I'm thinking of starting a business that would revolve around a website that would take in user information (via the website), and then charge for access to it on a per-page basis. Back when I was in high school (+10 years ago) I worked as a webpage designer and admin. At the time I had a basic working knowledge of PHP, and a very extensive knowledge of design (html, css, etc.), and I was forced to do some ASP stuff, but I'm not a real programmer (I like design but math makes my head hurt).

I've heard that Ruby on Rails makes web apps easy, but what are alternatives I should look into? I'd prefer for it to be free / open source, but if it's easier to pay for tools that make things as visual as possible I'll do that.

It won't be super-high-volume and doesn't need to be super automated (I will end up tweaking everything that goes on the site by hand), although it does critically need 1. user management and 2. the ability to charge for access to particular information.

Thanks for any input. Asking this here since the server-side development forums are all language specific (the Ruby forum will obviously tell me to use rails, the PHP forum to use something PHP, etc.)