Design of new materials for nanostructured dye solar cells (DSC) requires understanding the link between the material properties and cell efficiency. This paper gives an overview of the fundamental and practical aspects of the modeling and characterization of DSCs, and integrates the knowledge into a user-friendly DSC device model. Starting from basic physical and electrochemical concepts, mathematical expressions for the IV curve and differential resistance of all resistive cell components are derived and their relation to electrochemical impedance spectroscopy (EIS) is explained. The current understanding of the associated physics is discussed in detail and clarified. It is shown how the model parameters can be determined from complete DSCs by current dependent EIS and incident-photon-to-collected-electron (IPCE) measurements, supplemented by optical characterization, and used to quantify performance losses in DSCs. The paper aims to give a necessary theoretical background and practical guidelines for establishing an effective feedback-loop for DSC testing and development.