I braved the wards for the first time since launch week last night. Prior to then, I pretty much just levelled any craft I needed to make items and didnt go above a certain level so as to avoid the need to buy anything.
My first experience with the wards was (like most people's) a disaster spending hours looking for anything that I could use.
Last night was different.
I went in looking for a Conj weapon around 17, a Thaum weapon around 12, and some armour for a glad.
20 minutes later, all three items were sourced (and a couple of extra bargains I picked up). Not only did I find what I wanted, but I actually really enjoyed the experience.
The main things that changed it for me compared with before were:
1) Ability to double click retainers to open bazaaar rather than using UI
2) MOre items of relevance to what you are looking for due to "renaming" wards.
3) more spread out retainers between wards
Being able to actually get through retainers really quickly with minimal lag meant that I could do a whole room in about 10 minutes. Add to that the excitement of finding a couple of bargains taht you just wouldnt have if there was an AH and I found myself for the first time since launch understanding what SE were trying to achieve with this.
The other thing I noticed is that the economy has come a long way over the last week or so and items are far more sensibly priced. I assume this is a by product of everyone running out of storage space on the characters and so actually trying to sell the things they dont need.
If you haven't been to the wards since the updates (as I hadnt), I strongly recommend you give it a try. I found everything I went in for and had fun doing it.