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A site redesign CAN affect your rankings, but as long as you take care to keep the URLs the same where possible and implement 301 redirects when not I would not put off a redesign just because of some possible fluctuation. With ongoing optimisation your rankings will stabilise and you’ll end up better off with a new design from a user perspective. In fact, if your new website uses cleaner code and keeps SEO in mind in the structure you could even end up better off.

Perhaps put more effort/time into your SEO for a while straight after the new site goes live by publishing new content on your blog regularly, link buildnig more etc.

Don’t shy away from improving your visitors’ experience just because of search engines. Make sure you get the code structure right for SEO and you should be fine, if not better off.

Sorry, forgot to answer the other question:
For old domains related to your site: it depends on the domains. I’d usually use a 301 redirect and avoid creating microsites just for the sake of creating microsites, but it also depends on the domain name and your preferred strategy. A 301 redirect isn’t an instant changeover and some benefit might be lost, but in the end it’s usually better than fragmenting your business brand and online presence into a bunch of different pieces (remember, you’d still have to build links to each individual new microsite from scratch).

Say if your primary business site is http://www.bluewidgets.com and you also have an unused slightly differently worded domain http://www.bluewidgetscompany.com. Having a separate microsite on http://www.bluewidgetscompany.com can just confuse people – they will likely not understand why they’re seeing two different sites for what looks like the same business and which website they’re meant to be looking at. In this case I’d recommend implementing a 301 from bluewidgetscompany.com to the primary bluewidgets.com.

On the other hand if you have something like http://www.bluewidgets.com that sells red widgets and also have http://www.redwidges.com (as in a domain name in the form of one of your products that doesn’t have your business name), a microsite targeting that product keyword can work as it shouldn’t confuse anyone by making it seem like you have two different sites set up for the same business.