Little Thing: Desks

Technically, desks are really big things, and most people will take their time in finding one that they like and that fits their office/room. This post isn’t about finding a good desk, it’s about making sure that you look at three little things about desks before you buy your next desk.

Thing 1: Stability

If you are going to buy your desk online, then this is one thing that you really need to pay attention to. Before buying any desk you need to stand above it and push down hard on the front edge — if it moves, then you should move on.

I hate desks that lack stability.

What happens if the desk flexes on the front edge is that it will tend bounce ever so slightly when you type. And, unless you have a sturdy monitor, so too will your monitor, ever so slightly, bounce. I can’t stand that.

This is why I recommend that you get a desk with four legs, and not one with just two in the back that cantilever forward.

There’s one other thing, try swaying the desk from left to right. If it does that, then I would take a pass on the desk. My current desk is rock solid in every facet except the side swaying, so I secured it to the wall — this isn’t always practical.

It may seem silly to worry about how stable a desk it, but a stable desk gives you the feeling that you are working on something solid. When you feel that way about your work surface, then you work without worry.

Thing 2: No Glass

Warning: the linked image is huge.

Nothing looks cooler (in my mind) than a glass desk with a Mac sitting atop it. Seriously, that is some cool looking kit. There are, however, two main problems with glass.

The first: they show every cord you have. So unless you want to spend a massive amount of time keep every cord “just so”, you should steer far away from a glass desk.

Secondly, glass desks get dirty — really dirty. I had a glass desk (my wife uses it now and hates it) that I was constantly having to clean. Every little spec shows. Every finger print and moist palm smudge. Nothing grossed me out more than sitting down at that desk after a day of working on it.

I kept a cloth and Windex at the ready the entire time I owned it.


Just don’t buy a glass top desk, it’s not worth the headache.


The one quasi-exception: frosted glass. With frosted glass you get a lot of the same looks without having to worry about cord tangles and they show less grime. However, do see ‘Thing 1’, because I find glass desks to be the least stable.

Thing 3: Leg Room

Ok this is my last point and the one that I hold most dear to my heart. Don’t buy a desk with any drawers or trays. Whether it be a keyboard tray, a pencil drawer, or a set of drawers down the side. Just say no. Also don’t buy a desk that is too narrow, nor one that isn’t deep enough.

You want your legs to be able to fit below the desk in any manner that is comfortable. That’s why my minimum desk depth is 32 inches and I won’t use a desk unless it is at least 52 inches wide. I prefer a 36”x72” desk.

The moment you have drawers on the desk is the same moment you start whacking your knees on the corners of those drawers. Likewise, if the desk is too shallow you are going to constantly be kicking the wall behind your desk, or having your feet hang out in no man’s land.

If your desk is too narrow, or has drawers down the side, you are going to be forced to only work from the center of the desk. Thus you now need to move your keyboard/laptop/monitor/mouse out of the way if you actually need to use the desk for anything else.

If you are buying a desk, make sure you can use the entire desk.

Build It

Take these three tips to heart the next time you are buying a desk and you will be happier about the desk you buy. If it’s me, I would build my own desk and I’d start by stealing this cable management method.

Originally posted for members on: June 19, 2012
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