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What are core loops in UX?

Sheza Naveed

Core loops are series of repeated patterns. These patterns are linked to the core behavior of the user while using the product. A core loop has three steps that repeat:

  • Action
  • Reward
  • Expansion
Steps of Core loop


Action - User climbs a wall.

Reward - The wall becomes green.

Expansion - The player level of the user increases.

Investment - The user has a stronger character now.

As the loops repeat, investment emerges, and the user gets invested in the game. Once the user gets invested, they are less likely to leave.

These loops are one of the important elements of gamification. An engaging gamification experience can be created using an engaging core loop consisting of two session loops. These are dual loops.

Dual loops

A single core loop cannot build a high level of engagement, as the actions will be infrequent, so they would not be completed often. This will lead to lesser rewards and thus lesser commitment.

Engagement and investment can be improved with dual loops that consist of two loops:

  • Inner session loop (smaller)
  • Outer session loop (larger)

A smaller loop leads to a smaller reward, whereas the larger loop leads to a larger reward.

Inner loops:

  • Can provide expansion during initial stages
  • Can be a source of smaller investments
  • Can be achieved quicker
  • Can be experienced more often

The combination of several inner and fewer outer loops has to be designed for optimal user experience.

Types of core loops

Core loops can be of three types

  • Two step loop: simple action reward loop
  • Conditional two step loop: reward as a result of work is conditioned by a pass-fail check
  • Three step loop: requires an intermediate action between action and rewards

Games that use core loops include Candy Crush, Pokémon Go, Subway Surfer, etc.




Sheza Naveed
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