Abstract Despite its strengths like compositionality and equivalence checking, process algebra is rarely adopted outside the academia. In this paper we address the usability issue for process algebra along two different directions. On the modeling side, we provide a set of guidelines inspired by the software architecture field, which should enforce a clear component-oriented approach to the process algebraic design of system families. On the verification side, we propose a component-oriented technique based on equivalence checking for the detection of architecture-level mismatches and the provision of related diagnostic information. Such a technique extends previous results in terms of generality of the considered mismatches, generality of the considered system topologies, and scalability to system families.