Is there another way of saying something is 'user-unfriendly'?

  • maybe "high learning curve" might suit your needs, but it might help to know a bit more about what you are referring to.
    – MaQleod
    Commented May 9, 2011 at 17:51
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    @MaQleod: careful, those learning-curve expressions are ambiguous.
    – RegDwigнt
    Commented May 9, 2011 at 18:17
  • 9
    "not user-friendly" to make it simple.
    – masarah
    Commented May 9, 2011 at 18:23
  • What is the thing? It might make a difference
    – UpTheCreek
    Commented May 9, 2011 at 18:28
  • @MaQleod Punishing someone for giving the wrong answers (despite good intentions) is 'user-unfriendly'
    – Ambo100
    Commented May 9, 2011 at 18:30

13 Answers 13


The direct antonym of user-friendly is user-hostile (urban dictionary), a word used frequently amongst those in the user experience fields:

  • 6
    I've never really understood why Jakob Nielsen is revered as the authority on usability. I certainly don't find his website at all pleasant to use, but calling it user-hostile seems rather bombastic, which is why I don't like this term.
    – UpTheCreek
    Commented May 10, 2011 at 6:29
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    @UpTheCreek: You may want to consider the term user-apathetic. Commented May 24, 2011 at 21:13
  • It's probably the most accurate hyphenated expression at least, although it does bring to mind some image of a computer hitting the user on the head with the hammer. Perhaps it was a layer 8 problem, after all?
    – user19589
    Commented Jun 19, 2012 at 6:45

A couple options:



  • Intuitive (and thus, unintuitive) refers to the trait a person might have of being able to intuit. The object that is being intuited is referred to as being intuitable; the antonym would be 'unintuitable'.
    – Yahel
    Commented May 10, 2011 at 2:10
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    Actually, I prefer unintuitive, but both of these are good choices, and probably better convey "user-unfriendliness" than does user-hostile, which in my opinion is a stronger negative than what is probably desired.
    – John Y
    Commented May 10, 2011 at 2:11
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    @yc01: What you say may have been the case at one point, but that ship has long since sailed. (I'm not even sure it was ever in port, frankly.) Your meaning is listed as 3rd in Merriam-Webster's entry. I would think most modern dictionaries corroborate the use of intuitiveness to refer (usually) to the thing being intuited.
    – John Y
    Commented May 10, 2011 at 2:17
  • @John Y In my defense, this is conventional wisdom in the interaction design/user experience world. See: twitter.com/#!/whitneyhess/status/35828403202428928
    – Yahel
    Commented May 10, 2011 at 4:29
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    @yc01: Well, you could ask a question about it here (and I think you will find that she is wrong) Commented May 10, 2011 at 6:09

Unwieldy implies that something is difficult to control, and can be applied to computer user-interfaces or physical devices.


A couple of other words that might be appropriate:

  • Awkward
  • Frustrating
  • Not technical, and not exactly antonyms (too broad), but effective enough. Worth consideration, depending on what the OP needs it for.
    – John Y
    Commented May 10, 2011 at 2:19
  • @Jonh Y - yes, difficult to answer without knowing the context.
    – UpTheCreek
    Commented May 10, 2011 at 6:06

If there are accessibility issues, you might call it inaccessible


I would go with 'unfriendly'. The 'user' part is redundant, particularly in the case of software. In fact uses of it outside the scope of software are really "loans" of the term.

In any case I would argue that most synonyms of "unfriendly" don't convey the same precision, and have fundamentally different meanings. Software can be "unfriendly" because it's cumbersome (it takes too many gestures to acomplish a task) even if it's easy to use (it's always obvious what the right gesture is). Similarly words like "complex", "slow", "ugly", "poorly designed", "unintuitive" etc all cary degrees of precision that are either more or less precise than "unfriendly".

So, I think "unfriendly" really is the best choice when you want to convey a "general defect in the usability or character of an interface". The alternatives almost always convey something fundamentally different.

  • 1
    "unfriendly" could also mean that the application is rude. Commented May 10, 2011 at 7:40
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    @Joachim, it is rude to waste users' time with a poor interface.
    – dss539
    Commented May 10, 2011 at 20:47

I often like to suggest that the interfaces of non-linux OSs are counterintuitive.





-EDIT- While I was typing this, someone suggested clunky

Which is a great answer.

  • You must've loved Lindows then 8) Commented May 9, 2011 at 21:24
  • Lotus Notes, anyone so afflicted will understand immediatly
  • User Hostile, bit extreme but some systems really are
  • Bureaucratic, probably the most useful expression in describing an unhelpful and tedious to use interface.

The best real life description of a poor user interface I ever heard was "As user friendly as a cornered rat".


For the specific case of software, I'm a huge fan of the expression usability-free, though it should only be used in snark-appropriate contexts.


In severe cases you can just say that a device (or the interface of a device) is "unusable."


There are already some great answers but I would add another option I've seen for when it's not obvious how to use something: "opaque".


I think the word obtuse is also used to mean user-unfriendly.


Often I find the antonym for user-friendly is the word cryptic, although it may be too specific in some cases. I can see situations where a very graphical interface is wholly unintuitive but not necessarily cryptic—just lousy.

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