Component-based software has become an important alternative for building applications, especially distributed ones, so it is essential to define new software development processes based on components. Within this trend, we propose a complete framework-based method which guides application developers in exactly determining application requirements. It also guides how to build them using the compositional framework MultiTEL from the collaborative and multimedia applications domain. Although many multimedia frameworks are available, none of them offer a design methodology for understanding and adapting the framework classes or components to each derived application. By applying an architecture description language (ADL) we are able to document the framework and help designers in: constructing; reusing, and connecting components; extending the framework architecture; and adding components to meet user requirements. Tools for the automatic generation of code from the ADL specifications are also described. Copyright © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.