The right side on the other hand contains all of my active windows - these are the windows I use to give orders, or otherwise interact with on a frequent basis. Keeping them close together minimises the amount of mouse movement required during combat, and makes it easier to micromanage my ship. The layout on this side is a little less conventional and took some getting used to, but once I got over the initial unfamiliarity it has proved to be very effective.
1) The local window is probably the most important information on the screen, and it always needs to be visible when you're in lowsec or nullsec. I'm not really interested in what people are saying in local (hence why it's quite small), what I'm really interested in are the people. The new option to show a compact member list is really useful here. I used to have my local window the whole length of the screen (with the chat channels only getting half the space that they do now), but in the places I've been living recently I find the current height is usually enough. I leave a bit of a gap at the top for the system details and also enough to see my route when I have a destination set.
As I mentioned earlier, all of the above is simply my preference. You might find some of it works for you too, or on the other hand you might find something else which you think works even better! My request to you is this: Take a screenshot and load your layout up to imgur (or the image hosting site of your choice) and post it in the comments. If possible, include a sentence or two on what you think works well about it, and why you have it the way you do - I'd be very interested to see what you're all using!