I would argue, the single most important thing you can do when evaluating your website, is test it with real users.
Analytics and expert analysis can help you understand how your site is performing. You can see areas of success and pages that are underperforming. Carefully crafted paid search and fine tuning your SEO can help increase traffic and conversions. You can even conduct A/B tests and get incremental or even excellent increases in conversions.
You can look at stats and numbers all day, but they can never tell you why.
Please remember these stats and numbers are your target audience, real human beings, making decisions. Without testing with your audience, you can only guess why people liked one change over another and without real feedback, you’ll never know how much better your website could be performing.
When you conduct usability tests, please listen.
Your website is like a gift for your target audience. Do you select gifts because they’re what YOU have always wanted? Of course not! You buy or make a gift for someone because it’s what THEY have always wanted: something that they like, they need, they want.
When you conduct a usability test and your target audience tells you want they like, what they want to see, what they need, what they don’t like – please listen.
The secret to creating the best performing website is to listen to those who use it.
The feedback you hear might not be what you want to hear, it might not be what you think is right, it might not jive with how you structure your business internally but it’s what will make your site perform better.