You may have designed your website while you were in a tearing hurry, and probably could not pay attention to minor details. However, you later realized that the minor details matter a lot and your website needs to be redesigned. There are many other reasons as well, like introduction of new technologies, and the rules that keep changing ever so often. Whatever the reason, you need to redesign and revamp your site to keep up with competition. Remember that you are considering redesigning not for yourself but because of what the visitors to your site expect today.
The first thing you need to do is to decide if you really need to redesign your site. You have a big list of existing users of your site who are familiar with the layout and know how to navigate and where to look for specific content etc. redesigning will certainly affect the layout and make drastic changes. It is better to ask your regular users how they would feel if certain changes were implemented. Most people would respond immediately and give their opinion and you could probably go by what the majority has to say. After all, it is for the benefit of the users that you are undertaking this exercise.
Secondly, now that you have the attention of the users, and have made them aware about the changes that you are going to implement, it makes sense to get them involved in the exercise and get their valuable feedback. Remember, the users’ frequency of visiting your site is more than yours and they should know better about what is lacking. However, it makes sense to not change the basic layout and keep the main elements exactly the way they have been. Like for instance, if you have a drop down menu, leave it as it is. A complete redesign is not what is best for your website.
Even before the proposed changes are implemented, it is better to test your website yourself and allow the users to test it for convenience. You could leave a form, which the users could fill with their observations, and comments, that could give you some valuable tips. This could be a long drawn out and difficult process with you having to shift back and forth trying to implement changes based on popular preference. It is a lot of feedback that you need to sift through before the final implementation can take place.
It is important to continue with the old layout even after the changes have been finalized, as the transition has to be gradual. You could even consider giving the users an option to go back to the old version if they prefer that. People may need some time to get used to the new version and feel more comfortable with something that they are used to. Like the classic version of Yahoo compare to the regular version, which many users still prefer. Allow the users to make the changes themselves before you can come out with the final version that could take some time to be fully implemented.