Web Developer Economics: Hardware Costs

Chris Coyier //

This will be the last part of this mini series about Web Developer Economics before we wrap it up and look at the numbers together. We already looked at:

Now we need to consider the hardware itself. I think this one is pretty simple: you need a computer.

I think you need either a laptop or a desktop. Maybe someday in the future the tools will be there to build websites on tablets or other futuristic devices, but I don't think we're there yet. Laptops these days are so powerful that it's hard to imagine going any other way. You can plug in an external monitor to get a desktop experience, or take them with you. Unless you're like a school computer lab or office where nobody works from home ever, it's hard to imagine going with anything other than a laptop.

I know this site is pretty Mac-focused. That's what I like and use. But I promise you: I really don't care what you use. I'm way more concerned that you are writing maintainable CSS that I am about what kind of computer you are using. If you're happy on your PC running Ubutunu (or whatever) and you're making good websites, you're A-OK in my book.

That said, if you're buying a computer right now to be a part of your web design/development life/business and you ask me what I think you should buy, you should buy a ...

MacBook Pro (Retina, 15", $2,199)

As I've written, this is the best computer I've ever owned. It's worked extremely well for me. I feel very productive on it. It runs all the best software for web development (that I know of). This retina display screen looks great, but as a developer allows us to be ahead of the curve in designing for devices of this pixel density (technically you could write code and build graphics to support it without owning one, but you need to have one to care).

Alternatives: Any other laptop or desktop computer that works for you.

Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000 ($49.95)

I use this and like it when I'm at home and at my desk. I have RSI (repetitive strain injury) problems when I'm away from it (using laptop keyboard only) for too long.

Alternatives: Use built-in laptop keyboard / some other external keyboard

Kensington Expert Mouse Trackball ($99)

Also helps my RSI but also I think is just a very efficient mouse in that you never need to pick it up or do awkward motions with it. I miss the trackpad when I'm in desktop mode though, with its gestures and wicked fast scrolling.

Alternatives: Use built-in trackpad / some other external mouse

Brother HL-2280DW ($199)

This is a very nice and efficient printer. Wireless, laser printer (cheap ink), and does stuff like automatically print both sides of documents to conserve paper.

Alternatives: Go totally paperless / some other printer


None of these accessories are vital to my job but I consider them business expenses. I bet most of us have a few accessories like this. They might not be these, but you have some, so we'll include these in the final calculations to keep it even.

Office space might be considered a "hardware" expense of sorts. I'm not going to consider that here because it's optional. I don't have an office. If you work somewhere that does, that's factored into the cost of running a business there either by you or the owners of that business.

Service Cost
MacBook Pro $2,199
External Keyboard $49.99
External Mouse $99.99
Printer $199.99
Total $2,548.97

With these numbers and the ones gathered from other posts, I think a wrapup is in order looking at them all together and see what we see. Look for that soon.