Abstract Mobile technology is penetrating many areas of human life. This implies that the context of use can vary in many respects. We present a method that aims to support designers in managing the complex design space when considering applications with varying contexts and help them to identify solutions that support users in performing their activities while preserving usability and safety. The method is a novel combination of an analysis of both potential deviations in task performance and most suitable information representations based on distributed cognition. The originality of the contribution is in providing a conceptual tool for better understanding the impact of context of use on user interaction in safety-critical domains. In order to present our approach we provide an example in which the implications of introducing new support through mobile devices in a safety-critical system are identified and analysed in terms of potential hazards.