Is there a technical UX term for an asset/object/function etc that may causes an annoyance to the user?

I'm writing up a summary of a test and really don't want to use the word 'annoyances' as it doesn't sound very professional. We're not talking about a boundary here but something more like a pop-up at an inconvenient time or a section of copy that wobbles to draw your attention.

I was thinking something a long the lines of 'potential barriers to conversion' as the main KPI is conversion in my test.

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    Some of the terms I can think of that gets used are 'pain points' or 'frictioni', but I feel like if you use the term annoyance it would probably convey the frustration of the user better to the people reading the report better than some of the other terms you might find. But perhaps a more neutral word with degrees of differences is more suitable, like measuring the usability and rating it as high, medium or low for example.
    – Michael Lai
    Commented Mar 15, 2018 at 11:47
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    As a UX designer I would recommend against making all these technical terms as it will move you further away from the humanistic expression of the users feelings. Commented Mar 15, 2018 at 12:16
  • @RobE I usually keep explanations as human as possible but in this particular instance the people that will be reading the summary prefer this type of language.
    – sclarke
    Commented Mar 15, 2018 at 12:26
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    Don't be shy. Annoyances is a fine term. Some are even Aggravations.
    – user77
    Commented Mar 15, 2018 at 22:11
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    A whole series of books has been written about the Annoyances in various versions of Windows. The word is just fine. Commented Mar 16, 2018 at 1:05

12 Answers 12


I call stuff like this "impediments", since stuff that causes annoyance to the user is basically stopping/impairing the user from what he is trying to achieve.

But i think there are many words that fit, in my opinion "annoyance" is not a bad choice either.

  • 'Impediment" usually implies nearly complete prevention of progress. While that might be the case for the pop up strictly speaking, it isn't for wobbling text, and dismissing the pop up is probably quick enough that "impediment" is too strong a word for it. I don't think this is a good choice in this case.
    – jpmc26
    Commented Mar 16, 2018 at 15:59

What about "obstacle"?

It's a general term for something that is making something else difficult.

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    From less critical to more critical: Noise, Obstacle, Obstruction/Barrier. Commented Mar 15, 2018 at 19:15
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    @Nicke Manarin - to expand on your comment, I find noise irritating but doesn't stop objectives being completed. Obstacles can be worked around, but additional effort must be expended to achieve a goal. Obstructions/barriers require additional support to either remove them or workaround them otherwise completely "block" reaching a goal.
    – kwah
    Commented Mar 15, 2018 at 19:50

If you are looking for a phrase that connects with technical UX literature, I suggest "cognitive burdens".

The term cognitive burden /cognitive load comes from psychology, but it is commonly used in UX.

For more about cognitive load, see this Nielsen/Norman Group article, "Minimize Cognitive Load to Maximize Usability": https://www.nngroup.com/articles/minimize-cognitive-load/

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    I'm a fan of using cognitive in any sentence usually but in this case it has to make sense to people outside of the UX world. Tempted to go with this so I can then explain the concept to them for future communications.
    – sclarke
    Commented Mar 15, 2018 at 14:09
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    Generally I get a positive reaction when I introduce the term "cognitive burden" to a non-UX audience, who I find are intrigued by the term. One of the things I do to help explain it to them is to show them the cover of Steve Krug's book "Don't Make Me Think", or even one of his cartoons: zolbayar.com/… Commented Mar 15, 2018 at 14:41
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    If you’re talking about such items a lot, then having a long phrase instead of a single-word term for them rather increases cognitive load…
    – PLL
    Commented Mar 15, 2018 at 21:19
  • Haha. Fair point. How about "cognitive burdens"? Sorry, I can't get it down to a single word. I will edit to take your point on board. Commented Mar 15, 2018 at 21:27
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    @sclarke so the people reading the report "prefer this type of language" (meaning technical language), but not too fancy, right? You look for something more fancy that "annoyance" but less that "cognitive burden". I feel for you, if you have to walk that fine line... there's a lot of (management) people who wants to eat their cake and have it too.
    – xDaizu
    Commented Mar 16, 2018 at 12:55

i think the word you're looking for is "hindrance"?

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    I use "hurdle." Commented Mar 15, 2018 at 20:19

I'd argue to use...

drumroll, dramatic pause


Most of the other suggestions to me suggest an actual prevention of progress.

I'd also argue there any perceived non-professionalism is far less than avoiding a precise term on some arbitrary grounds.

I also assume this is meant as a set scale, where problems are ranked by severity:

Bug report:

  1. Clicking link does not complete action - Blocking
  2. Hovering cursor over button produces flickering text - Annoyance

If you aren't trying to limit your choices, I'd stick to annoyance. However if you can add words, I'd try to use terms that describe why it is an annoyance.

  1. Field label is "Home Phone" with check box for "This is a mobile device" - Confusing
  2. Company logo is stretched horizontally on help screen - Not to Branding Spec

In the world of conversion optimization the most impactful way to convey the problem is:

Bounce rate driver

“Annoyances”, “interruptions”, “distractions”, and “obstacles” will be quickly dismissed by a conversion-focused marketer, for better or worse.

“Clutter” is just as easily dismissed and you'll sound like one of those “creative types” — there's no faster way to get kicked out of the board room.

“Cognitive load” is too academic and, outside of a UX audience, can convey a sense that you're just a sensitive genius.

You really don't want to be one of those people ...

enter image description here

Bounce rate is the metric of ecomm marketers’ nightmares. It cuts directly to the core of the issue: Users will be annoyed and interrupted by the clutter, increasing their cognitive load and will ultimately ... bounce 😢

Remember kids, bounce rate drivers kill conversion.

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    STM complaining that a term makes you sound like one of those "creative types" while you're proposing a term that makes you sound like one of those marketing types could be seen as a little bit hypocritical... Commented Mar 16, 2018 at 10:35
  • @WillCrawford When you're talking to MBAs and marketers that's not hypocritical, it's a smart diplomacy tactic. Commented Mar 16, 2018 at 15:09
  • I'm sorry, I took the request for a "technical" term to mean it was for a technical audience. Commented Mar 16, 2018 at 20:41
  • Technical is relative to the audience you're addressing. Colleagues of mine have often asked how I make such quick progress with execs. Remembering who I'm talking to is 80% of it. Commented Mar 16, 2018 at 21:58

Grievance is an alternative to annoyance that might fit the tone of what you're trying to convey:

  • a real or imagined wrong or other cause for complaint or protest, especially unfair treatment.
  • a feeling of resentment over something believed to be wrong or unfair

I always use the term "visual clutter" as a non-technical term to describe things in a UI that have the potential to distract or confuse the user.


I would use interruption. This has a highly negative connotation without being unprofessional. It also more succinctly communicates the actual nature of the problem.

In both situations, the application is interrupting the user's thoughts by drawing their attention away from their main goal. This doesn't seem like a big deal for a few uses, but if users are going through these screens hundreds or thousands of times, getting consistently pulled off task adds up to a lot of time. If the issue to which the application is drawing the user's attention is not one that is highly relevant to achieving their goal or does not urgently need attention, the time the user spends analyzing the issue is wasted.

The notion of drawing the user's attention away also suggests the word distraction, but I think interruption is more clear in these cases.

To some degree, it's necessary for whoever is receiving your feedback to be sympathetic to these concerns, unless you can provide hard data to show how much of a problem it is.

  • Might I suggest starting along the lines of, As your metaphor is conversation, a good term for something which disturbs it is interruption ? Commented Mar 16, 2018 at 10:31
  • @WillCrawford Interruptions are not necessarily related to conversations. For example, interrupting someone's work is a common formulation, and that is the way I'm using it here.
    – jpmc26
    Commented Mar 16, 2018 at 15:56
  • I honestly misread conversions as conversations with tired eyes 😂 sorry. Although it actually kinda makes sense.. Commented Mar 16, 2018 at 20:30

I think Michael Lai has cracked it. The word I too would use is friction. The loss/waste-age of energy due to friction perfectly captures 'annoyances'.

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    You've put a "mee too" style of answer which is not useful, to be honest. Instead you could have just voted the respective answer up. Furthermore, when you are referring to other peoples' answers, please put a link to those posts - it saves time and reduces friction when looking for what you have referred to. Having your reputation in mind I shall not take any action at the moment - please consider revising (or removing) your answer yourself.
    – Mike
    Commented Mar 16, 2018 at 10:29
  • This isn't a duplicated answer, this is a comment turned into an answer.
    – eidsonator
    Commented Mar 16, 2018 at 15:55

I've always called these problems paper-cut issues, and I think you'll find that people will have either heard the term before, or will instantly identify with it. A paper cut is annoying and painful, but isn't usually a significant hindrance.

If you want, you could introduce the term with a quick definition, but I think it should be fine to use as a technical classification. Apparently Ubuntu coined the term and uses it in their bug tracker.


Perturbations? But I think Aggravations describe the feelings adequately as is.

  • Welcome to UX.stackexchange. Where have you found this in print? If it's a technical term we ought to be able to site it.
    – Mayo
    Commented Mar 16, 2018 at 17:38
  • I have a British friend who uses this word usually to describe his feelings for being annoyed. Roget's, The New Thesaurus 1980 describes perturb (verb) as "to impair or destroy the composure" & perturbation (noun) as "a state of discomposure." I guess its use would depend on the character's origins & audience. Commented Mar 16, 2018 at 18:01

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