Chapter 4. Membership and User Profiling

The sample website developed in this book contains dynamic content such as news, events, newsletters, polls, forum posts, and more. It can be considered a content-based site, where significant parts of the site can be easily changed or updated by privileged users (this functionality is sometimes called a content management system), although it differs from many content-based sites because we've also added an important e-commerce section that enables our investors to earn a healthy return on their investment.

Here's a secret (although not a well-kept one) for any content-based site that you want to be successful: build a vigorous and thriving community of users! If you have a lot of loyal users, you can be sure that the site will increase its user base and, thus, its size, its popularity, and your revenues. You want to encourage users to register for a free account on the site, so you can enable them to customize their view, participate in message forums, and even order merchandise from e-commerce pages. Once they obtain a free account, they will be a member of the site. Membership is a form of empowerment — they will feel special because they are a member, and you want to reward their loyalty by enabling them to customize certain visual aspects, and to remember their settings on their return visits.

To track members, it is necessary to have some sort of identity to describe and distinguish them from other members and, more importantly, from ...

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