increase the diamond iron gap
there is a lot of features in minecraft that are useless for end game players but perfect for mid game players but because of just how easy it is to get end game gear a lot of the game is completely unexplored because its not worth the time if diamonds are accessible in the first few minutes of gameplay. so my solution is simple, make it really hard to find diamonds, buff gold, make the nether harder, and make caves generating lower in the world harder to traverse without good gear, and make the end less accessible.
another thing that would help fill the progression gap from iron to diamond after it gets expanded is some smithing table functionality. i'm not sure what it could be but it should be useable on iron so you have a decision to make between the more expensive low durability gold armor or the more boring but durable iron armor.
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