Is there a way to allow a user to input urls into the website field of a contact without adding http:// or https:// to the string?

I can't find a way to change settings for this field.

A number of my users want to manually enter web addresses or sub-domains and they get rejected by the validation.

Alternatively, is there some pre-process hook or extension that can handle insert the correct protocal as needed?

Unfortunately, there is no setting for this. You would indeed need to create an extension that pre-fills the field in teh way you need it. If you have not done so yet, you may have a look at the CiviCRM Developer Guide and/or get in contact with other developers: https://chat.civicrm.org/civicrm/channels/dev-newcomers

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