My maps tend to look a lot like the author's sketch. I don't do them very often, because I'm not an artist, but sometimes I do. And when I do, they're detailed and carefully thought out.
If I'm thinking on a large scale, I am thinking about the biomes of a continent or the continents of a planet. If I look at someone else's map, then that's also what catches my attention first. I look for signs of plate tectonics, ocean and air currents, weathering, that sort of thing. This is what lends verisimilitude to a map: it "looks right" when people see it. Of course, for a world with different underlying laws, sometimes the map winds up very different. But usually those are the rules.