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This paper presents a methodology to perform design space exploration of complex signal processing systems implemented using the CAL dataflow language. In the course of space exploration, critical path in dataflow programs is first presented, and then analyzed using a new strategy for computational load reduction. These techniques, together with detecting design bottlenecks, point to the most efficient optimization directions in a complex network. Following these analysis, several new refactoring techniques are introduced and applied on the dataflow program in order to obtain feasible design points in the exploration space. For a MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 decoder software and hardware implementation, the multi-dimensional space can be explored effectively for throughput, resource, and frequency, with real-time decoding range from QCIF to HD resolutions.