Maybe I'm doing it wrong, but I just don't find ward spells that useful. They consume a ton of magicka and don't protect you that much unless you dual-cast, in which case you can't attack. Better to dodge and use cover, and/or lure your enemy into a rune trap, distract them with a summons, etc. all while blasting them with your bread and butter spells. "Fair fights" are really only practical for pure melee characters or lopsided matchups.
On the other hand, it could just be that wards suck for me because I'm focused on Destruction, Alteration and Conjuration, with relatively low skill in Restoration. Also a matter of preference as I don't like to have to worry about "blocking" during a fight.
Admittedly they do look very cool though