Usability professionals have attained a specialist role in systems-development projects. This study analyzes usability professionals’ operational understanding of usability by eliciting the constructs they employ in their thinking about system use. We approach usability broadly and without a priori distinguishing it from user experience. On the basis of repertory-grid interviews with 24 Chinese, Danish, and Indian usability professionals we find that they make use of more utilitarian than experiential, i.e. user-experience related, constructs. This indicates that goal-related performance is central to their thinking about usability, whereas they have less elaborate sets of experiential constructs. The usability professionals mostly construe usability at an individual level, rather than at organizational and environmental levels. The few exceptions include effectiveness constructs, which are evenly spread across all three levels, and relational constructs, which are phrased in terms of social context. Considerations about users’ cognitive activities appear more central to the usability professionals than conventional human-factors knowledge about users’ sensorial abilities. The usability professionals’ constructs, particularly their experiential constructs, go considerably beyond ISO 9241 usability, indicating a discrepancy between this definition of usability and the thinking of the professionals concerned with delivering usability. Finally, usability is construed similarly across the three nationalities of usability professionals.