mobile apps] will be the first or the only applications they use.” It used to be that a website was an organization’s window to the world, and thus the most important part of a user’s interaction.

It may be that a user’s first interaction with an organization or product is through a mobile device or application, making it essential that companies start simplifying interfaces so that they are consistent across platforms or build multiple entry points to guarantee they are accurately represented.

Of course, a lot can happen in five years. The Gartner predictions serve as a reminder to think ahead. To remind oneself of the evolutionary nature of user behaviors can help organizations, designers and developers anticipate changes and build for the future, not the present.