apamphilon logo

One way road to beer

2.5 million views in just 5 days, totalling over 7 million views in less than 3 months. Featured on The Chris Evans Breakfast Show, BBC News, Sky News, and The Sunday Times.

Screenshot of the homepage on desktop
Homepage on desktop
Screenshot of the homepage on mobile
Homepage on mobile

The beginning

On 22nd February 2021 during the national COVID-19 lockdown, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a roadmap to ease lockdown restrictions, stating 'We're on a one-way road to freedom'.

Three days later, my friend Grae contacted me on WhatsApp.

"Yo! I have a quick COVID related side-project to run past you if you're interested?

I basically want to do a site like this: https://whenisthepubopen.co.uk/

But instead of just the one countdown clock... we'd have five: one for each of the 'steps' in the roadmap out of lockdown.


I'd enjoyed working with Grae on past projects, and liked this idea, so I was in.

Over the next few days, we continued to flesh out the idea whilst I started development.

I chose to build the app using React. In hindsight, this was probably overkill, but at the time I reached for what was familiar. I thought there wouldn't be much post launch support, and at best it would be seen by only a handful of users...

The importance of Open Graph images

Before launch, I felt that we should put effort into ensuring the site looked good when shared on social media platforms. This was the right decision and probably a contributing factor to the viral success.

For anyone unfamiliar with Open Graph images, opengraph.xyz is an excellent resource for previewing and generating them.

A perfect Lighthouse score

A screenshot of perfect 100 scores in lighthouse for Performance, Accessibility, Best Practices and SEO
A perfect lighthouse score

A common way of checking website quality is Google's Lighthouse. This is an open-source, automated tool for improving the quality of web pages. It works by running several checks and then generating a score out of 100 for each area.

I ran the site through Lighthouse, making the necessary changes in order to get a perfect 100 across the board. It's worth noting that it's not always possible to achieve a perfect score on larger/more complex sites.

This is going to blow up

On 25th February 2021, we launched the site by sharing it with family and friends through WhatsApp. We received a few hundred views - people seemed to like it. Over the course of the day, traffic was steady, but later that evening the site was shared on social media by some famous faces with rather large followings! Traffic increased significantly and from this point, we knew it was going to blow up...

a screenshot of a tweet by howard donald - Something for us all to look forward to
A tweet from @howarddonald

The next day, I started to see the traffic from my humble side project overtake that of my day job. It was hard to focus on the job when all I could think about was how many views One way road to beer was getting.

I messaged Grae to see if he was up for monetising the site. He was, and we decided to add a 'Buy us a beer' link.

A screenshot of a link with the text - Like this? Buy us a beer
Buy us a beer link

By the end of the day, we had over 1 million total views and over Β£700 in donations! Thanks to everyone who contributed πŸ™, it was both astonishing and entirely unexpected. Coupled with the 1 million views, it encouraged us to explore the possibility of securing a sponsor. More on this later.

What would Chris Think

Chris Evans and the Virgin Radio team were one of the first mainstream media outlets to pick up the site and it regularly featured on their show (Zoe Ball at Radio 2 also gave us a mention!).

This led us to a new way of thinking: at every decision point moving forward, we should ask ourselves: 'What would Chris think?'. For instance, when considering whether to add a large Sky advert banner, we pondered: 'Would Chris sell out and take the money, or would he maintain its artistic integrity?' After all, he once likened the site to a Piet Mondrian painting. πŸ˜„

A photo of Chris Evans in a radio studio
Chris Evans - Virgin Radio presenter

β€œOur brand new favourite website”

The site also featured on BBC News, Sky News and The Sunday Times.

A photo of One way road to beer featured in the sunday times
Featured in the Sunday Times

Free gifts and sponsorship

We were soon were approached by numerous local and major beer brands, eager to get involved.

A photo of 8 beers with the label Hiver
Free beers from Hiver!

After successfully proving revenue potential with the 'Buy us a beer' link, the time felt right to start looking for a sponsor.

Neither myself or Grae had experience in this area so we enlisted help from one of Grae's friends. They told us that we should come up with a CPM value relating to either views or button clicks. We agreed on using views over clicks and set about meeting with potential sponsors.

Beavertown was the perfect fit; we felt their goal to drive traffic to Instagram, as opposed to driving sales through an online store, aligned well with our vision.

A screenshot of a link with the text - Get the beers in, with Beavertown
Beavertown sponsor link
A tweet from Beavertown - Start getting the beers in - linking to onewayroadtobeer.com
Beavertown tweet

There was a brief moment where we switched to another sponsor (Beerhawk) before returning to Beavertown to see us through until the clock hit zero.

Uniting a nation in a national lockdown

It was amazing to see our tiny one page site resonate with so many!

Adrian Edmondson

This thread has to be one of my highlights!

A screenshot of a tweet where Adrian Edmondson was asking how he can turn the site into a screensaver
Adrian Edmonson screensaver request

The copy cats

They say the best form of flattery is imitation.

Some were subtly inspired...

A screenshot of LADbible instagram post - A photo of a pub with the text - Beer in a beer garden with five friends: 39 days to go
LADbible instagram post

...others not so subtle!

A screenshot of onewayroadtosheba.com showing an almost identical design as onewayroadtobeer.com

As a developer, I really appreciated beercountdown.co.uk as it came with an accompanying Github repo. It reminded me of the type of app people might create for fun, to build up their portfolio or improve their skill set.

A screenshot of beercountdown.co.uk showing a very similar design to onewayroadtobeer.com

What now

The site is still live and receives around 1.5k views a month.

It counts up from when the last stage ended. Currently 0 seconds πŸ˜„.

Check it out πŸ‘‰ onewayroadtobeer.com

Closing stats

This article was inspired by istheshipstillstuck.com. It's a great story, if you haven't heard of it, you should check it out!

Want to work
with me?