- SEEK EXAMPLES: I always try to look up examples of structures that are related or relevant to the design I'm considering.
- CULTURE: If the design is going to be for another culture or for another era of history (or fictional equivilent) I research the nuances of everyday life of the culture that most fits the purpose of the design.
- PUBLIC VS PRIVATE: Identify public and private spaces and locate them accordingly. Be aware that these ideals change through location and history, which is why I research culture.
- TRAFFIC: Identify how the people get from one place to another within the design. Make sure the traffic pattern makes sense.
- INHABITANTS: Who lives and works there? I didn't just think of the monks and clerics at the temple, I also considered all of the beggars, pilgrims, servants, security, merchants, etc that would be there as well.
- NECESSITIES: Make sure to keep in mind the basic requirements for life: Food, water, shelter, safety and sanitation. That's not to say that they need to all be included, just make sure you're aware of them.
Well, that's the down-and-dirty basics that I use. A bit general I know, but I hope it helps.