What is a content management system?
In a nutshell, a CMS is software that organizes, powers and monitors a web site. It includes a "front end" viewable by any web user and a password-protected "back end" the general public does not see. Management of the site is centralized from this back end.
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How traditional web design and content management systems different?
Unlike a CMS, "traditional" or basic HTML-based web design does not include the front and rear. Effective management of these sites require knowledge of good coding practice, the ability to create new or integrate pre-written scripts to add functionality as needed and the creation of the structure of the file / directory efficiently to accommodate growth.
A content management system, on the other hand, does not require any special technical skill to use. Managing or expanding the web site is a centralized process. More advanced coding knowledge would only be required should installation of additional functionality is desired.
The main benefits of a content management system
No coding skills required: good CMS back end will be as complex to use as basic word processing software. Adding content is a simple matter enter and format text. Features access should not be more complicated than using the pull-down menu.
Convenience: A content management system provides centralized administration area from which a variety of features from archiving to metrics may be accessed.
Scalability: A CMS is configured to accommodate the needs of managing a website to grow and accept "add-on" components power new features as necessary.