- Efficient (space)
- Convenient (time)
- Aesthetic (the look)
- Random (???)
Those are the categories in which i would group different layouts of the cities. It's a bit easier to compare cities that fall in the same category.
There is no "The best city" in my opinion. The layout is in many cases determined by the purpose of the player.
A player who has little time to spend on the game would make collecting goods/resources/coins a priority. Hence, all 8hr houses are on a row and grouped together (to gather coins without having to click and drag the map). Same for cultural buildings which are best suited on the city borders (sometimes out of the screen) because you needn't do anything with them on daily basis. If a few squares of space here and there that could have been filled up with a house or alchemy are wasted....oh never mind. It's time that counts.
But an active player who is in front of the computer most of the time or very often, would consider space the most precious. Nevermind if a couple of houses are used to fill a corner on the border, far from the group of house. a few seconds to drag the map and collect those coins are not a big deal. The more the better and this is all about space efficiency.
Just like some players don't give a damn about ranking, point size or getting through map and research quickly. They are in this game because they like to sim city. Build some nice roads and decorate the sides with bushes and statues. A city then needs a plaza with fountain and why not a main avenue to the city hall with buildings in perfect symmetry. Pretty city is the name of their game
And some other city layout are there for random purposes. Like having every residential building from all ages or having 2 of each decoration. Some people bring int he game their collection spirit