Yes, I loved the Has Solo character what Star Wars fan didn't. But this franchise is more than just one character. Also, we now have a new generation of actors and characters in the franchise. It seems to me as if the original three came back to help to usher in the new characters and are no taking a back seat to them. Yes, seeing Hans Solo die wasn't easy but perhaps it was time, in order to move the franchise forward.
Hans is a very recognizable character in the franchise. I think a lot of fans would agree it would have had a negative effect to have killed the character in the trilogy. The character became it's own, almost out of the screen like an actual person. And where would the fans be with out the "Hans shot first" joke/debate?
No, the Star Wars series would not have been as popular without Hans Solo. Hans Solo is one of the only characters fro the movies that people know by name. This fact alone makes the character too popular to have him killed off and retain the popularity of the Star Wars series.
No, the original Star Wars trilogy would not be the same without Harrison's Ford character. In addition to the central role that Hans Solo plays in the overall plot, Harrison Ford is a leading actor that people are drawn to. Every Star Wars fanatic has a special affinity and connection to Hans Solo. Killing off the character would have made many people feel disconnected from the series.