I am about to ask for help on how to categorise usability/ux problems but after some googling I have realised that there is no standard definition of usability/ux problem. (Defining the Usability Problem, The definition of “usability problem” is elusive, Is That A Usability Problem Or A Feature?).

Is there an widely accepted definition I have missed?

3 Answers 3


There aren't many definitions of usability problem in the literature. The most reasonable I could find was by Lavery, Cockton & Atkinson (1997):

A usability problem is an aspect of the system and/ or a demand on the user which makes it unpleasant, inefficient, onerous or impossible for the user to achieve their goals in typical usage situations.


One way of looking at it is to say "Is this going to drive users nuts ? Yes / No"

Problems tend to fall between 'high level' issues ( eg basic faults with say the IA or workflow) through to detailed issues (bad wording of labels / buttons that don't look like buttons etc).

  • I would not agree that ux is so binary. Feb 14, 2012 at 4:48
  • That's just the first question though... Question 2 is 'How bad is this ?" You can't really do the second questions until you're on the analysis phase - as you can get issues which look bad initially and then you find that users can learn a workaround.
    – PhillipW
    Feb 14, 2012 at 9:08

http://www.usabilitynet.org/tools/r_international.htm provides some of the standards around user experience and usability. Hope this helps!

Addendum: http://www.userfocus.co.uk/articles/iso-13407-is-dead.html talks about the recent work defining a standard for user centred design; this may help.

  • I assume one can take a definition of usability and by negating it define the usability problem. PS: What a horrible website :D. Feb 6, 2012 at 12:28
  • Could you post an excerpt or summary from your link? Feb 6, 2012 at 12:29
  • Well, from ISO 9241-11: Guidance on Usability (1998):"Usability: the extent to which a product can be used by specified users to achieve specified goals with effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction in a specified context of use.". So the crux of the matter is in specifying what you want to achieve and by whom :)
    – Peter
    Feb 6, 2012 at 12:31
  • UsabilityNet's quite an interesting historical artifact - as it reflects how things were back in 2003. usabilitynet.org/about/aboutusa.htm
    – PhillipW
    Feb 6, 2012 at 22:15

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