One can look "towards the North, South, East, or West. This is looking in a general direction.
I can look towards the door but that would mean I would be viewing everything in that general direction. The house, the lawn, and the surrounding garden, all the items that will fill that view from your current position. If you were right at the front door you would have limited peripheral vision and would notice the monkeys movement from the 'corner of your eye' (An English expression on it's own)
To "Look at" is more specific and clearly defined. You are attentively examining, studying or observing something specifically interesting to you. eg. I look at the reflection in the mirror when I comb or brush my hair.
While I was looking at the front door (general direction), I noticed a troop of monkeys jumping into a nearby tree. (While you were doing a Specific task - you noticed an extra bit of information. Not really related to what you were doing at the time. - Peripheral vision activity)
I hope that assists you.